Seems to Me: Ross Whitwam

Down by the River

By Ross Whitwam

People_RossWhitwamI have been kayaking around Columbus since I moved here in 1999, and I’ve only had to wet exit once. Swimming out of an overturned boat and then emptying it of water is a pain. Better to roll up, if you know how. That day I was at a pour-over spot on Luxapallila Creek, where water rushes over some rocks and creates turbulence that’s fun to kayak back and forth through. I allowed myself to get distracted for just a second, and over I went. I didn’t mind so much. The water was clean, which is more than I could say about some sections of the shore.

I learned to kayak in Pennsylvania. The creeks there ran faster, had larger drops, more rocks and eddies and rapids and play holes, but I also spent more time upturned than I do here. But what is best about the kayaking around Columbus is the variety of choices. Where I was in central Pennsylvania, the closest creek to kayak in was a 20-minute drive away. And most of the rivers we kayaked were two or more hours away.

Here, I can have breakfast on a weekend morning, decide to kayak, put in several hours, and still be back for lunch. Even better, the rivers and creeks we have here also have multiple put-in and take-out spots easily accessible by car, allowing you multiple choices about which section to boat on a given trip. In Pennsylvania, we had to pore over maps to find spots we could readily enter and exit the rivers.

The downside to the accessibility of the creeks here is that the access points tend to be just filthy with trash. I never had that experience in Pennsylvania. I can’t remember a single access point there that wasn’t close to pristine. I’ve met fellow kayakers in both Pennsylvania and Mississippi. The ones in Pennsylvania tended to be a bit more gung-ho, eagerly searching out the fast and treacherous spots; the ones in Mississippi tend to be a bit more laid back, out for a day of relaxation, but none of them in either location seemed to be the types to leave garbage in their wake. I don’t know who is fouling the launching sites here, but I can’t believe it is the kayakers I meet.

I run across other boaters, too. Usually folks out fishing in flat bottom boats. In Pennsylvania, the fishermen were more often fly fishing, standing in the stream, a bit stand-offish. But this is Mississippi. Of course, the fishermen I meet kayaking are friendly and chatty. They are out enjoying the undisturbed beauty of the water just as I am.

I can’t believe they would mess up the very areas they want to enjoy. Surely they aren’t ones trashing the put-ins and take-outs.

Of course, the problem isn’t limited to where I kayak. We have a lot of undeveloped woodlands and waterways here in Mississippi, but can you drive any stretch of any road here and not notice litter? In town or in country, it always seems to be there. Our woods and waters and wilds, and our ability to quickly reach them from wherever you are in the state, are some of the best attributes and strongest drawing cards of Mississippi. It seems to me we Mississippians should take better care of them.