Day 20 (8/31/09)
After all summer of waiting I finally was on the Onion. I had been putting it off because everybody said it was to low to navigate. I kept hoping for some rain but school was about to start and I could wait no longer. I talked my friend Roger into giving me a ride from my “Yak Hauler”, which I left at the end of my journey, to my starting point. I had planned on going farther but fortunately, at the last moment, decided to shorten my trip by a couple of miles. I had never actually kayaked the onion river, where I was going downstream from one spot to another, so I had no idea of how long it would take. I found out it was much slower than the Buffalo River had been. In fact, in many ways it was in direct contrast to the Buffalo. It took almost twice as long to travel the same distance on the Onion. I passed under the bridge to start my journey at almost exactly ten o’clock. I had spent a little time going up river just to see what was there. It was here that I realized that my camera battery was dangerously low and I would have to conserve energy. Never again will I set out with out charging the battery and taking a backup camera. It actually did pretty well and didn’t fail completely until I was almost done. As I was saying, in many ways it was the opposite of the Buffalo River. There were no sand bars and the bottom was very rocky. If you are the type of person who is concerned about scratching the bottom of your kayak stay off the Onion. Also unlike the Buffalo, which was up to the top of its banks, the water in the onion was low and I often dragged on the bottom. There is a certain skill to shallow water kayaking and you learn with practice to read where the deepest channels run. There were actually very few places where I had to get out and most of those were man made. Rocks have been dumped in the river to serve as bridges to get across with tractors and machinery. I found these actually kind of nice because they provided an area to get out and build cairns. At one of these sites I found a little mowed area complete with a picnic table on which to have my lunch. I have often been asked why I would want to kayak the Onion. It is certainly not a clear mountain stream and is actually quite muddy. That being said, it has its own kind of beauty and certainly an abundance of wildlife. My favorites are always the birds of prey and it did not disappoint. Along with countless hawks I saw an immature eagle and what I think was a barred owl. I had a couple of deer scamper away and one ran up the river in front of me. The herons and cranes were constant companions along with wood ducks and an assortment of shore birds. The biggest surprise for me was the number and size of clams I cam across. They must have been a favorite food of raccoons because the shells were scattered everywhere. My one concern was the vast number of pipes running out of the banks. I am not sure what flowed out of them but probably don’t want to know. I did come across a couple of impasses where I had to get out and help the kayak through or over a downed tree but I never actually had to leave the river. As these things go, the largest of the impasses was almost at the end of my run. It took a little finagling to get from beginning to end but ultimately I was through. The biggest difference from the trip down the Buffalo was the weather. Where the day on the Buffalo was constantly threatened by rain the day on the Onion was as beautiful as a day can be. It left me wanting more and wondering when I can get out again.
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