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White River (W. Fork) Martinsville to Spencer, 6/14-15/2014

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 01, 2014 4:59 pm    Post subject: White River (W. Fork) Martinsville to Spencer, 6/14-15/2014 Reply with quote

This trip report was submitted by user Thom Crouch:

4700cfps, 4.7ft gauge height: Centerton USGS site
Put in: 9:40am. Saturday. Bait Shop on east side of SR67 about 1 mile north of the SR39 bridge, across from Wilbur Rd. $5/boat. Overnight parking.
Take-out: 5:40pm. Sunday. Public access site southeast of Spencer.

After watching the Spencer reading jump up into the 10ft + range and the Centerton Flowage exceeding 8000cfps during the heavy rains a few days before our weekend trip, we were all but resigned it would be a wash-out. Literally. I optimistically watched the USGS graphs trending downward the Thursday and Friday before and did visual spot-checks at Martinsville, Paragon, Gosport, and Spencer. It was going to be iffy, at best. \"Catfish\", who runs the boat ramp/bait shop we would use as out put-in point, assured me that the water was only a foot above his \"mark\" and we would be fine by Saturday morning.

The only fast-water trip report I could find was from self-described "novices" on the Waverly to Henderson Ford section, just upstream, who said that a Centerton reading of 4500cfps looked scary but was only slightly challenging and ended up being a good day. We were still marginally above that by 9:30 Saturday morning.

The river at the Bait Shop is considerably more narrow than the rest of our route and the water looked high and fast, only slightly muddy. As far as we could see from the ramp in either direction there were no places to get out and the current, even along the banks, would have exceeded our ability to even slow down. We all worried about rounding a blind corner at 10+ mph and not being able to do anything about a wall-to-wall, kayak-eating logjam-monster devouring us. But hey, Catfish said to stick to the middle and we'd be fine. He was right! (As usual).

The water was really fast and in no time the river widened enough we began to see sand bars and idle/eddy currents along the banks. We relaxed a little. We hit the SR 39 bridge in only 40 minutes, as opposed to our last trip, which took 60.

Catfish had warned us to go left at the first train bridge, as logs jammed up most of the span. Passing the bridge wasn't even a challenge as we drifted easily through the left half. With the river widening and the danger passed, we finally exhaled and loosened our life jackets.

Judging by our time to SR39, we were going to finish our trip in 2/3 the time it took us last time. This would not do! As we all know, the MORE time you spend on a river is how you judge a successful trip, not by the speed at which one makes it end! (Unless you're packing your pelts down to Fort Spencer to trade for more traps and dry powder, of course). We decided to avoid paddling at all costs and explore every island and tributary we could find. And we did.

We saw more bald eagles than we could keep track of, some were molting. Looked like salt and pepper. Turtles, jumping fish, hawks, and a falcon or two. Strangely, no snakes. We came across an alligator gar nursery a mile or so south of the Paragon Bridge in some warm, still back-waters. Although we were passed by a couple of boats, we didn't see any Asian Carp jumping out of the water until south of Paragon, when one tried to jump into one of our boats! That was the only one we saw, I think.

Even after engaging "Maximum Lolligagging Speed" and several 20 minute+ stops, we floated under the Paragon bridge in just over 6 hours. We camped on a perfect little island about an hour and a half travel-time later.

By the next morning, the water had receded a little over a foot and the the river seemed to be even more relaxed. (Centerton readings at the time: 3200cfps, 3.5ft) We shoved off for the day at 10:40am. We made numerous tributary explorations, scouted a train bridge, even climbed the lone abutment from the old Monon Line train bridge. The slightly less-higher water still meant fewer logs protruding and zero ripples to negotiate. Compared to last year's trip in low water(3.2ft Spencer gauge), with "rapids", chutes, and log-dodging thrills around every bend, this one seemed boring in comparison. We played the "last guy to use his paddle wins" game many, many times. Very, little to worry about. We scooted under the bridges at Gosport at 1:10pm. The lack of excitement was more than balanced by a complete lack of paddling and a sense of a calm hurry. We all but threw out our anchors and stored the paddles and still dragged out at Spencer at 5:10pm.

Great trip. Easy trip. Total time and leg times are very hard to determine. I think you get the gist of it. We were movin'! Swift and easy. No paddles required.
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