Monthly Archives: May 2017

Silver River – May 14, 2017

Wonderful trip on the Silver River on a warm but cloudy Sunday.  I was invited by a friend who also brought 2 other friends.  So 4 not-so-young ladies in kayaks enjoying the river and the wildlife.  And that’s what we did, just enjoyed the wildlife.  We paddled 6.1 miles in 5 hours, so you know we spent more time seeing and taking pics than paddling!

The Silver River in all her beauty

The Silver River in all her beauty

I love the colorful (and color-coordinated) pinwheels on these kayaks

I love the colorful (and color-coordinated) pinwheels on these kayaks

The Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) and the Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) are nesting on the rookery island near the head spring.  The cloudy sky was doing it’s best to fool with my camera so the shots are not great, but the fluffy cream-colored Anhinga babies are so cute.

Mamma, Pappa and Baby Cormorant in nest

Mamma, Pappa and Baby Cormorant in nest

Four baby Anhinga awaiting approaching parent for dinner

Four baby Anhinga awaiting approaching parent for dinner

We saw many Cooters out sunning on logs.  I can’t tell Cooters apart except usually the Red-bellied (Pseudemys nelsoni).

A Cooter (Pseudemys spp) sunning on a log

A Cooter (Pseudemys spp) sunning on a log

Florida Red-bellied Cooter (Pseudemys nelsoni)

Florida Red-bellied Cooter (Pseudemys nelsoni)

And of course a few gators were out as well.  We passed one big mamma gator on the Ft King Paddling Trail standing guard with a bunch of little gators (probably last year’s hatchlings) in the vegetation behind her.  Plus we saw a few other gators in the 3- to 6-foot range.

Mamma gator standing guard

Mamma gator standing guard (about 8-foot)

Baby gator hiding behind mamma

Baby gator hiding behind mamma (about 15 inches)

A 5-foot gator hiding in the vegetation

A 5-foot gator floating in the stream-side vegetation

The Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) were out in force, many of them swimming in pairs, but I didn’t see any babies on this trip.  I’ll have to go back in a couple of weeks.

Wood duck pair

Wood duck pair

Wood Duck pair

Wood Duck pair

We saw several White Ibis (Eudocimus albus), including one with the deep red beak and legs indicating the breeding season.

White Ibis in breeding integument

White Ibis in breeding integument

And we saw what seemed an unusual number of immature Little Blue Herons (Egretta caerulea), just starting to transition from their white feathers into the adult blue plumage.

Immature Little Blue Heron and reflection

Immature Little Blue Heron and reflection

Another immature Little Blue Heron with a little more of the slate blue adult coloring in its plumage

Another immature Little Blue Heron with a little more of the slate blue adult coloring in its plumage

Here’s a sampling of the other birds we saw.

Green Heron (Butorides virescens)

Green Heron (Butorides virescens)

Great Blue Hron (Ardea herodias) beside a spring along the river

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) beside a spring along the river

A Limpkin (Aramus guarauna) along with its favorite (and almost exclusive) food - the Apple Snail

A Limpkin (Aramus guarauna) along with its favorite (and almost exclusive) food – the Apple Snail and some purple flowering Pickeralweed

And of course, you can rarely paddle the Silver on a warm day without seeing the monkeys.  I especially liked watching these two sleepy heads.

The monkey on the left is sleeping.

The monkey on the left is sleeping.

But they are both awake now and watching the kayakers

They woke up to watch the kayakers

But I think they are still a bit sleepy. We must have awakened them from their mid-morning nap.

But I think they are still a bit sleepy. We must have awakened them from their mid-morning nap.

Still trying to catch some Zzzzzs

Or they had both made a late night of it on Saturday and are still trying to catch some Zzzzzs

This one was waiting for a handout at the old state park launch

This guy was waiting for a handout at the old state park launch.  NOT from us!

Last, but not least, we saw a couple of snakes sunning on logs over the river.  One was a non-venomous Brown Water Snake the other was a venomous Cottonmouth (aka Water Moccasin). Both are found in and around water, both are rather thick brown snakes with lighter colored bellies, both are common throughout Florida, both have a rather triangular looking head when flattened out, and both get darker with age, their markings getting harder to distinguish.  Can you tell which one is which?

Brown Water Snake (non-venomous, Nerodia taxispilota)

Brown Water Snake (non-venomous, Nerodia taxispilota). Round pupils, no pit between the nostrils and the eye, blotches are separated across the back, eyes poke up above the top of the head so that when viewed from the top you can see the eyes.

Cottonmouth aka Water Moccasin (venomous, Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti)

Cottonmouth aka Water Moccasin (venomous, Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti). Vertical pupils, a pit between the nostrils and the eye, blotches bands extend from sides across the back, “eye brow” extends over the eye so that when viewed from the top you can not see the eyes, 2 dark vertical stripes on the tip of the nose.

Ichetucknee River – May 10, 2017

I always like to schedule a trip to the Ich just before they open it up to tubers for the summer on Memorial Day weekend and another trip after they close the tubing after Labor Day weekend – the difference in the stream vegetation is always tremendous and worth the comparison.  If you’re not tubing, you definitely do NOT want to be on the water between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend.

Seven of us had gathered at the North entrance boat launch by 9:30 am.  Although rentals were available, all the folks in this group had brought their own boats.  We unloaded our boats at the cable gate at the top of the stairs, moved our cars to the launch parking area, then paid the concessionaire $5 per driver to shuttle us back from the bottom to our cars.  Using this method rather than doing our own shuttle meant that after restroom runs and the short safety talk we were on the water before 10 am.  Four other kayakers were launching about the same time who were out for an all day trip, heading for US 129 and we ran into 2 tubers on the lower half of the run, but other than that we had the river to ourselves.

The river water level was about normal, but the flow was less than we usually encounter – running around 1.5 mph by my guesstimate.  So the trip was a little more leisurely than normal.   Since the run is less than 3.5 miles I suggested we just float and everyone agreed to just sit back and enjoy the trip.

We didn’t see many birds on the river this trip, but I did get pics of a couple of Great Egrets (Ardea alba) in breeding plumage.  One on the upper river and one on the lower end.  During breeding season these magnificent birds grow aigrettes that flow like a filmy veil off their backs.

Great Egret with breeding aigrettes flowing down the back

Great Egret with breeding aigrettes flowing down the back

 

Great Egret in breeding plumage

Great Egret in breeding plumage

We also heard limpkin, woodpeckers and an owl, but they hid from us in the trees.  We also saw one otter on the upper run which was too fast for all our cameras.  As we descended and the sun rose up over the trees we started seeing lots of Cooters (Pseudemys spp.) and a couple of Yellow-bellied Sliders (Trachemys scripta scripta) on the logs.  These fresh-water turtles crawl out into the sun to warm and also eliminate the algae that grows on their shells.

Cooters in a tree

Cooters in a tree

Cooter on a log

Cooter on a log drying out the algae

It has been since last September since tubing was allowed on the upper half of the river and the vegetation was quite dense – both the grasses under the water and the vegetation along the banks.  In a couple of weeks the entire run will be open to tubing and by Labor Day much of the vegetation will be gone.  It’s always interesting to compare the early May vegetation with the late September coverage.

Ducking under a downed tree

Ducking under a downed tree

Lots of vegetation has grown in along the banks

Lots of vegetation has grown in along the banks

Lots of vegetation in the water and around the banks

Lots of vegetation in the water and around the edges – good for the wildlife

Devils Eye Spring

Devils Eye Spring

We stopped for a leg stretch and snack break at Dampier Landing where there is room for boats to pull up to the shore and found a funny little statue waiting for us.  Someone had created a “Mudman” (Florida doesn’t have snow) at the landing, complete with leaves for hair, sticks for arms, shells for eyes and limerock for buttons.  🙂

A "Mudman" someone left for us at Dampier Landing

A “Mudman” someone left for us at Dampier Landing

Immediately after Dampier Landing we entered the area of low limestone bluffs.  We poked around in the caves and enjoyed the change in scenery.

Paddling along the low limestone bluffs

Paddling along the low limestone bluffs

Investigating one of the water-worn caves in the limestone

Investigating one of the water-worn caves

On the lower river the land flattens out and cypress swamp takes over.  We marveled at the size of some of the cypress trees left behind by the loggers and tried to find shapes and faces in the cypress knees.

Some of the wonderful old cypress trees on the lower river

Some of the wonderful old cypress trees on the lower river

Marveling at the size of some of the cypress

Marveling at the size of some of the cypress

We reached the “Last Take-out” way too soon.  We helped each other get out of our boats on the rather difficult-to-negotiate concrete steps, then all pitched in to carry the boats up to the top near the loading loop.  The concessionaire’s van was waiting for us, so all the drivers hopped in and were quickly conveyed back to the north end to our vehicles.  We drove them back down to the south end and loaded up our gear and kayaks after an most excellent day on the water.

 

 

 

 

Suwannee Quest 14 – April 29-30, 2017

For our 14th and final Suwannee Quest paddle, we paddled the river from Fowlers Bluff to the Gulf of Mexico, 16.5 River Miles or about 18.9 paddling miles over 2 days.  We used the town of Suwannee as our base camp where the Anderson Landing River Camp provides tent camping with a single shower/toilet and a rustic but welcome screen house for cooking, eating and lounging away from the bugs.  To the west of Anderson Landing is a very busy public concrete boat ramp, while Immediately to the east is Bill’s Fish Camp which offers RV sites and simple but very clean motel rooms with kitchenettes.  The water level by the White Springs gauge was 49.92 – low low.

Demory Creek boat ramp, next to Anderson Landing

Demory Creek boat ramp, next to Anderson Landing

 

 

Anderson Landing River Camp

Anderson Landing River Camp from the water

Bill's Fish Camp RV campground

Bill’s Fish Camp RV campground

On Saturday morning Captain Kay from Suwannee Guides (suwanneguides.com) met us exactly on time at Anderson Landing to shuttle us up to our put-in at Weeks Landing.  A couple of things to note here.  First, Weeks Landing is in the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge and while the road is well maintained it can be flooded when the water is only sightly high.  So check with the land manager or Suwannee Guides before deciding to use Weeks Landing as a launch or pick up site.  Second, we had finished our previous Suwannee Quest paddle at Fowlers Bluff, but since it is on the east side of the river and we were on the west side and the nearest bridge across the Suwannee is up in Old Town, putting in at Fowlers Bluff would have added over an hour to our shuttle.  Since it is only about a 1/2 mile paddle upstream from Weeks Landing to Fowlers Bluff, we decided it made more sense to paddle the extra mile than to drive over an hour around.

Putting in at Weeks Landing

Putting in at Weeks Landing

We were on the water by 9 am, under hazy blue skies.  The 1/2 mile paddle upstream to Fowlers Bluff went by quickly and after a brief in-boat break we turned our boats around and headed downstream.

Paddling past the houses at Fowlers Bluff

Paddling past the houses at Fowlers Bluff

Nearing the end of its wandering path to the Gulf, the Suwannee is over 500 feet wide and with only a few exceptions the banks are low and swampy.  Cypress trees form the overstory with lots of Spatterdock and bushy wildflowers along the water’s edge.

The wide Suwannee with borders of Spatterdock

The wide Suwannee with borders of Spatterdock

Cypress and swampy borders

Cypress and swampy borders

We saw a lot of Sweet Pepperbush, Late Purple Aster, Swamp Rose and Swamp Leatherflower along this section.

Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia)

Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia) bush

Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia)

Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia) closeup

Late Purple Aster (Symphyotrichum patens)

Late Purple Aster (Symphyotrichum patens)

Swamp Rose or Marsh Rose (Rosa palustris)

Swamp Rose or Marsh Rose (Rosa palustris)

Swamp leatherflower (Clematis crispa)

Swamp leatherflower (Clematis crispa)

Swamp leatherflower (Clematis crispa)

Swamp leatherflower (Clematis crispa)

Around noon we stopped at the only real high spot of ground along this stretch – Fletcher Landing.  We had a nice lunch and leg-stretch break and found some Florida Wild Iris (Iris virginica) growing nearby.  Soon after settling down in the middle of the landing to eat we were joined by a Fiddler Crab.

Fletcher Landing - the perfect lunch site

Fletcher Landing – the perfect lunch site

Florida Wild Iris (Iris virginica)

Florida Wild Iris (Iris virginica)

The Fiddler Crab that came to lunch

The Fiddler Crab that came to lunch

After lunch we continued downstream, struggling against a strong headwind and passing several creeks that would be worth exploring.   Around 4:30 pm we finally approached Demory Creek and saw the first houses of the town of Suwannee.   Turning into Demory Creek and its maze of canals we took the first canal to the left then past the marina took a right into the canal leading to our campsite at Anderson Landing.

Reaching Demory Creek and the town of Suwannee

Reaching Demory Creek and the town of Suwannee

The turn towards Anderson Landing

The turn towards Anderson Landing (The sign is dangling in the water and pointing the wrong direction) so look for the flag past the Suwannee Marina.

Pelicans greeting us at Bill's Fish Camp

Pelicans greeting us at Bill’s Fish Camp

Waiting in line at the boat ramp

Waiting in line for the boat ramp

After a quick shower and change of clothes we gathered for dinner at the Salt Creek Restaurant where we celebrated with seafood, margaritas and a perfect sunset over the Gulf salt marshes.

Sunset over Salt Creek

Sunset over Salt Creek

On Sunday we were up early to pack and get back out on the water.  The weather report was for 25 mph wind gusts in the afternoon, so we wanted to get going early.  Just as we were leaving Captain Kay from Suwannee Guides showed up and gave us some advice on various routes out through the salt marshes and islands.  We launched, following the canals back out through the town of Suwannee.

Paddling down the canals in Suwannee

Passing under one of the bridges in Suwannee

Passing under one of the bridges in Suwannee

Paddling past the Salt Creek Restaurant

Paddling past the Salt Creek Restaurant where we had dinner on Saturday night

We paddled south following the channel between Goodson and Odlund Islands to an abandoned home at the end of the power lines.  We had been told that this was the oldest remaining home in Suwannee.  We took about a 1/2 hour break exploring the old home and its out buildings.

Approaching old home on Odulund Island

Approaching old home and boat house on Odlund Island

Old home on Odulund Island

Old home on Odlund Island

Afterward we headed west to the main channel into Suwannee and took some group pics around some of the channel markers.  It was hard work keeping the kayaks together in the increasing wind!

Group picture attempt

Group picture attempt at the channel range marker

From there we headed to the southern tip of Harris Island for a picnic lunch on the beach.  The wind increased steadily and soon the sea was covered with white caps.

Harris Island

Harris Island

Lunch break on Harris Island

Lunch break on Harris Island

Boats pulled up on the beach at Harris Island

Boats pulled up on the beach at Harris Island

We put our heads down and paddled like hell straight into the wind to cross the shipping channel.  10 minutes of all-out hard work brought us back into the lee of the salt marshes on the pother side of the channel.  Fortunately, no power boats came through the channel during the crossing.  (Sorry, no pics of the crossing.  I would have broached if I have taken my hands off of my paddle.)  After that it was a fairly easy paddle back, using the salt marsh islands to protect us from the wind.

In the lee of the salt marshes, heading back towards Suwannee

Back in the lee of the salt marshes, heading back towards Suwannee

Design in the seawall

Design in the seawall

One thing to note when paddling this area.  The salt marsh islands are over your head and cut by wandering channels, so visibility is limited.  A map and compass and/or a GPS is really necessary to avoid becoming confused in the maze.

It's easy to get confused in the salt marsh isalnds

It’s easy to get confused in the salt marsh islands

Back once again at Anderson Landing we quickly packed up and left, feeling a real sense of accomplishment at having paddled the entire Suwannee River within the state of Florida.

Anderson Landing

Anderson Landing

 

Suwanne Quest Map

Suwanne Quest Map