Monday, April 12, 2010

Little Pee Dee State Park, S.C. Part IV. Kayaking on Lake Norton

Click here for the first post in this series.

Up early this morning to plenty of sunshine. Though the outside temperature, even at mid-morning, was only in the mid-to-low 70s. Ideal weather for the first paddle on Lake Norton.

norton plaque Lake Norton, by the way, is named in honor of Mr. LaFon Norton, the first Superintendent here at Little Pee Dee. He served from 1951 until retirement at 1973. And is fondly remembered here. Both by Park personnel, and by some of the older visitors. Much of what we see here today is directly attributable to Mr. Norton’s work and initiative.

causeway 1 Including this beautiful lake. Here’s a shot of the causeway that defines the southernmost shore of the lake. It has created the lake, in a sense, from the creek that originally flowed through this part of the Park.

sluicegate This is the spillway, if that’s the correct term, that maintains the lake at a particular level. Note the geese feeding right at the edge of the spillway. Those feeding defend their position with surprising ferocity. Regularly honking and flapping away interlopers. Quite a sight.

goose 1Speaking of geese, there are lots of these large, graceful birds at this Park. Wandering here and there asking – even demanding! – handouts. Here’s an especially brave one headed directly toward me at full tilt. Not the least bit frightened, it seems. He stopped just three or four feet in front of me to honk indignantly. More irritated than frightened, since I had nothing to donate in the way of food.

geese 2Or, it could be that the geese’s bold behavior at this time of year is inspired more by concern for their nests than any interest in food. There are quite a few nests with eggs on the small island just off shore, and in other more secluded spots around the Park.

The large blue kayak assembly tarp was a blessing this morning. This campsite’s sandy surface is no place to assemble or disassemble the Expedition. Especially when wet! But the tarp offers a simple and inexpensive solution to that problem.

path 2 Within minutes I was ready to roll down this nearby path to the shore of the lake. It’s possible to carry the fully inflated Expedition kayak over one shoulder. But ElderKayakers like me are likely to be more comfortable having one of those small sets of wheels strapped on toward the stern. Then just pick up the bow handle and go! Remove the wheels before put-in, and pack the cart behind the seat.

Like the slightly smaller lake at Sesquicentennial State Park, most of Lake Norton’s 54 acres is quite shallow. Just a few feet deep. With only the old creek bed and a few other areas somewhat deeper.

weeds 1 No problem for a kayak, of course. But it does encourage growth of aquatic plants.

weeds 2 These round-topped stalks produce beautiful flowers. But overall, the lake would be better off without them. Or, at least, with just a few of them.

carp Enter the Sterile Grass Carp. Park management introduced several hundred of these voracious vegetarians into the lake several years ago. They’ve helped to reduce plant infestation without having to drain the lake each year.

As the sign above notes, grass carp are rarely attracted to the baits offered by fisherman. But when caught they should be returned immediately to the water. With a stern warning to maintain their strict vegetarian diet.

weeds 3 There was little wind on the lake this morning. So I paddled around freely, from one end to the other. The northernmost part of the lake is the most shallow and the most weedy. However, I had little difficulty paddling through with the kayak.

Here and there I saw really large fish. Now, I won’t bore you with statistics, but they were big enough for two or three pans! Not sure if they were grass carp or bass. But the water was so shallow they made a wide wake as they swam away from the noisy paddles of the kayak.

nesting goose Up near the northeastern shore of the lake I came upon what looked to be the work of beavers. Probably an old lodge, now abandoned. I paid it little attention until I saw a slight movement at the very top. A closer look revealed a goose sitting on her nest, peeking out at this strange intruder. Once I realized what it was, of course, I paddled away as quietly as possible. Nice to see.

lake 2 ramp area Then back down the lake toward the spillway, the boat ramp, and the Park’s rental fleet.

Lots more to see on this delightful lake. But it’s nearly time for lunch! Ranger Senter suggested that I have lunch one day at the Webster Manor in Mullins.

Now, it seems unlikely that the buffet there will be as good as he described it. But the price is right. Only $8.00! So, I’ll risk my diet today for the sake of the Food section on CarolinaConsidered. Stay tuned for a report on Webster Manor in Mullins, South Carolina.

Click here for the next post in this series.

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1 comment:

  1. Sounds like some BIG fish! What a relaxing place to paddle...