Monthly Archives: October 2016

Suwannee Quest 10 – October 29, 2016

Stage 10 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 paddled from Manatee Springs State Park to Fowlers Bluff.  Nice ramps at both ends, altho wheelies are a help in the state park to get your kayak from the parking lot to the ramp. Right at the start we had a difficult decision to make – where to eat after the paddle – since there is a nice little river-side restaurant at Fowlers Bluff and good BBQ available at Manatee Springs. On our last trip we elected to eat at the Treasure Camp restaurant so this time we went back to Manatee Springs for the BBQ and were not disappointed.  The 3 Meat Plate was as good as we remembered it and I took home 1/2 of it for dinner Sunday night.  The water level by the White Springs gauge was 49.99 – low low.

Since it was close to Halloween some of us decorated our kayaks and dressed the part.

Skeleton relaxing on the Suwannee

Skeleton relaxing on the Suwannee

Halloween Spiders

Halloween Spiders

 

 

 

Paddling down Manatee Springs run in our Halloween finery

Paddling down Manatee Springs run in our Halloween finery

 

 

 

Kayak pumpkin

Kayak pumpkin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halloween pumpkin with autumn pinwheel

Halloween pumpkin with autumn pinwheel

Kayak spider

Kayak spider

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a bit windy on the river, enough to make paddling a little more strenuous than normal since in the Suwannee River valley it’s almost always a head wind. (Or at least it SEEMS like it’s always a head wind.)  But offsetting the wind there were very few motor boats on the river today.  I think everyone must have stayed home to watch the Florida-Georgia football game.  So there were only a few power boats to avoid on this stretch and they gave us plenty of room.

One of the few power boats of the day

One of the few power boats of the day

Choppy water from the wind

Choppy water from the wind

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the highlights of the trip were all the blooming Late Purple Aster (Symphyotrichum patens) bushes along the river teeming with various species of bees and butterflies.  We all had a lot of fun trying to get close enough and stay still enough to get some good pictures.

Late Purple Aster bloom

Late Purple Aster (Symphyotrichum patens) bloom

Honey Bee

Honey Bee (Apis spp.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carpenter Bee

Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa spp.) ???

Bumblebee (Bombas spp.)

Bumblebee (Bombas spp.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) and Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)

Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) and Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)

Gulf Fritilarys (Agraulis vanillae)

Gulf Fritilarys (Agraulis vanillae)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

Queen (Danaus gilippus)

Queen (Danaus gilippus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

American Painted Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

American Painted Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another neat thing we ran into along the banks was a Bald-faced Hornet (Dolichovespula maculata) nest hanging from a tree.  These guys of actually not hornets, but wasps and are pretty bad news, especially if you are allergic to wasp venom.  If you disturb the nest they will swarm en mass, so slow and gentle is the rule around them.  They are one good reason for avoiding any overhanging trees and branches on your river paddles.

Bald-faced Hornet nest as seen from the water.

Bald-faced Hornet nest as seen from the water.

This Bald-faced Hornet nest measured about 24 inches long and 12 inches across.

This Bald-faced Hornet nest measured about 24 inches long and 12 inches across at the widest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here you can see the white faces that give these wasps their name.

Here you can see the white faces that give these wasps their name.

Bald-faced hornets also have 3 white stripes on their tails.

Bald-faced hornets also have 3 white stripes on their tails.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After we took out at Fowlers Bluff we returned to Manatee Springs State Park for BBQ dinner.  Just as we arrived the Goodyear blimp passed overhead on its way to Tallahassee for the Florida State-Clemson football game this evening.  Here are a couple of pics from the park.  A great place to spend a hot day.

Sign at Fowlers Bluff. Only 20 more miles to the Gulf of Mexico!

Sign at Fowlers Bluff. Only 20 more miles to the Gulf of Mexico!

The Goodyear blimp at Manatee Springs.

The Goodyear blimp at Manatee Springs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manatee Springs head spring

Manatee Springs head spring

Looking down the run from the head spring

Looking down the run from the head spring

 

Silver River Monkeys – October 14, 2016

In our blog on October 12 about our Silver River paddle, we promised some monkey pictures after we had edited them.

In the late 1930s Colonel Tooey, who ran the river-cruise tourist attraction, bought several Rhesus macaques and released them on Monkey Island, near Devils Elbow on the Silver River.  He thought they would liven up his jungle cruise.  The monkeys found a favorable habitat there and quickly expanded throughout the neighboring forest.  Now, 80+ years later, there are at least separate 4 troops along the Silver River.  They have also expanded along the Ocklawaha River into the Ocala National Forest and perhaps as far south as Lake Griffen.

For years people motoring up and down the river and visiting the Silver Springs attraction feed the monkeys, sometimes creating problems, both for the monkey and humans.  If you see the monkeys, please do not feed them.  Give them 50 feet or so of space, then sit back and enjoy the antics.  Watch out particularly for the big alpha males and females as they will charge with bared teeth if they think you are a threat to the troop and the females will vigorously protect the young ones.

After viewing the still photos you can watch some short videos of one troop crossing the Silver River using overhead trees on our video page HERE.

An alpha standing guard over the troop.

An alpha standing guard over the troop.

Young monkey checking us out.

Young monkey checking us out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mama carrying baby.

Mama carrying baby.

A baby peeking at us.

A baby peeking at us.

 

 

 

 

 

We stopped and watched one troop moving from one side of the river to the other through the overhead trees.

We stopped and watched one troop moving from one side of the river to the other through the overhead trees.

 

More babies playing in the trees.

More babies playing in the trees.

Silver River – October 12, 2016

We had one of our best paddles in a long time yesterday – the Silver really strutted her stuff for us!

We took 9 kayakers from the Florida Trail Association out on the Silver River, from Silver Springs State Park downstream to Ray Wayside County Park in Silver Springs, FL.   A part of what made this trip special was the congeniality of the group.  Everyone was having a good time, everyone just meshed, even though most had never met until reaching the boat launch.

Even though it was cloudy, and it even sprinkled on us for a few minutes a couple of times, the day was warm and we thoroughly enjoyed every minute. For one person it was her first time in a kayak. For several others it was their first time on the Silver and they all loved it.

Another part of what made this trip great was that everyone was happy to take their time and really see everything.  The trip is only a little over 5 miles with a good current, but we spent 5 hours on the water.  We poked into every cove and spent lots of time taking pictures.

And the third part of what made this trip great was the amount and diversity of wildlife.  We saw gators of all sizes, Cooters and Sliders sunning, all kinds of water birds and watched two different troops of monkeys playing in the trees. I even got a couple of little videos of one troop moving from one side of the river to the other using the overhead trees. I’ll put the monkey pics into a separate post later – I’m still editing them.

On the Ft King Canoe Trail, a narrow 1-mile alternate to the main river which is usually loaded with turtles and wildflowers.

On the Ft King Canoe Trail, a narrow 1-mile alternate to the main river which is usually loaded with turtles and wildflowers.

Ghosting down the stream from the boat launch to the head spring.

Ghosting down the stream from the boat launch to the head spring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green Heron (Butorides virescens) ruffling his feathers as we come too close.

Green Heron (Butorides virescens) ruffling his feathers as we come too close.

Beautiful patterns on a sunning Cooter (Pseudemys spp)

Beautiful patterns on a sunning Cooter (Pseudemys spp)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Male Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) We usually see lots of females, but not too many males after the breeding season, so this guy was a treat.

Male Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) We usually see lots of females, but not too many males after the breeding season, so this guy was a treat.

Our biggest gator of the day - 7 or 8 feet - resting in the stream-side vegetation.

Our biggest gator of the day – 7 or 8 feet – resting in the stream-side vegetation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax). When he flew over us we couldn’t identify him and had to paddle back upstream to get a look. He was a VERY large Night Heron, biggest we have seen.

An always stately Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias).

An always stately Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Female Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) drying her wings with a couple of Cooters.

Female Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) drying her wings with a couple of Cooters.

American White Ibis (Eudocimus albus)

The American White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) is frequently seen in large flocks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Egret (Ardea alba) in a classic stance.

Great Egret (Ardea alba) in a classic stance.

Paddling down the lower Silver River, nearing Ray Wayside.

Paddling down the lower Silver River, nearing Ray Wayside Park.