A nice little paddle on the lower Ocklawaha River again today – postponed from last week when the predicted highs were in the 30s. A short paddle from Rodman Dam to State Rd 19 with a lunch break at Davenport Landing. Not as much wildlife as I’m used to seeing on this section but we did get to see a couple of otters fishing around Davenport Landing, lots of small gators (the largest one was about 5 foot), a bunch of Wood Storks, and probably the last of the fall colors.
I have to admit that a lot of the remaining fall color was the bright red of poison ivy at the base of the trees. 🙂 But there was still a little yellow from the Sweet Gums and red from the Florida Maples and a touch of bright green new growth in the cypress trees.
The Ocklawaha River below Rodman Dam. Just a little fall color left in the Sweet Gums and Florida Maple
The biggest gator of the day (Alligator mississipiensis). This one was about a 5-footer. Lots of little gators out sunning today after several days of cold weather.
Wood Stork (Mycteria americana). They used to be a rare sight in north Florida but we’re seeing more and more of them up here. This one is about 5-foot tall and kindly posed for us for a minute or two. This is an immature bird, the head is not bald yet.
This shot gives a good idea of what most of the lower Ocklawaha looks like. Narrow and twisting with swampy borders and usually teeming with birds.
A fantastic, albeit chilly at the start, paddle on the lower Ocklawaha River. But we were all prepared for the cold and it warmed up about 30 degrees through the day – from about 35 degrees when we arrived to over 65 degrees when we took out. It DOES get cold in Florida, it just usually doesn’t last very long. This was the first trip where I tried adding a layer of closed-cell foam (a cheap camp sleeping pad) in the bottom of my kayak and my legs and feet stayed cozy warm once on the water.
We paddled from the Rodman Dam canoe launch to Johnson Landing boat ramp on SR 19 – about 8 miles. Sunshine and deep blue skies made a wonderful backdrop for all the white birds. We saw lots of gators, Great Blue Heron, Great Egrets – one in early breeding plumage, a Bald Eagle or two, Wood Storks and loads and loads of Ibis. Those who cancelled due to the predicted cold missed a really spectacular trip.
Five of us bundled against the cold, but enjoying the wildlife sightings along the Ocklawaha.
Great Blue Heron all scrunched up in the cold. Standing on one leg to warm up his other tootsies.
When is a lily not a lily? When it’s a Swamp Lily aka String Lily (Crinum americanum) which is an Amaryllis.
By the afternoon a few gators were crawling out onto sunny logs to warm up.
American White Ibis. This was only 1 tree, there were many trees just loaded with Ibis.
And as we paddled along, they would all take flight – traveling a little ways down the river, where they would would repeat the process 5 minutes later.
Stage 1 of the Suwannee Quest – the YakPak’s attempt to lead the Sandhill Chapter of the Florida Trail Association in paddling all 206 miles of the Suwannee River in Florida – one piece at a time.
Today we began our quest with the short stretch from Roline Landing – the first access point in Florida – to Cypress Landing on County Rd 6. The access to the water at both locations is not bad, but the roads to and from need a lot of work. Go slow or you’ll tear up your front end. Not much wildlife, but beautiful old Tupelo trees, low limestone ledges, white sandy beaches, and a bit of shoals for some fun. The water level at the White Springs gauge was 52.35 – low normal.
Typical scene along the upper Suwannee, above White Springs. Narrow, winding, dark tannic waters, low banks with sandy beaches at the bends, Water Tupelo and Cypress along the banks with pine inland.
A nice Water Tupelo (Nyssa aquatica) tree. Like the cypress it has adapted to a life subject to periodic flooding. On the Suwannee it only occurs down to around White Springs.
The Water or Swamp Tupelo ((Nyssa aquatica)) have a lot of character. The pollen collected by bees from the spring blossoms provides famous Tupelo Honey – the only honey that does not crystalize into sugar. The hollow boles frequently serve as homes for wild bees.
A couple of miles below Roline Landing you start to see limestone ledges that further downstream will become high limestone bluffs.
Shoals about a mile upstream from County Road 6 provides some fun at low water.
Shoals can be fun, but you have to watch the water level. A little bit lower and we would have had to walk the kayaks through or risk tearing out the bottoms.