Geauga County Metropark maintains a small multi-site primitive campground on the shore of East Branch Reservoir.
This Kayak Float Report was previously posted on my Facebook Page.
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I spent a very comfortable night in one of the Lean-tos at Headwaters Park campsite (Site F) in front of a warm fire. The early morning light struggled to shine through the dark gray patches of clouds but every so often would brighten up the inside of my lean-to. It had rained during the night not hard just a gentle sprinkle hitting the roof and the tarp I used to cover half of the opening. Like the sunlight, my cellphone struggled to get a signal to get the latest weather radar, and was all in vain. The latest report from yesterday evening called for showers likely in the morning then showers likely with a possible thunderstorm after 1 pm.
With the last of my firewood, I relit the fire and hung up some clothing that was still damp from yesterday's swim in the Cuyahoga River. It was late morning when I finished breakfast, packed my sleeping bag, and loaded up the car. I used the remaining time to watch the embers burn down and enjoy the last bit of warmth. It hadn't rained for a couple of hours and the clouds were slowly moving eastward with no sign of clearing.
The water level at the reservoir was the highest I have seen it and there were no sandy beaches to launch from the campsite area as I had the pleasure of doing so last year. There was one shallow area a couple of hundred feet away but I would have to carry the kayak around a large number of trees. I decided to drive to the boat ramp. The water covered the concrete ramp up a bit but along the right side was a pocket of water that would make a good kayak launch. I could get in and out without getting my feet wet. My water shoes were still damp even after having them stuffed with paper towels all night. Did not want to risk melting them close to the evening's fire. My regular sneakers will have to do. The socks dried nicely as did the padded bike shorts and Kuhl hiking pants. The Merino wool T-shirt and sweatshirt dried also. I added a polyester vest to my clothing list as the temp had dropped to the low 50s. Spray skirt and PFD topped with a waterproof jacket I found at a Volunteers of America shop. It was a Columbia brand with the 30th Annual Cleveland Race Week Edgewater Yacht Club embroidered on the front left. Being XXL meant it would fit over the PFD and still give me some room to ventilate to keep from over-sweating. A large hood was perfect for the large SNL’s Father Sarducci-style hat I was taking. My watch chimed 12 noon.
Unloaded the boat and loaded in the usual stuff. Sponge and bailer, a small dry bag for car keys, a knife and bandana, a throw line bag, an extra paddle, and my small backpack. This time I wanted to see if the backpack which carried my water bottle, small first aid kit, and snacks would fit at the foot of the cockpit instead of on top under the bungees. It worked and didn't hinder my feet on the foot pedals. There is no rudder on this Skye 17 kayak, just a retractable skeg. The water temperature on the small digital aquarium thermometer with a wired probe I taped to the hull showed 58 to 61F Degrees.
A light sprinkle started and I felt great! No winds, no waves, no current, enclosed and enraptured, The lake was devoid of any human inhabitants except for yours truly, no voices, no paddle slaps just the sound of the rain hitting the water around me. I set my internal compass to follow my spirit and we headed south toward the dam. One cove just to the south of the boat launch was a wonderland of underwater willows with my kayak playing tag between the upper branches. The rain came down faster and surrounded me with millions of small bubbles floating on the water. I was sure to find a white rabbit looking at his watch saying over and over, "I'm late, I'm late". Or perhaps a Cheshire cat on a tree branch asking me, “Who are you?”
Moving on and In no mood to tempt fate or follow white rabbits down rabbit holes, I stayed well clear of the spillway and admired it from afar. The plan was to follow the east shoreline and explore the new coves and inlets I haven't seen on my past floats. But what happened to the islands? They are underwater with a few twigs and sprigs sticking out to mark their location.
My ears intently listened for any sounds of thunder. According to the National Weather Service, thunder can be heard for a distance of 10 miles from a lightning strike. Giving me time to find a place of safety and allow it to pass on its way. No thunder just the ever-present sound of geese honking.
Made my way to the Rt 322 bridge and beyond what shows up as a small stream on Google Maps was a sprawling lake. A sign on the front of the bridge proclaimed "Wildlife Sanctuary - No Admittance" I headed the warning and proceeded south on the west bank of the reservoir. Last fall after the water was lowered this entire half of the lake was a mud flat with under an inch or less of water.
The water temp on the thermometer was reading 58F degrees at the launch ramp and up here was 61F degrees. Also found the water temp a few degrees higher on the west bank than on the east.
Down one of the coves, I spotted a Great Blue Herron looking for lunch. Then to the right of the bird was a rustling in the water. First appeared to be a rock but it began to weave and bob on the water. This was no rock and I paddled closer I could make out the humped shell of a snapping turtle, not one but two in a fierce competition to see who had the biggest mouth. They were of a good proportion like that of a standard automobile hubcap. The one on the left seemed to be the alfa turtle. Unaware of my presence they soon parted to do what snapping turtles do. Every now and then I would see the head of the winner stick out its head to watch me or maybe to see how big my mouth would get.
Inside another cove, there was an orange sign I needed to get close to read: Eagle Nesting Area. As I scanned the treetops in search of any eagle nests a large bird flew into my view. Lands on a branch high in the tree and was watching me. Took a while to make it out as the sun was behind it but as it moved I could make out the white head feathers of a mature bald eagle. But was unable to spot any eagle nests and they are rather large.
Gliding on with the rain letting up I passed the campsite I stayed at earlier and an elderly lady was on the shore just waving to say hello. The only human I saw all day.
One last look at the lake and a silent thank you to the Great Spirit for the invitation to play in its playground and I left taking with me many pleasant memories.
Headwaters Park Campground Site F
The Lean-to is a stone’s throw from the water of the East Branch Reservoir. The shoreline was not a good launch for my 17 ft kayak.
Earlier I spotted several other kayakers enjoying the afternoon on the water.
The wet clothes hung out to dry. There are no electric clothes dryers in these parts.
I slept like a bug in a rug. So comfortable with a small fire next to me.
Just a little more and this sweatshirt will be all dried out and warm to put on.
Max the Wonder Dog had a front seat to the fireplace. Best dog I ever had.
Max was mesmerized as I was watching the flames.
My Luci Light was attracting some local critters
Earlier on my hike I captured these Spring Beauties in full bloom
The Trout Lilies were waiting for the sun to wake them up.
The concrete boat ramp was a bit underwater and the area alongside was a good spot to launch my kayak.
The last time I was here there were some good size islands but now underwater.
Lots of little coves to explore.
Promising you I won’t fall out of my kayak on this reservoir.
There is a boat house but closed for the season. Will reopen later in May.
Route 322 goes over the creek that feeds this reservoir. The water here is piped south to Akron, Ohio. One of many reservoirs feeding Akron.
Two large snapping turtles were jousting either for territorial rights or who had the biggest gaping mouth.
The red signage alerts us to the nesting eagles in the area
There was my home for the night.
There is a path this sign is next to but with the high water, you need a boat to read it.
My SNL’s Father Sarduchi hat is perfect for sun and rain protection. I’ll be hearing confessionals later this afternoon,
What looked like shrubs were the top of willow trees submerged. A lone gander looking for his friends.
The rain was starting to let up. The noise it made hitting the lake water was really soothing. I could have gone to sleep just listening to it.
Well, it was time to load up the kayak and head home and Max wanted to ride up in front. Well, why not?
I hope you enjoyed this excursion to Eldon Russell Park and Headwaters Park in Geauga County. We are east of Cleveland and north of Akron, Ohio on the Cuyahoga River Watershed. Please leave a comment and click the little heart to like. There is a lot more adventure coming up as I continue to finish my write-up on the Great Loop voyage. Sign up for the free subscription to get the next email notification of the next published post. Have a great day and fair winds and gentle seas!
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