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