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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Canoeing Down Turkey Creek

Turkey Creek is a great place to go canoeing.  We have gone canoeing there a couple of times, and each time has been a slight improvement over the previous time.  While it's canoeable year round, it's probably best to go in the fall, winter, and spring months.  Summer is definitely canoeable too, but the summer heat is much more enjoyable when you are actually in the water then on the water.  In the summer, we do a different kind of float on Turkey Creek.  We'll go with tubes, pool noodles, and boogie boards and float Turkey Creek in the water.  But for canoeing, we've enjoyed it most in the off-months.
There are three notable launch points to float down Turkey Creek with a canoe.  The first one is at the Turkey Creek North Park, located just off of College Blvd in Niceville.  Launching here leads to a relatively quick trip- maybe an hour long.
The second and third launch points are on land managed by Eglin Air Force Base, and require a permit from the Jackson Guard Station.  The permits are good for a year, and are valid to access all of the Eglin Air Force Base Range that is not closed.  Areas that are closed vary from day to day and require checking the access map before you go, but some areas remain permanently closed.  Permits cost $7 per person in 2016 (age 16 and up) and are good for a year.  They are a great value if you live in the area and like to get outside!
The second launch point is off of the first road north of the Highway 85 / Highway 123 interchange. Take the road west less then a mile from the highway and there's a parking area shortly after crossing Turkey Creek.  The canoe launch is evident right as you cross the one-lane bridge. Paddling from the middle launch gives a 3-4 hour trip.
The third launch point is from Hippie Hole, even further upstream.  We haven't left from this spot yet, but I anticipate it would be a 5 hour float.
You can choose the launch point based on how long you want to float.  We're still working on the stamina of the kids for the longer floats, so we've stuck with the short and medium length trips so far.  I do want to get up to Hippie Hole and launch there sometime though.
After determining a launch point, the second challenge of any point-to-point float is setting up a shuttle.  We have two cars, which makes it easier to run a shuttle.  We stage one car at the take out point, and all drive up together to launch and float.  The best take out point for Turkey Creek is at Twin Cities Park on Boggy Bayou.  It's located on John Sims Parkway, if you paddle to the right after the mouth of Turkey Creek.  Look for the piles of gravel from the creek mouth, and head for them.  They are Vulcan Materials Company, and are located just beyond the Twin Cities Takeout.  They do make a good visual reference point to head for on the open water.
Turkey Creek itself is a basic, straightforward canoe paddle.  I would rate it as an advanced beginner paddle.  There aren't any rapids and the current is steady and gentle.  The greatest challenge is navigating through the switchback turns  where the current wants to push you into a bank or strainers.  With my canoe full of kids, and my wife handling the baby, I knelt in the middle of the canoe for the most control since I was a single paddler.  Canoes with two paddlers will find it even less difficult and more enjoyable.

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