Big Timber Creek, South Branch – Blackwood Lake Dam, Blackwood, NJ to Old Pine Farms – Deptford Township, Gloucester County, NJ
Type: One way
Difficulty: 10 of 10.
Terrain – Narrow, tidal river with marshes
Put ins – Blackwood Lake Dam – 39°48’8.50″N, 75° 4’24.41″W
Pull outs – Old Pine Farms – 39°48’43.23″N, 75° 5’5.77″W
Note – The South Branch is tidal once you get past Old Pine Farms
Description – A year ago, Mike, The Pres, and I attempted this paddle. We came very close, to getting to where the Big Timber Creek opens up at Old Pine Farms, but we were stymied by downfalls and dead end marsh. I don’t even remember where we were headed to, and Mike ultimately ended up walking back to the car from where we pulled ourselves out in someone’s backyard ( not recommended, a small child makes you seem somewhat less threatening though. I’d always suggest borrowing one if you don’t already have one for all your adventures ).
This past Wednesday however, I took an attitude of determination and my kayak to see if I could successfully navigate this quagmire. What follows is a story of hard fought success.
This put in on the South Branch of the Big Timber Creek would be an excellent little paddle leading to the Big Timber Creek proper and it’s wide tidal waterway, if not for the myriad of large downed trees and problematic passage ways in the 1/10th of a mile before Old Pine Farms. It is similar to the Rancocas creek, but with much more nature.
The weather was beautiful, and we had just had a big rain storm the night before, so I knew the river would be flowing fast and running a littler higher than usual, but with that came the challenge of navigating downed trees with a somewhat swifter current.
At times the river is quite pleasant. For example, immediately following that road block you are greeted with a nice little paddle.
That is until you come up on the bridge on Good Intent Rd. This part of the river seems to always get clogged and was just as clogged last summer. This is also where Minqus Run enters the river from the right ( East ). I ultimately opted to squeeze through on the left side of the river, standing in my kayak pulling myself along the metal retaining wall for the road until I was past the debris. My own personal goal was to get around as many obstacles without getting out of the kayak.
Following the bridge, the river wanders past some houses with the river as their backyard. I can’t remember if there were many obstacles during this stretch, but I have a feeling there were that I didn’t take a picture of.
Eventually, you will come up to a split in the river with a house and backyard to your left. The river goes off to the right or continues straight. There is a large tree blocking the path going straight.
This is where the river starts to meander through more marshy of an area. I think it is a combination of the river splitting here and a built up of silt that has made this portion of the river full of dense vegetation. This also provides a great habitat for birds as I found out.
At some point after this, I had to finally get out of my kayak to get around trees in the river. Some parts of the river have a very muddy bottom while other parts have a more sandy bottom. I think I lucked out and it was more sandy here where I had to get out.
At long last, it was time to navigate the large bushes and marshland that sprawls across this part of the river. This is where our adventure stopped last time because we could not longer find where the river went. With the water much higher on this trip and moving much more swiftly, it was a great deal easier to negotiate. I still would not go so far as to say it was pleasant, but it certainly did not involve walking around in the river trying to find a path which is what we did last time.
And just like that the river opens up and becomes beautiful and tranquil. Crazy.
Shortly after this you will come up on a scattering of bricks on the left that is the boat ramp. You can pull out here like I did, but you have to walk and carry your watercraft for 1/4 back to the parking lot. Because I was by myself, I took the 20 minute walk back to my car at Blackwood Lake Dam after locking my kayak to a tree. I almost regret not going further down the river after all the effort I put in up to that point, but I had plans a little later on in the day.
All in all, it took me about an hour and a quarter to go 1.1 miles. Given the number of other options for rivers in the area I wouldn’t say you should go out and try this unless you’re looking for something of a challenge. If you are looking to do the South Branch, I would highly recommend grabbing a buddy and putting in at the Old Pine Farms launch. Yes it’s 1/4 mile walk/carry to start, but it puts you in the best part of the river immediately. I also don’t know what other launches there are for this river further downstream if any, but I would certainly be open to learning about them.
Unless there comes a time when a serious clearing gets done between the Blackwood Lake Dam and Old Pine Farms, I would stay away from boating down that way.
Presents a challenge. Most likely to be the only person out there.
Many downed trees. Hard to navigate in good or low water.