I actually do work for a living. I technically qualify to join Henry County’s 50+ Club (I’m over 50) but I do have to ask off from work to attend their weekday events. But it has been SO worth it.
This month’s kayak was at Philpott Marina. This launch spot is at the southern end of the lake and it is a very short trip over to see the dam.
There is a big sign on the dam that says to stay 500 feet back. I have a camera with a really good zoom.
One of the other kayakers pointed out that there are windows in the dam facing the lake. The bottom of the windows is just a little above the spillway. It must have been an awe-inspiring sight to look out those windows the one and only time that the lake was high enough to go over the spillway.
When you are over by the dam, if you turn and look north up the lake, you can just barely make out the Blue Ridge Mountains peeking up on the far horizon. Philpott Lake covers 2900 acres and it is long and narrow(ish). It has 100 miles of shoreline.
Bowen Falls is not too far away from Philpott Marina but I found that out too late to try to go take a look. It’s nice to leave something for next time though. We spent our afternoon kayaking up one of the many little spines that branch away from the main channel of the lake.
The water is clear by Texas standards but I know that isn’t saying much. It isn’t crystal clear like I’ve seen in maybe Minnesota or Maine, but it is definitely not murky.
The shoreline is a little low. One of the county employees told me that the lake is about three feet down right now. You can see erosion along the shore line and the trees tip over and fall in if they lose enough soil.
This is great for fishing and two of the county’s chaperones brought out their fishing boat to drop a line in while keeping an eye on us. They were pros and very good about not creating a wake. Our group did get a little spread out as the afternoon went on and it was nice to know that they could respond to any issues quickly.
It was a beautiful day. We had a small group because there was a competing blood drive in the county and many of our kayaking ladies had volunteered to help with that.
Philpott Lake is a US Army Corps of Engineers lake and there is no development on it. In fact, the only marina on the lake where you can permanently moor a boat or buy gasoline on the water is Philpott Marina.
Philpott has requested to expand its slip rentals but the Corps has refused based on their location on the lake. There had been another marina up at Twin Ridge but it burned in 2000. That means that all boat traffic on Philpott Lake, with the exception of the handful of boats moored here, has to be trailered in and launched.
That doesn’t keep the lake from getting busy though. Besides Twin Ridge, I have yet to see other launches but the launch at Philpott Marina is very nice. It has the two accesses separated by a narrow dock. It also has a lot of parking for trailers. I started to take a picture but it’s a parking lot. Trust me. There is a lot of parking.
There are also campgrounds and a trail off by the side of the marina that leads to another parking lot and a fishing spot.
As fishing spots go, it would be good for the able-bodied fisherman. It’s a bit of a scramble to get down to the shoreline.
Philpott Marina is in a cluster of accesses. Right next to the marina is the observation deck where so many photos are taken of Philpott Lake. It is especially beautiful in the fall but I went there one fall day when it rained and it was incredible.
You can also get to the other side of the dam with another access. This is where you find the first access to Smith River for kayaks.
Class 1 to 3 rapids. I’m comfortable with class 1, a little nervous about class 2, and there’s no way I’m going on class 3 without a guide who’s done it before. The moving water is beautiful though.
There is plenty of parking and a well marked access.
There is a gate across the access that prevents a vehicle from getting down there. Since the strength of the river depends on how much water is let out from the dam, you need to call ahead before just setting out. I don’t know if the gate is an indication of whether or not it is okay to put in or if they just don’t want ordinary folks trying to back down the access.
That would be completely understandable though, since the access is narrow and a little rough.
At the bottom of the access, you are looking up at the dam and hearing the water being released. It is a little awe-inspiring.
I will leave you with this last photo that completely took me by surprise. There is a hiking trail that juts off from the kayak access and continues on along the shore of the river. The cool water being released by the dam was reacting with the warmer water in the river and a mist was rising up off of the surface. It was absolutely gorgeous.
I hope that this is something that always happens and I can get back and take some incredible shots of that.