METNWS-10-14-21 WILLS, CLYDE COLUMN_PHOTO

The Metropolis Planet’s editor emeritus Clyde Wills wades/hikes Massac Creek.

I don’t know why, but I have always been fascinated by streams. Not so much by little ditches, but mostly by large creeks and small rivers. They seem so inviting.

Whenever I drive down the road and cross a bridge, I just have to look down and see what’s flowing beneath me. I always hope it will look like a good place for canoeing or kayaking, even if I know it is not.

Unfortunately, one can cross a lot of bridges in southern Illinois and western Kentucky and not see great places to go paddling. Massac Creek is one of those places. If a person can catch just the right combination — high water and warm air — Massac Creek can be a pretty nice place to paddle. But most of the time when it is warm enough, the water is too low.

About 45 years ago I decided maybe what I needed to do was hike Massac Creek, wading in places and walking on sandy gravel most of the way. Well, the years went by, and I never acted on my idea. That was until recently.

Our son Christopher came home recently for my birthday, and I asked him if he would be willing to join me for a hike/wade of Massac Creek. Chris didn’t sound really enthusiastic about the plan, but he did agree to go.

The lower portion of Massac Creek — from the New 1910 Bridge to the river — I had seen by kayaking when I did catch the weather warm and the Ohio backed up into the creek. The big excitement there was hearing beavers slap their tails against the top of the water to warn other beavers that strange creatures were in the area. We decided to start at the new 1910 Bridge and go upstream toward Country Club Road.

Getting down into the creek was easy, and so was the walking, as it was almost like being on a beach. Where we did have to go through water, it was only a couple of inches deep and just great for cooling our feet on a hot late, summer day. Where there were pools, hundreds of minnows swam around as if they were on some great mission.

Scattered along the creek were a few items of interest. Buried in the bank was part of what appeared to be the cab of an old truck. I remember years ago, I saw several old vehicle frames sunk deep into the bank downstream. I don’t know if they were placed there in order to stop erosion, or just pushed in the creek to get out of the way.

While most of the pools were only about 6 inches deep and very clear, we did have to go through one that was a little tricky. The water was probably just over knee-deep, but the bottom seemed like quicksand. Trying to take steps in the muck threw me off balance and backward into the water. It wasn’t a real problem, but it was unexpected.

I read about a fellow onetime who, like me, spent many Saturday afternoons as a boy enjoying movies about cowboys or explorers in Africa. It seems they were always falling into quicksand. The man said he was surprised when he made it through adulthood and found that quicksand was not something he had to contend with on a regular basis. Maybe this was my once-in-a-lifetime almost quicksand experience.

As we moved on up the creek, we were a little surprised to find a man capturing water in a gallon jug. We don’t know if he was camping along the creek or lives nearby, we just said hello and went on our own way.

One section of the creek bed has a scattering of large blocks of concrete. They may be from an old bridge or dam, or could be just more of civilization tossed in the creek. Our prize treasure of the day was a 1957 Illinois license plate. We wondered where it had been all these years to finally end up in the middle of a sandbar.

We walked up on a great white egret, which was probably making a meal out of some of the minnows. Like great blue herons, the egret would fly 100 or so feet, land and wait on us to spook him again.

After about three hours of leisurely walking/wading, the bridge on Country Club Road came into view. The problem then was how to get out of the creek and up to the road. The banks were steep and weeds were thick. We found a place where broken-up concrete had been pushed over the bank to stop erosion. It made a place we could climb up and get out to civilization.

Some people may wonder what kind of varmints we had to fight off to keep from being bitten. There were none. I don’t remember any mosquitos, and we did not see a single snake. They probably did see us.

Now, what I need to do is find another nice day and head further up the creek.

I want to get up to where the otters live. Shooting pictures of them would be great.

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