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Relentless Explorers

Kayaking (Upstream) in the Pine Barrens

Last update: March 28, 2021


Early Spring Tour of the Tulpehocken Creek

By Ken Relentless

28 Mar  2021

Don Relentless and his old friend G-Man were taking an upstream tour of the Tulpehocken come shine or rain, at least as long as it was not heavy rain. Don and I have been there on this same river when passing a thunderstorm turned the last mile into theme park water ride. Although the temperature was north of 60 degrees, I reluctantly agreed to go on this wet trip. Despite the on and off nature of the passing storm system and the threat of thunderstorms, the four of us met at Hawkins Bridge to begin a long day of exploration three miles upriver. It was an adventure to be sure.


The kayak fleet at the Hawkins Bridge launch area, the main drop-off point for Mick's and other liveries in the area.
Returning from the parking area left to right: G-Man, son J-Boy and Don Relentless.
The team with rain gear is ready to shove off.
Don Relentless heading upstream.
G-Man and son J-Boy heading upstream.
This savannah area is not alive with the red-flowered pitcher plants.
The savannah area is off to the left here.
Nesting geese often lay low when we approach. We did not disturb this one going by.
Preparing to cut a large rotten cedar tree in the narrow channel of the cedar swamp. See the second video.
Observing the cut cedar tree no longer blocking our progress.
Don Relentless has cleared the stream from his floating sawmill/kayak.
This is the largest beaver dam we have ever seen at Friendship Bogs.
Observing the massive beaver dam.
Beaver ponds on the upper Tulpehocken Creek.
Beaver ponds on the upper Tulpehocken Creek. This photo is now used for slider image on the main page
We are three miles above Hawkins Bridge.
Don Relentless is still heading upstream, but not for much longer.
G-Man is still heading upstream, but not for much longer. It has been a long day for son J-Boy at this point.
G-Man is investigating an old rowboat abandoned by hunters some years ago. Plastic duck decoys were found underneath.
Heading into the rapids on the return trip. See the second video.
Approaching the savannah in the misty rain.
Ken Relentless plotting our next move.
G-Man standing up to see the enormous beaver pond near Friendship Bogs.
G-Man standing on the dam itself to see the enormous beaver pond near Friendship Bogs.
Ken Relentless sitting out in the rain at our lunch stop.
Lunch stop with J-Boy.
Don Relentless having lunch.
Approaching the huge beaver dam just off the Tulpehocken Creek.
G-Man's GPS plot from the AllTrails.com app, imported as a KML file into Google Earth.
G-Man's GPS plot from the AllTrails.com app, imported as a KML file into Google Earth and showing elevation plot.

600 Feet More on the Tulpehocken Creek

By Ken Relentless

03 May  2020

The spring weather has been downright cold and rainy this year, making our planned April trips impossible. The weather was decent enough on May 3 to make this trip and to see just how far we could push our previous limits from last October's trip. Due to partial loss of GPS tracking on the return trip, I can only estimate that we pushed a further 600 feet or so from that point, leaving us around 3.6 miles from Hawkins Bridge. We are well into unexplored territory on the far side of Friendship Bogs that only a few hunters have seen, judging from the footbridges we encountered.


It was tough going on this upstream paddle with water levels at the 10.5 foot mark on the Wading River gauging station. Water levels this low expose more logs and stumps. The area from Hawkins Bridge to the cedar swamp has many shallow spots even when the water levels are up.


A small savannah area is just off East Sandy Ridge Road at Hawkins Bridge.
Northern Water Snake!
Approaching the beaver dam near Friendship Bogs.
This dam is more than three high.
Beaver dams of this size tend to kill off many trees.
Water always finds a way around the dam.
Cutting a log blocking the path.
The Featherbed Branch comes down from the Friendship Bogs, but it is very narrow and totally congested.
Clearing another tree blocking our progress.
Trip overview.
Ken Relentless checking his phone. The Unnamed Branch is behind, the Tulpehocken Creek to the right.
Crossing one of the smaller beaver dams on the upper Tulpehocken Creek.
One of many large beaver lodges on the upper Tulpehocken Creek.
Closeup of the adult Northern Water Snake.
At the large beaver dam.
Comment.
Note the damage done to the tree near the right.

The Tulpehocken Creek at Carranza Road

By Ken Relentless

16 Feb  2020

It took some time, but after more than a year the State of New Jersey finally replaced the collapsing culverts where the Tulpehocken Creek passes under Carranza Road. The only thing they did not do was clean up the rusty metal pipes!


As it was winter when I finally managed to get back out into the Pine Barrens it is clear the work was done several months prior to this visit.


The new plastic pipe on the south side of the road.v>
The Tulpehocken Creek is but a narrow stream flowing through a cedar swamp in this area.
The pipe had started collapsing under the south side of the road and this is why.
It is in pretty bad shape and eventually all of it was have collapsed.
Eventually even this old 2001 Ford F150 will collapse into a pile of rust.
The new plastic pipe can be seen on the north side of the road.

Fall Tour of the Tulpehocken Creek

By Ken Relentless

26 Oct  2019

This was a special trip with a guest we call the Invisible Man. Who he is and what he does shall remain a mystery. What I can say is that he covered more ground in a few hours that we had in two years. As we reached our farthest point from the previous trip, he took off and went a few hundred more feet on relatively clear stream!


Map #1: Trip overview

Trip photos and videos

Photo: Ken Relentless. Don Relentless and Invisible Man catching up to me.
Photo: Ken Relentless. View of the beaver pond on the upper Tulpehocken.
Photo: Ken Relentless. Near our previous far point. Note the orange paint on the tree to the right.
Photo: Ken Relentless. Near our previous far point. Note the orange paint on the tree to the right.
Photo: Don Relentless. On one of the beaver ponds.
Photo: Ken Relentless. Invisible Man approaching.
Photo: Ken Relentless. Invisible Man approaching, followed by Don Relentless.
Photo: Ken Relentless. We swear up and down, we don't know who this guy is.
Photo: Don Relentless. I don't know who these guys are.
Photo: Don Relentless. Ken Relentless starting the downstream GPS plot.
Photo: Don Relentless. Invisible Man, his face anonymized.
Photo: Don Relentless. The big X marks the spot, since I forgot the spray paint.

New Territory on the Tulpehocken Creek

By Ken Relentless

20 Apr  2019

Another weekend, another trip. Heavy rains the day before practically guaranteed the water levels would be high enough to make the first mile quite a bit easier. Often in that first mile we find it difficult to get through the rapids and the wider parts of the creek where the water is barely six inches in places. We were not disappointed. It even made crossing some of the beaver dams easier.


Late April and trees are still bare in this view.
Surveying which path to take and which is the least amount of work!
Marking the farthest point for now.
Heading back.
Trip overview.
New area of exploration and looking ahead to the Featherbed Branch.
Approaching the beaver dam.
Rotten cedar trees are fallen in this narrow passage.
These required some amount of work to clear.
Typical beaver dam crossing. You have to push the boat up and over it.

Chainsaw Operations on the Tulpehocken Creek

By Ken Relentless

13 Apr  2019

We set out on this trip with the goal of at least reaching the furthest point from 2017, an old beaver dam with several fallen cedar trees lying across it. With a chainsaw, razor saws, loppers and a metal rake, we were well equipped to deal with any and every obstacle.


Paddling upstream on the Tulpehocken Creek is fairly strenuous in times of low water or near low water conditions. It takes about 1 hour to reach the edge of the cedar swamp, which is where the stream splits into multiple branches. Having done no trips in 2018 beyond the entrance to the cedar swamp, we knew that some clearing would be necessary before we could explore new areas.


Map #1: Trip overview and elevation plot

Trip length: 6.5 hours out and back. Distance covered: 2.4 miles one way. Elevation change: 11 feet.


Map #2: The upper end and next exploration

From the end point it is approximately 320 feet on the left fork to reach the open water and another 600 feet beyond to the stream leading to Friendship Bogs.


Map #3: Trip photos and videos

Aside from slicing up fallen trees blocking the route, the sightings of Canadian geese, a water snake, a turtle and a beaver made it interesting.



Exploring the upper Tulpehocken Creek by Foot

By Ken Relentless

12 Jan  2019

There is a trail that runs close to the Tulpehocken Creek that is easily accessed from two points along Carranza Road, though it is far from obvious where they are. I have walked along the Sandy Ridge trail that leads from the sand pit area just off Carranza Road and runs all the way to Friendship Bogs. This is a pleasant walk along sandy high ground that tapers off quickly into swampy areas that border the Tulpehocken. There is a short area where tantalizing views are visible. Last year I found a second trail that takes off from the sand pit area, but I had never before did a GPS plot of that walk. It comes much closer to the creek and is quickly accessed through thick undergrowth. The first map below shows the walk I took. My goal was to see just how close this trail came and where it ended. Like the Sandy Ridge trail it starts out as an old vehicle road where the trail sharp turn south, but soon becomes more grown in and eventually just a narrow foot path.


Map #1: The 01/12/2019 walk along the Tulpehocken Creek

Careful observation on this walk yielded a few surprises, things I had missed on previous walks. I enjoy the discovery of new things in the Pine Barrens. The most interesting thing was a small ditch with standing water that came right up to the trail. I soon discovered a narrow side trail that turned onto what look like a very old berm. The small ditch was part of pond. Heavy undergrowth and cat briars prevented me from going in much further.


Map #2: The 01/12/2019 walk and 11/11/2018 walk along Sandy Ridge

I was surprised to see the length of the Sandy Ridge walk from the sand pit to the edge of Friendship Bogs was more than twice as the walk to the end of the trail along Tulpehocken Creek. It also became apparent that these two trails do not come anywhere near each other.



Headwaters of the Tulpehocken Creek, Ore Spung and Featherbed Branch

By Ken Relentless

01 Jan  2019

New Years Day 2019. It was close to 60 degrees, a far cry from one year ago when it was 18 degrees in Chatsworth and Friendship Bogs was frozen with thick ice. With a long rainy pattern stretching from the summer, fall and now into winter I had to be careful where I was taking my old Ford F150 in the Pine Barrens. With so many back roads flooded, I was limited in what to explore. Even trails that I wanted to walk were known to be flooded. I chose a location that was sure to not be flooded. From satellite maps and other websites, I chose to drive out to the Carranza Memorial on Carranza Road. It was warm enough that several cars and at least five horse trailers were parked there. Parking my truck I took my camera and headed to the CNJ railroad tracks. My goals for this hike were to locate where the Tulpehocken Creek, Ore Spung and Featherbed Branch crossed under the tracks.


I walked in on the south access road and it was not long before I knew that had been the right decision. Not far in I saw the extensive flooding in the woods on the north side of the tracks. This meant the north access road was completely under water and for quite some distance. The same thing happened on the south access road, but not as extensive. I moved to the footpath alongside the tracks where the ground was higher. Eventually I got past the flooded area and got back on the south road. It was along this path where I searched for and located savannahs for the Tulpehocken Creek, Ore Spung and Featherbed Branch.


I used the Ultra GPS Logger app on my Android phone to measure the distance I walked and mark off the main points of interest, as can be seen on the Google Earth map. Photos were taken of where water flowed through pipes under the railroad tracks. Some other interesting things were captured during this two hour walk.


Map #1: Overview of the hike along the CNJ railroad tracks

Map #2: Points of interest along the tracks

Map #3: Points of interest along Carranza Road


Older entries

See 2018 and older entries here.