I am the kind of person who doesn't like to limit myself to one kind of paddling. Exploring rivers, lakes or sea kayaking big water, I am in love with it all. When we plan our family camping trips, I try to find some spots that have some interesting places to explore by kayak, Arrowhead did not disappoint. There is a bit of everything here, the Big East River's winding Oxbows, the inland lakes, as well as unbelievable hiking and scenery; ranging from cliffs to waterfalls.
If you decide to paddle the Big East past the park, you can reach Lake Vernon. From there you can explore the many inland lakes which are interconnected. When you drive through the gates into the park, you can instantly sense that this park is different. Right away you pass by Mayflower Lake, it is the most inviting sight, as soon as you see it, you think, that would be a great place to launch, relax and watch nature. From there, we found our plot. The sites at Arrowhead are the biggest I have seen to date. Even better, our specific site had no neighbours. After setting up our tent and making lunch, it was time to plan out the paddling schedule for the weekend.
The first time I saw a picture of The Big Bend was on an Instagram account I like to follow. I knew I had to kayak there. Anyone who knows me, knows I instantly went into research mode and started planning my conquest of the Big East River. The best please to start the trip is at the small hamlet of Williamsport. Parking is an issue so I arranged for a shuttle. I unloaded my gear and lugged it down the hill, and got a heroes send off from my family.
Off and down the river I went. Right away there is a small rapid, I was so busy trying to wave at my send off crew, I slammed directly into a huge rock. I instantly thought to myself, I better get on my game and pay attention. Turns out the rest of the trip was a relaxing paddle through some dramatic scenery.
Around every bend and oxbow there are huge sand banks lined with towering pine. The water is the same colour as black tea and the onky sounds are bird calls and rushing water. It is heaven. THe route is fairly popular, so there was a decent amount of traffic, but as always, paddlers of all stripes are friendly and willing to have a conversation about their story. After what seemed like the the tenth sand banked oxbow, I was convinced I had some how missed Big Bend. It is hard to believe just how many of them I had already seen, some were huge! A quick check of my map confirmed that it was still to come. I cant imagine how it must look, it dwarfs the ones I have already seen. Another 45 minutes and I see something poking through the trees. It looks like a huge yellow wall ahead. Wow, that must be it, I cant believe the scale. Wow.
I don't know how to describe the feeling of finding these gems. It makes it all worth while. I had to site here and enjoy the view.
After about an hour of watching the canoes and kayaks paddle by and the the photographers above at the lookout, I was off again. There is still one thing left to find: Stubb's Falls. I don't think that you can normally paddle to the base of this waterfall. I saw a lot of surprised faces on the hikers. Either way, it was fun to see it from the bottom. Time to head to the take out spot we had agreed upon. The rest of the paddle was through cottages and trailer parks. That kind of paddling doesn't bother me at all, it gives me a chance to put away the camera and work on some parts of my paddling technique.
We will definitely be back to this park, it was full of memories I will never forget.
COST: Free for the kayaking on the river. Parking is not charged at either end. There are no facilities outside of the park.
Difficulty: The river was calm on the day that I did it save for the first class 1 rapid at the very start. In the spring melt and after rain storms, the Big East can be violent with rushing water. I had no issues with strainers but I can see how easily they could form on this river.