Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Running the Rancocas...
Accepted an invitation from George & Leona Fluck to paddle the North Branch of the Rancocas Creek with the Outdoor Club of New Jersey (above pics shot by Leona). I have joined this club for trips on the Mullica River (1x) and Delaware River (2x) and it's a laid back group. These are SOUTH Jerseyans mind you. I mean we paddled by one cottage that proudly flew the colors of Old Dixie.
South Jerseyans are more laid back than their northern brethren; that is a good thing, especially on a river trip. They speak more softly. There is no need to virtually shout out the most mundane conversation, the way many of the northerners are wont to do. South Jersey, as a rule, is definitely more quiet than the north.
Anyway, George lent his Blue Hole Sunburst. It's a really nice solo whitewater canoe, very responsive, yet tracks well enough for a placid stream like the Rancocas.
We put in behind the Burlington County Community College -- an impressive new campus! -- at a nice county park boat launch complete with a plastic shelled composting toilet that even had a quarter moon design above the door. How quaint. Didn’t check out the inside, being a tree man all the way. I am told that the students hang here and sunbathe and swim, what a wonderful amenity for college students. The healing powers of the tea colored pure waters of the Pine Barrens are legendary. You've heard of the New Jersey Tea Devil?
The creek winds through beautiful Pine Barrens Mixed hardwood, pine, cedar and holly forest. The banks are sandy and there are a few pristine sand beaches. Much of this ten-mile section is wild looking, although the last 4 miles offers a visually entertaining potpourri of what were formerly summer cottages transformed into homes and cottages of all shapes and economic classes — from the land-hogging log McMansion to a few that would make nice illustrations in a Grimm Brothers fairy tale.
We took out an Smithtown (ville?) which was the site of a late nineteenth century bicycle factory. This man Smith operated an entire factory complex with comely company housing in a park like setting. He built a special bycycling monorail from the industrial village downstream to Mount Holly. Burlington County has one of New Jersey's truly outstanding parks departments and open space acquisition programs. We actually paddled what is now an official water trail, much of which is also paralleled by a land trail system. They keep it nicely pruned. No overhangs and no blocked channels.
The creek has a few floating mats of trash (mainly beer cans and plastic beverage containers) but it is mostly a clean river — appearance wise. The wall-to-wall cottages right at creek’s edge and an over-abundance of domestic ducks probably mean that this creek is not safe for swimming. OCSJ and G&L: thanks for the great trip and monster breakfast!