Big Timber Creek, South Branch – Old Pine Farms – Deptford Township, Gloucester County, NJ to River Dr, Westville, Gloucester County, NJ or Brooklawn Community Park, Camden County, NJ
Distance: 8 miles from launch to the Delaware River (another 0.7 miles back to the take out)
Type: One way
Difficulty: 2 of 10 as long as you are with the tide.
Terrain – Wide, tidal river with marshes
Put ins – Old Pine Farms – 39°48’43.23″N, 75° 5’5.77″W (1/4 mile carry in between parking and ramp) – Parking at the end of Rankin Ave in Deptford, NJ
Note – The South Branch is tidal once you get past Old Pine Farms
So, a year ago, Danny, The Pres, and I attempted to paddle almost ten miles on the South Branch of Big Timber Creek from Blackwood Lake Dam all the way down to the Delaware River. We ended up in a giant swamp and had to pull out in someone’s backyard and then hike back to the car. It was a disaster an adventure.
So yesterday morning, the three of us loaded Ol’ Tippecanoe onto the car, stowed a vehicle at the other end of the river, and looked to finish what we started – putting in at Old Pine Farm in Deptford just below the swamp we got stuck in and heading for the Delaware River. This started with a 1/4 mile carry in from the parking lot to the boat ramp, which only took a few minutes. Then it was hats and life jackets on and away we went to…
Pretty much immediately hit a downed tree. It felt like the last trip all over again, and it took us almost ten minutes to figure out how to get around it without getting into the water (note: with the canoe, we shimmied over the lowest point on the right. With a kayak, I’d stick left and squeeze under the branches). But our luck would change quickly, as that was the last obstacle we’d have the whole day!
We paddled along the first mile, our arms a bit sore immediately from the carry-in, and quickly passed under the Almonesson Road bridge and Route 42. It was lots of marshes to either side, something that would continue for most of the run of this creek. We also started running into ducks along the way, another positive that would continue for the rest of our adventure.
The next mile and half was similar and saw us pass under Route 42, then the New Jersey Turnpike and then Route 295. The car noise faded surprisingly quickly as we rounded bends. Backyards slowly became more noticeable and small docks with beached canoes and kayaks began to dot the creek. Between the Turnpike and 295 we passed the dump on one side and Andaloro NWR on the other.
After we made it under Route 295 (less traffic where we were), the channel got a little wider, the buildings got more common, and the boats tied off on the side got a lot bigger and more expensive than Ol’ Tippecanoe (cost: $100). Nearing low tide, there were quite a few marshes and channels we could take, but we generally stayed left because it seemed more interesting. We passed the Westville Motor Boat Association, went around a BIG hook in the river, noticed the current increasing, and headed for the last of the bridges we had to cross under. The three were in row – Broadway, a railroad trestle, and New Broadway.
Once under the last set of bridges, we saw where we’d parked the car along River Dr. We looked at the time and realized that we’d gone WAY faster than we had hoped (2 1/2 hours) to and still had plenty of time before the tide shifted. So we soldiered on, parking at an island across the water from River Dr to stretch and admire the view of Philly.
After our legs felt properly stretched, it was back into the canoe to circle the island to see the abandoned barge, which we didn’t know was there. It was pretty awesome. We followed the bank of the water (at this point, motor boats and such were passing us and looking at us a little oddly for having a canoe out) around past Brooklawn Community Park (MUCH better takout here for a canoe or kayak, which I totally hadn’t seen on the map) and out to the Delaware. Just before the big river, we passed some pretty neat ruins of docks.
At this point, we felt pretty good – mission accomplished! One of the folks at the South Jersey Kayakers Facebook group who had given us some tips ahead of time (thanks Frank if you ever read this!) had done this run and paddled another 2 1/2 or 3 miles south along the Delaware River to take out at Red Bank Battlefield, but with The Pres in a canoe, we opted to start heading back to our take out along River Drive.
We paddled across the mouth of Big Timber Creek, got out to stretch and admire the view on the tidal peninsula at just about exactly low tide (saw a bald eagle take off from the shore of it not far from us), and then paddled to our take out (actually, we spotted a better spot from the water than where we’d originally parked).
We were pretty happy with our trip, Big Timber Creek was a great paddle. Wish we had a few more miles to paddle!
Beautiful views of marshland and Philadelphia, some cool ruins (barge, dock) along the way, and great birding (including a pair of bald eagles).
Not a ton of shade cover, need to make sure to time out the tides properly.