Another loop and 500 miles - Mackay Island NWR




Ended up at Mackay Island today for a couple of reasons, one because access to the refuge closes in 2 weeks for the winter, and I have been looking at satellite photos and saw a couple of potential loop trips in the marsh. The weather was perfect, temps in the low 70s light winds and sunny.

There are a few requirements to be able to do this trip.
The water level needs to be high enough, take a look at the last picture, this was about as low as you can go, and make it.
The current in the channel from Back Bay needs be going the right way, that would be South, or no current at all, the current in the channel can be pretty fast so you may want to pay attention as you drive over the bridge on the causeway.
You will also need a good sense of direction, a GPS and aerial photo are a big help, actually you should have all three.

When I first looked at the small channel near the ramp that branches off to the North, I really thought I was done for right from the beginning, because of all the vegetation, I thought the channel was going to be to shallow, but I was wrong. The weeds were a bit of a hinderance, but not that bad, they continually thin the further up the channel you paddle, to almost non existent after about a third of a mile. The channel is a good 2+ feet deep in the middle, and the water is very clear, it was nice coasting along watching the fish, and turtles in the water. For the most part the fish and turtles were not bothered by the boat, until the shadow of the boat or paddle passed over them, then they would run for cover.

Shortly after a short side trip to a small lake, I came to a fork in the channel, go left for the short 4 mile loop, or go right, and try for the big loop. Yep I took the right, two things happened here, the water got shallower, and the choices gat harder, because at this point the marsh opens up into a series of interconnected ponds. All I knew was I needed to get to a small pond with channel off to the right that meet up with the causeway, and my GPS does not have any of these ponds on it, so it was interesting comparing a aerial photo to an essentially blank screen on the GPS, so I kept a bearing on the causeway on the GPS and compared it to the photo. I found the pond and the channel to the road, and as I turned up the channel an otter popped its head up, saw me a quickly swam away. The channel along the road was kind of ugly, not much more then a drainage ditch. Now all I needed to find was a small channel to the left, and I am pretty much there, well not that easy, I see a couple of small channels on the left, and the only on that is wide enough is overgrown, but not badly. I look at it for a while, and decide to take it real slow, no maneuvering room, and lots of places for bad things to hide, and lots of spider webs, 50 yards and a couple of turns later, the channel begins to open up into the last pond that connects to the main channel. I am heading across the pond, and the water is getting shallower, and all I can think is I really do not want to turn around here, the muck is to deep to try and walk through, and I can see the channel 30 yards away. The bottom of the kayak is dragging in the muck, but I am still able to move, finally after about 20 yards of this the water gets deeper and I am in the channel.

After making the channel, I know I am home free, there is a slight Southbound current to help. About half way down, I saw something floating that caught my eye, there is a Cottonmouth floating about 10 feet from the shore. It appeared that it had no interest in me, only if it should cross the channel or not. It headed bank to the bank but just hung out in the reeds. I think it really wanted to cross, but not with me there. I continued back to the launch, not much really exciting, until I am about a quarter mile from the ramp, I see another Cottonmouth on the water. I am pretty sure this one was hunting, and for the most part ignored me. I think this is the first time I have seen 2 Cottonmouths on the same trip, I guess since winter is coming they are busy getting ready to hibernate. These 2 Cottonmouths were bolder then most I come across on the water, usually they move off the water pretty quickly at the first sight of me and the kayak, usually so fast Im not able to get a picture.

The trip today, was a great way to pass the 500 mile mark.

Date Launch Site Distance Photos
09/30/2006 Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge 7.20 32
Mackay Island channel (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
The channel heading North at first glance does not look promising. Actually 2+ feet deep.


Purple flowers, surrounded by yellow (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
Cool looking purple flowers, surrounded by yellow flowers


Ducks flying away (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
Ducks flying away, they did this about 4 times, before circling around


Mackay Island channel (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
Continuing on the channel, most of the aquatic vegetation is gone.


Remnants of an old wooden dam (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
Remnants of an old wooden dam, there is a submerged section on the left also.


Shallow pond (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
End of the line for the side trip I took, pond is to shallow to paddle.


Channel in Mackay Island NWR (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
Another channel picture, approaching the spilt


Early Geese (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
Early geese in the reserve


First pond (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
Approaching the first in a series of ponds.


Mackay Island pond (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
This would be entering the last pond before the channel, this was the point where I realized that I should have taken picture of each decision point long the way, but I guess I was too busy deciding.


Causeway bridge (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
Looking North towards the Causeway bridge.


Looking South (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
Looking South on the main channel


Cottonmouth in the channel (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
Hello Cottonmouth, bad picture I was turned as far as I could turn.


Cottonmouth in the channel (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
Cottonmouth heading back to the bank


Cottonmouth On the Bank (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
Cottonmouth back on the bank of the channel


Cottonmouth moving (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
Not happy with the first spot the Cottonmouth heads to another spot


Mackay Island NWR (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
Looking South to the other section of the refuge


North Landing River (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
Looking out to the North Landing River


Marsh grasses (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
A shot of the taller grasses in the marsh


Swamp Hibicus blooming late (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
Swamp Hibiscus, the only one I saw today, I guess this one was late to the party.


Swamp Hibicus blooming side view (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
Another shot of the swamp hibiscus


Flowers in the marsh at Macky Island (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
Some flowers in Mackay Island NWR


Bright yellow flowers (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
Bright yellow flowers, against the blue sky


Mackay Island NWR  (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
Looking South to the impoundment ponds and pump


Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse
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Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse
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Cottonmouth On the water hunting (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
Cottonmouth on the water, pretty sure this one is hunting


Cottonmouth On the water hunting (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
Another shot of the Cottonmouth, better look at the head.


Water level at Ramp (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
A refrence picture of the water level, any lower and you wont be able to make the loop


Mackay Island NWR (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
Looking out to the marsh at the ramp at Mackay Island NWR


9/30/2006 Aerial view (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
9/30/2006 Aerial view


9/30/2006 Topo view (Kayak Virginia Beach Images © Paul Perusse)
9/30/2006 Topo view




06/25/2019 04:40:41 AM

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