Sunday, April 19, 2009

Marburg Creek Reservoir: Fort Yargo State Park

This is where I row. Most of the time. It’s the Marburg Creek Reservoir in Fort Yargo State Park about a mile south of Winder, Georgia. The park is a popular area for picnicking, camping, hiking, running, fishing, kayaking, canoeing and trail biking. The lake is a reservoir and covers about 260 acres (=105 hectares). The park is accessed from Georgia state highway GA-81; boat ramps are located at the campground accessed through the main entrance and in Section B. I’ve been rowing here since 2001. I row the lake’s shoreline since I am rowing for distance and the shoreline is far more interesting than rowing down the center of the lake. It’s also safer in cold weather. On the map, I have numbered the segments according to the ‘milestones’ they represent to me. For anyone interested in the distances involved, I have noted approximate cumulative distances traveled at the end of each segment. The numbers will serve as a guide when I describe some of the photos I’ll post in the future. The distances rowed may vary depending on how far from shore I have rowed. Closer to the shore will yield a longer row than if I stay further out to avoid hazard such as submerged, felled trees. If I row the complete route marked with the deep yellow line, I will have rowed a total of about 5.25 miles (8,400 m).

At the beginning: looking back at the footbridge by the boat launch

Segment 1. Beginning. I launch
at Boatramp #2 (Section B entrance), row across the lake beside the footbridge and then turn along the lake shore. The shoreline is open here for a power line right-of-way; it’s a good, accessible area to view a wide variety of wildflowers during the year. The woods come down to the waters edge at the end of this segment. At the very end of this segment I enjoy a challenge of rowing between the shore and a post that sticks up out of the water. It’s not much of a challenge if I aim correctly and if the water level is high enough; it is a challenge when the lake level is low. Distance: About 1/8th mile (ca. 200 m).

Segment 2. Beginning to the Point. The first part of this segment is open grassland, a wide right-of-way for high-tension power lines. Just after the woods begin again and where the shoreline curves around, there is a wide, shallow drainage inlet that is visible on the map. The shoreline from here to the point is wooded primarily with pines and has three or four drainage inlets; only one of these inlets is apparent in the map. When I first began rowing here, these inlets frequently had water in them. Now, most are gradually silting in and are dry unless the water level is high. The water is relatively shallow along this segment until the end when it becomes quite deep. Cumulative distance: About 0.75 miles (1,300 m).

Segment 3. The Neck
. This section begins opposite the beach and borders a relatively narrow section between this arm of the lake and the other arm. This shore includes three sizable inlets. Some remnants of felled trees provide hazards at the points. The terrain is wooded with deciduous trees, hilly and, consequently, the water is deep. Cumulative distance: About a mile (1,600 m).

Segment 4. Neck to the Dam. The shoreline is wooded with a mixture of pines and deciduous trees and the water is deep. There is only one felled tree hazard about one-quarter way along the shoreline; only a couple of branches breach the water surface now. In the late afternoon during the summer heat, this section provides very welcome shade, the first shaded section of the row. Cumulative distance: About 1.25 miles (2,000 m)

Segment 5. The Dam. It’s a straight row along the dam that is lined with boulders. The overflow for the lake is between one-third to one-half way along the dam. A gauge attached on the dam side that indicates the lake depth at this point. It’s interesting to watch the fluctuation in the lake depth throughout the year – usually between 23 an
d 24 feet. The top of the overflow tower is usually about 1.5 feet above the lake surface although I remember – before I began rowing on the lake - the tower being completely under water after a particularly heavy rainfall. Cumulative distance: About 1.5 miles (2,300 m).

Segment 6. Dam to the Campgrounds. At the end of the dam is a large shallow inlet that is not more than 2-3 feet deep and has an area of cattails. The shoreline here adjoins a flat, open grassy field. The shoreline then becomes steep and wooded with pines and some deciduous trees. The shoreline then becomes a cliff about 8-10 feet high in spots. There is one inlet about midway along its length and then the cliff resumes at the end of the segment. The water is relatively deep. Cumulative distance: About 1.75 miles (2,800 m).

Segment 7. The Campgrounds. Are heavily wooded with pines. A small fishing/boat dock and a boat ramp are located at the head of the first inlet followed by a peninsula (7a) that is a walk-in tent camping area. The second inlet is a longer drainage inlet bordered on one side by the walk-in campground and on the other by a large drive-in campground (7b). I normally don’t row into this inlet unless I’m looking for additional meters. This segment ends at a walk-to fishing dock adjacent to the drive-in campground and the water is relatively deep. Cumulative distance: About 2 miles (3,200 m).

Segment 8. Campgrounds to the Cottages. This is a lightly traveled section of the lake except for fishermen in boats. At the far end are a few cottages comprising a group home and a small fishing dock. The shoreline is opened woods with pines and deciduous trees, lined with boulders, and the water is deep with little accessible shoreline. Cumulative distance. About 2.25 miles (3,700 m).

Segment 9. Cottages to the Group Camp. The lake opens into a wide shallow bay with two drainage inlets. The first is a long inlet with a number of fallen trees blocking navigation; the second section is a wide bay with a less-obvious drainage. This area was hit by a tornado associated with hurricane Katrina on August 29th, 2005. It is estimated that the tornado path extended for 1.5 miles (2.5 km) and destroyed as many as 800-900 trees. Recoverable timber was harvested and but the area is still recovering; some areas have few trees. Some of the woods close to the lake were not affected by the tornado. A couple of open shelters and picnic tables are visible from the water. The water is some parts of this bay are sufficiently shallow that it is hazardous to enter the area if the lake level is very low. A group camp is located at the end of this segment and there is another patch of cattails at the turn by the group camp. Cumulative distance: About 2.75 miles (4,500 m).

Shoreline at the Nature Center

Segment 10. Group camp to the Nature Center Dock. This segment extends along the shore bounding the Group Camp across the water to the shore by the nature center. The camp is connected to the shore by the Nature Center by a bridge that is being renovated at the moment. On the nature center side is a walkway around a maintenance building that adjoins the bridge*; the bridge and walkways are popular fishing spots. The lake extends under the bridge up into a shallow area of the lake that used to be posted out-of-bounds for boats although the sign has long since faded and been removed in the course of ongoing bridge renovations. This area is about waist deep – I know, I flipped my shell here once! Cumulative distance: 3 miles (4,800 m). *The bridge is currently under reconstruction

Segment 11. The cove. This is a shallow area where Marburg Creek drains into the upper end of the lake. My route takes me over to the road. Sometimes it is possible to row under the bridge and further up towards Georgia highway GA-81. Depending on rainfall, the passage under the bridge may silt up and make it impossible to float under the bridge. When I first started rowing here, fisherman would regularly take their boats up into this area. Now this would be impossible and the area of just to the lake side of the bridge may be above water in really dry times. The Old Fort, built to protect settlers from Creek and Cherokee indians in 1792 was located originally on the hill at the end of the lake labeled segment 18. A few years ago. the fort was relocated to a grassy area on the south shore of this area. Periodically, reenactment encampments are held at the fort. Cumulative distance: About 3.5 miles (5,400 m).

Segment 12. Cove to the Fishing Area. This shoreline is wooded with pines and some deciduous trees including one notable evergreen magnolia. This is an uncomplicated rowing section except for a felled tree hazard that has several limbs that are just submerged when the lake is at normal level and just exposed when the lake level is low. It’s easy to catch an oar blade on these limbs if I stay too close to the shore. This stretch of shoreline is popular with folks who fish from the shore. Cumulative distance: About 3.5+ miles (5,800 m).

Segment 13. Fishing area to the Point. This is a long stretch down to the point opposite the first point where this arm of the lake meets the other arm. This segment starts at the fishing area point. It’s nostalgic for me because I used to launch at this area. The water is quite shallow – not more that 1.5-2.0 feet at normal lake level. I still row into this area. The shoreline starts out moderately level and then meets a cliff created by erosion and then drops back down to the lake level and continues at this level to the point. The shoreline is marked by several drainage inlets and a couple of scenic footbridges. Approximately one-half of this shoreline was clear-cut as shown in the map but has now re-forested with deciduous trees. Cumulative distance: About 4.5 miles (7,000 m).

Segment 14. Point to the Beach. Starts at the point and extends along some steep shoreline past the beach to the end of the first picnic area (Picnic Area #1) and a boat dock where rental dinghies, canoes, and pedal boats are moored or racked during the warm season. The shore at the point is a cliff about 8-10 feet high that continues for a way and falls back to water live at the beach and the water is deep. The shoreline from the beach to the end of the picnic area is relatively shallow. The beach is a popular area in spring, summer, and well into the fall. Cumulative distance: About 4.5+ miles (7,400 m).

Segment 15. Beach to the Island. Starts at the end of Picnic Area #1 and passes another drainage inlet to Picnic Area #2. The shoreline is 2-3 feet above the lake level and forested with pines. Cumulative distance: 4.75 miles (7,800 m).

Segment 16. The Island. At the end of the Picnic Area #2 is a small bay with a drainage inlet. The water is very shallow – about 1.5 – 2 feet deep at normal lake levels and almost impassible when the lake level is low. The main feature of this section is a small island that is barely above water level. A pair of Canada geese have nested on this island every year for the last few years and have raised clutches of four or five goslings each year. I love this section behind the island. It’s a sheltered area when the wind is blowing on the lake. Cumulative distance: About 5 miles (8,000 m).

Segment 17. Island to the Dock. This is the final section from the point at the end of the island inlet back to the boat ramp. Initially the shoreline is wooded with pines and a few deciduous trees and then opens out into a grassed area, firstly the right of way for the high-tension power lines and then an open picnic area studded with pines. The University of Georgia boathouse sits on the slope above the lake directly behind it’s dock on the shore. Cumulative distance: About 5.25 miles (8,400 m)

Segment 18. Above the Bridge. Extends from the bridge crossing the lake by the boat ramp down to the end of the lake. When the bridge had a wide center span, it was easy to row under the bridge and into this area. A few years ago, additional supports were erected to support the center span. It’s easy for motor boats, canoes, and kayaks to pass under the bridge but it’s now a real challenge for me. Although it is possible to maneuver the boat between the bridge supports, it takes a lot of technical effort and is difficult if it is windy. Consequently I rarely row along this section of the lake. The water near the bridge is fairly deep and the shore lined with low cliffs. The water becomes quite shallow at the head of the lake and may be difficult to navigate.

I like to row early in the morning. Except when a weather front is passing, the early morning breeze is fairly light and then there usually is a 1-2 hour period when it is calm before the daytime breeze rises. This is a magical time when the water is mirror-smooth, fog may be rising from the water, the colors are more intense, delicious smells of wood fires and bacon waft from the campgrounds, and herons are warming their wings in the early morning sun.

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