Kayaking in Swamps and Sounds on the Outer Banks!

Kayaking Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and Roanoke Sound!

by Rachelle Siegrist

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Wes is ready and waiting

Two weeks ago today, we were heading over to North Carolina’s beautiful Outer Banks, to judge the 25th International Miniature Art Show, at Seaside Art Gallery located in picturesque Nags Head.  In last week’s post we visited the amazing Jockey’s Ridge State Park, so this week join us on our kayaking adventures in Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and Roanoke Sound!

We arrived at the launch site located inside the preserve, off of Buffalo City Rd. early in the morning.  The water was a bit high due to recent rains, so I was excited to start our adventure by wading through the black water over to a great dock built by the Dare County tourism Board and Outer Banks Paddling Club.

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Oh Boy . . . here we go!!!

Within minutes we were in our kayaks, paddle in hand, off and ready for the day’s adventures. After paddling underneath an old wooden bridge mere feet above the water’s surface, I was excited to see water irises blooming, creating splashes of purple dotted along the bank. Then the narrow passage gradually opened up revealing the larger Milltail Creek.

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One of the many stately Cypress Trees beside the creek
kayaking milltail creek in alligator river national wildlife refuge
At the beginning of our journey

Following trail markers, we turned left and started paddling our way along the wide open creek. Upon another left turn the creek started narrowing once again and became surrounded by dense vegetation. At this point, it definitely looked as if we were kayaking in a swamp and I was in heaven! The dark black murky water below made me wonder what was down there! Just to test the depth, Wes put his paddle down into it and couldn’t touch the bottom! Even though I was delighted to finally be kayaking in a swamp, I certainly did not want to fall out into that water, because who knew what lurked down there!

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A Kodak picture spot indeed!

The narrow water passage was flanked on either side by large mounds of swamp irises, as well as small bright yellow flowers blooming a few inches above the water’s glassy surface. The blossoms paired with dense clumps of fern made it look as if we were paddling through a botanical garden much of the time!  It felt like we were in another time and place . . . far . . . far away from everything and everyone, and were only snatched back into reality a few times when we were buzzed by military aircraft roaring above.

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A stunning clump of Irises and small yellow flowers blooming
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A Water Lilly blossom with lots of fern

There are four different paddling trails there, which are marked with floating color coded markers along the way. We did the loop as well as part of two others, and must say that the loop trail winding its way along the narrow creek was certainly our favorite!

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One of the many coded trail markers

Somehow we missed one of the markers for the loop trail and wound our way into Sawyer Lake. However, we were delighted to have missed it, as we watched a young Cormorant swimming nearby and listened to the “Rap-tap-tap” of woodpeckers, and calls of warblers off in the distance.  Once we realized we had paddled up to the lake, we turned around and were thrilled to now have the wind at our backs!

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A beautiful Cormorant near Sawyer Lake

Soon we found our way back paddling along the narrow creek once again, which was so narrow in spots it almost looked impassable.  With patient coaxing of the paddles we webbed our way through and noticed we were paddling alongside a boardwalk trail nearby.

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Wes joked he was tapping a gator head on either side as he went
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Towards the end of the red loop trail

Soon we paddled our way completely around the loop and decided to head back out into and explore the larger Milltail Creek area.  Going along we noticed a small opening between cattails that led to a large open area.  Once inside we discovered it was filled with Water Lilies blooming everywhere, and it was beautiful!   Of course that was the perfect spot for a picnic!

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The perfect picnic spot!

Sitting still, I was delighted to see a teeny tiny frog close by, then we began noticing that there were several of these little cuties scattered all over, perched on their lily pad thrones.  Suddenly other frogs started calling and were joined by one frog in particular who had a hilarious sounding little call, and each time he would blurt out his call, it sounded as if it was coming through his mouth and flapping lips, causing me to laugh uncontrollably much of the time!

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One of my precious little lunch buddies

After lunch we paddled up along Milltail Creek quite a distance before turning and heading back.  Soon we were back at the launch site, and with kayaks loaded, told this swampy piece of heaven goodbye.

Later that afternoon we decided to kayak in Roanoke Sound for awhile, and we happened upon a great kayak ramp which had obviously been built recently.  Within minutes we were happily back in the water and of again!

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Wes standing on the awesome recently built kayak dock

The sky which had been cloudy much of the day, thankfully decided to part, letting a wee bit of late evening sun shine through, bathing the sky in warm oranges and pinks!  Nearby we saw a beautiful White Egret, which is slated to be a future miniature painting, and several snakes swimming atop the water.

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AH . . . this is just gorgeous!

Having seen numerous duck blinds dotting the sound earlier, I was quite anxious to get up close to one and check it out.

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A duck blind up close and personal

The sun was starting to dip low in the sky, so we thought it best to head back.  I was thrilled when at the very end, the clouds parted letting the sun shine through with all of its warm orange, late evening color, thus bringing the scene to life in almost a surreal sense!  What another truly amazing day of adventures we had, and once again we felt very blessed indeed!

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Our parting view of the beautiful sound

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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle



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