Stage 5 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. Again with overnight camping.
A nice, relaxing kayak tour. A few old friends were along for the trip and by the end we had all made some new friends. We paddled from Spirit of the Suwannee Campground to Suwannee River State Park, staying overnight at Holton Creek River Camp. This section is characterized by white sandy banks, moderate limestone bluffs, cypress & pine trees, and a few nice little water falls and spring creeks. The water level by the White Springs gauge was 51.73 – medium low.
We had 5 people tenting, 3 of us stayed in a “ladies cabin” and one guy plus a lot of the tenters’ gear in another cabin which we promptly dubbed the “Man Cave”. We even had pizza and a watermelon delivered to the camp by the wife of one of the participants. The watermelon made a great treat as our Sunday lunch dessert.
Typical scenery along the upper Suwannee. High water-eroded limestone bluffs with cypress, oaks and pine trees.
Our home for the night at Holton Creek River Camp. Screened platforms, potable water, picnic pavilion, flush toilets and hot showers. Luxury camping for this old backpacker!
Sunset cloud reflection over our kayaks at Holton Creek River Camp.
Waterfall on Mill Creek where we stopped for lunch.
Lunch break on a sand bank near Mill Creek.
Trying to paddle up Mitchell Creek. None of us made it more than about 100 feet. Current too strong and water too shallow to really stick a paddle. But it was sure fun being pushed back out!
Junction of Alapaha and Suwannee rivers. Beautiful white beaches for camping and breaks.
Negotiating one of the many Suwannee bends.
Another delightful day in paradise this past Saturday for our last trip on the Ichetucknee (Itch-a-TUCK-nee) before they open it up to tubing for the summer. We’ll go back after Labor Day.
For those of you who are not familiar with the Ichetucknee, from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, then entire river within the state park is open to tubing and the state park runs a shuttle bus to haul people from bottom to top. We do not recommend boating during this time because of the bank-to-bank inner tubes floating slowly downstream. And, of course, with a thousand or more kids on the river all screaming, splashing and having fun you will see virtually no wildlife. Also, the last take-out within the state park is closed to personal vehicles, so you have to rely on the park concessionaire to transport you and your kayak back to your cars at the north end. And there are very few concessionaires I trust to transport my kayak — too many scratches and gouges by inattentive handling. But if you have an old beat-up kayak it would probably be ok.
After Labor Day weekend tubing is banned from the upper half of the river to allow the vegetation to regenerate and the shuttle only runs on weekends. So during the week, while you can still tube the lower half of the river, you will have to walk between the last take out and the mid-point or bring two cars to provide your own shuttle. As a result, during the week we rarely see more than a few tubers, mostly adults on a lazy float, and lots of wildlife.
The upper stretch of the river is narrow and winding with a few downed trees. Nothing major and easy to get around them.
Nice descriptive shot of the bluff area on the middle section of the river. Lots of little caves in the limestone.
More turtles on Saturday than on the Wednesday trip – all of them Cooters.
Crystal clear water at Dampier Landing for your swimming please. Deeper water here (the green) is well over my head.
Great Blue Heron on the prowl near the Last Takeout.
A Great Horned Owl keeping a watch on us.
Great kayak trip yesterday on one of our favorite “rivers” — the Ichetucknee (Itch-a-TUCK-nee) under perfect blue skies. We started just outside the head spring in Ichetucknee Springs State Park and continued 5 miles to the end where it joins the Santa Fe River. Then we continued about 5 miles down the Santa Fe to Lemmons Park at US 129.
We didn’t see many birds this trip, but we did come across what we think is a beaver lodge (We’ve seen beaver “gnawings” on previous trips), bunches of Alligator Lilies, a little bunny nibbling on stream-side vegetation, watched a green anole getting a drink at lunch time, saw two beautifully patterned Brown Water snakes (non-poisonous), some Giant Swallowtail butterflies and thousands of damselflies. Also had a great time wading and swimming in the crystal clear water during our lunch break on the Ich.
Coasting down the middle Ichetucknee under blue skies and fluffy clouds.
Beaver lodge on the Ich. Once exterminated in Florida, beavers are gradually moving back down into the state.
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) and Cooter (Pseudemys spp)
A little marsh rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris) munching tender plants along the river bank.
Broadwing Damselfly – one of thousands attracted to the brightly colored kayaks.
Alligator Lily (Hymenocallis palmeri)
Giant Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio cresphontes) “puddling” on the river bank.
Green anole (Anolis carolinensis) getting a drink on the dock at Dampier Landing.
Brown Watersnake (Nerodia taxispilot). We saw on sunning on a log and this one taking a swim.
The Ichetucknee meets the broader Santa Fe River.