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Weekly “What is it?”: Carpenter’s Creek

Kayaks ready for launch in Carpenter’s Creek, near 9th Avenue in Pensacola. Photo credit: Carrie Stevenson, UF IFAS Extension

Weaving its quiet path through the most intensely developed portions of Pensacola, it is easy to forget that Carpenter’s Creek is there. Beginning at a springhead near Olive Road (on property recently purchased by the county), the creek winds its way under I-10, I-110, and Davis Highway, under 9th Avenue past the mall and multiple shopping centers, then opens up past 12th Avenue into Bayou Texar. As most are familiar, Bayou Texar empties into Pensacola Bay under the 17th Avenue train trestle.

Paddlers navigating Carpenter’s Creek. Photo credit: Shawn Brown, Visit Pensacola

An earnest effort to protect and restore this creek has been ongoing for several years, supported by RESTORE funding after the 2010 oil spill. As part of the watershed management plan for the creek, a new website highlights the area and solicits comments from the public on our interactions with and hopes for the creek.

But what does the creek look like now? Is it clean? Can you paddle down it or walk along it? Recently a small group of us with Extension, the City, and Visit Pensacola went to see just that. Our urban kayaking expedition began near the bridge crossing at 9th Avenue and continued by water to 34th street, just off Texar Drive. City Parks and Recreation Staff are working on a blueway trail along water bodies within city limits, and this scouting trip allowed us an opportunity to see if it could be expanded upstream into the creek.

A small rapid across Carpenter’s Creek showcases its natural beauty and steady stream flow. Photo credit, Carrie Stevenson, UF IFAS Extension

Seeing the creek close-up, we were pleasantly surprised by its paddle-ability. Wide enough at many places for 3 kayaks abreast and with a steady flow of water (thanks to recent rains), we were able to cruise downstream unimpeded for the majority of our 1.5 hour trip. While we encountered 3 logjams, some trash (several storm drains empty directly into the creek), and a large homeless encampment on the bank, most of the trip was surrounded by peaceful forested areas and a handful of waterfront homes. With a little bit of work and a safe access point, it is not inconceivable to imagine kayakers taking full advantage of paddling through this amazing natural resource flowing literally through our backyards.