Back for my second Silver River paddle for the week, this time a little out-and-back from the Silver Springs State Park hand launch down to the state park metal ramp and back via the Ft King Paddling Trail. 12 participants on this trip. I originally set up this trip for newbie paddlers so they could rent kayaks from the park, but everyone who showed up had their own boats, so no newbies on this trip.
In my last post I commented on the rocks placed at the foot of the refurbished hand launch ramp. When we got there this morning the rental boat concessionaire had placed some plastic mats over the rocks, tucking the leading edge of the mats under the geo-textile that covers the ramp surface. It was NOT working. Every time they pushed a kayak out the mat went with the boat. The concessionaire was pretty peeved with the whole thing, so I withheld my own comments and just nodded my head in agreement with them.
The ramp was busy this morning, a tour group of about 8 from Discovery Kayaks, some State Park volunteers, a few independent small groups, and our 12, all trying to get out at the same time. Since you can only really launch one kayak at a time (Why didn’t they widen the ramp a little while they were refurbishing it? Another 2 feet in width and 2 could have launched at once.) But it was friendly competition with everyone helping everyone and eventually we got all the boats out.
We headed out to the head spring and the water was the clearest I have seen it all year! The combination of high water, no rain for the past few days, sunshine, and no wind meant the Greek god statues sitting in 30 feet of water looked like you could reach down and touch them.
After everyone in the group had gotten some pictures of the statues we headed down the river. First stop was the rookery island. All the Cormorants are gone and most of the Anhinga – I only saw one Anhinga nest with little ones. Several Little Blue Heron nests were visible with babies and the branches were alive with big babies – both Little Blues and Anhingas – exercising their wings and screaming for momma and pappa to feed them.
With the water so clear we saw lots of Florida gar and sunfish and several of the boat wrecks lying on the bottom were visible. So we puttered from cove to cove, enjoying the clear water and each others’ company.
About 11:30 we reached the state park metal ramp and pulled out there for an early lunch. Several other people did as well, including an extended family with two young children in need of the port-o-let. Since the ramp was slippery we helped the kids get out and back in, then took off back up the river.
Going upstream we continued to poke along, taking lots of pictures. We found a Wood Duck family with 5 little ones as well as lots of herons including a Yellow-crowned Night Heron who struck a peculiar (defensive?) pose when I got maybe a little too close.
Also by the afternoon there were lots of gators and turtles out basking in the sun and we found a Brown Watersnake in a tree bole.
We returned to the state park hand launch via the Ft King Paddling trail.