Monthly Archives: January 2017

Silver River Post 1 – January 25, 2017

The Silver River really strutted her stuff yesterday when I joined 5 paddling friends.  We saw a little bit of everything the Silver has to offer.  We saw so much and I got so many pictures that I am going to divide this trip into four posts this week.  Today I’ll include general paddling shots along with turtles and gators.  We saw manatee, loads of birds, turtles, gators, flowering plants, an otter, and monkeys – all under a bright blue sky.  It’s definitely getting into courtship and breeding season, so more trips on the Silver are called for over the next couple of months.

Four of us put in at Ray Wayside County Park.  At Ray Wayside we used the newly renovated hand launch area.  The bags of cement are a little hard to walk on, but the best thing is that they have removed most, if not all, of the old chunks of concrete block that we used to have to maneuver around when launching and landing and slightly expanded the beach area.  You can now beach about 4 boats at a time instead of two.

Putting in at Ray Wayside County Park

Putting in at Ray Wayside County Park

We paddled up the river together, stopping for a leg/stretch break at “The Cove”

My three handsome campanions paddling up the Silver

My three handsome campanions paddling up the Silver

We stopped for a short break at The Cove then a longer break at the old state park boat launch. Just before lunch 2 more friends showed up making a very congenial group of 6.

Lunch break at the old state park ramp

Lunch break at the old state park ramp

We had originally planned to only paddle this far, but folks coming downstream were talking about seeing manatee further up near the head spring, so we continued all the way up to the head spring, then returned via the Ft King Paddling Trail.

Paddling back down the Ft King Paddling Trail

Paddling back down the Ft King Paddling Trail

On the way back the afternoon winds came up blowing directly downstream and we were able to use our paddles at times as sails.  With the current and the wind we were really scooting along back to Ray Wayside.  We spent about 4.5 hours doing the 5.2 miles upstream (with lots of time spent taking pics and watching the monkeys along the way) but only about 2 hours on the downstream trip.

Paddle sailing on the way back down the river

Paddle sailing on the way back down the river

 

And here are a few turtle and gator pics we saw along the way.  I really love the turtles you see along the Silver.  They pull out onto the banks, downed trees and stumps to warm themselves, but also to rid themselves of the algae that coast their shells.

A beautifully patterned Cooter exposing every inch possible to the sun

A beautifully patterned Slider exposing every inch possible to the sun

A Cooter sunning on a palm stump

A Cooter sunning on a palm stump – I love the patterns on the skin

We also saw a lot of gators basking in the sun.  On the banks, on the mats of vegetation and on the leaning trees.  Gators are about 8″ – 12″ in length when they hatch and grow 2-12 inches per year, depending on food availability, until they reach maturity at about 6 feet in length.  From then on the growth rate is much slower.  Females can grow to approximately 9 feet in length and males to approximately 13 feet in length.  Only about 10 percent of the gators that hatch ever reach maturity but once they measure about 6 feet in length their only enemies are humans and other gators.

Baby gator (about 12 inches long)

Baby gator (about 18 inches long)

Little gator (about 3 feet) still has his yellow stripes

Little gator (about 3 feet) still has his yellow stripes

A yound gator sunning on a mat of vegetation

A young gator sunning on a mat of vegetation

A young gator and friend sunning on a downed tree

A young gator and friend sunning on exposed tree roots

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Ocklawaha and Bear Creek – January 21, 2017

A weekend repeat of our Wednesday trip on the Ocklawaha River and Bear Creek.  We didn’t see as many birds as on Wednesday (maybe they sense the storms coming in tonight?) but we saw lots of little gators.  Although rain was predicted in the afternoon, we had blue skies all day.

Coasting down the Ocklawaha River

Coasting down the Ocklawaha River

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) on the Ockalwaha RIver

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) on the Ocklawaha River

As we approached our normal landing spot (temporarily taken over by a mama gator and her brood) we were able to get some great pics of the baby gators.  We didn’t see mama this time but we knew she was close, so we didn’t hang around long.

How many baby gators do you see?

How many baby gators do you see? (Hint it’s at least double digits.)

Near the end of our journey, back near SR 19, we started seeing many “Ibis Trees”.  In Florida you soon learn NEVER to paddle UNDER an Ibis tree, as a few newbie paddlers in the group learned today to their chagrin.  They will have to clean their kayaks when they get home.  🙂

Ibis (Eudocimus albus) flocking into the trees in the late afternoon.

Ibis (Eudocimus albus) flocking into the trees in the late afternoon.

Just another day in the paradise of north Florida!

Ocklawaha River and Bear Creek – January 18, 2017

One of our favorite paddles for enjoying the original splendor of the Ocklawaha River.  We put in at Johnson Field Landing on State Rd 19 south of Palatka.  Our route takes us downstream on the Ocklawaha about 5 miles to the St Johns River, a short jog upstream on the St Johns, then we duck into Bear Creek to return to our starting point.

The Ocklawaha is fairly wide and winding with a mild current.  The St Johns is huge and can exciting with wind, waves, and even ocean-going yachts.  And Bear Creek is narrow and intimate with a multitude of birds and only a slight current to paddle against.  The whole loop is about 10 miles and no shuttle is required.

Colorful kayaks coasting downstream on the winding Ocklawaha River

Colorful kayaks coasting downstream on the winding Ocklawaha River

 

On the open expanse of the St Johns.

On the open expanse of the St Johns.

Bear Creek is rather narrow and twisting

Bear Creek is rather narrow and twisting

The only down side of doing the loop is that unless the water is extremely low there is no good place to get out for a leg-stretch break.   There are a couple of passable spots at the lower end of Bear Creek, just after entering from the St Johns, but they are not always reliable.  On this day we pulled close to our regular break area only to find a pod of baby alligators in place. When mama surfaced between us and the babies, we wisely decided to eat lunch in our kayaks instead.

Baby alligators just before mam surfaced

Baby alligators just before mam surfaced

As you paddle along all three of these waterways you will see great rafts of bright green plants rising from the water.  The primary plant is Spatterdock (Nuphar advena), a native submersive plant that provides food and protection for many species of birds, fish, insects and crustaceans.

Lunch in our kayaks

Lunch in our kayaks on Bear Creek amid the Spatterdock

Spatterdock (Nuphar advena)

Spatterdock (Nuphar advena)

One fun sighting on Bear Creek.  About midway we came around the corner and saw a bear at the water ahead of us.  A bear on Bear Creek?  Not really, but a stump that had us convinced it was a bear until we got very close.

A bear on Bear Creek?

A bear on Bear Creek?

 

The Great Egrets were gathering – a few already decked out in their breeding plumage.  Great Egrets are normally solitary birds, except during the breeding and nesting season.  Great Egrets are one of the first birds to start their annual courtship so we know there are many more wondrous sights to come as we head into the spring courtship and nesting season here in Florida.

Great Egrets (Ardea alba) take to the air in front of us on the Ocklawaha.

Great Egrets (Ardea alba) take to the air in front of us on the Ocklawaha.