Category Archives: Paddles

Rainbow River – June 10, 2017

After having to cancel the Wednesday Rainbow River paddle due to heavy rain and thunderstorms it was gratifying on Saturday to awaken to cloudy but rainless skies.  12 of us met up at K.P. Hole including 1 person on her first kayak trip and a second person on only her second trip.  We had 2 people renting kayaks from K.P. Hole while the rest of us brought our own boats.  While the renters made their arrangements, we shuttled the pickup trucks down to the Blue Run take-out and returned to start the paddle.  After our safety talk and introductions, we were on the water around 9:30.

Note:  The Blue Run parking area is rather small and does not have room for trailers.  If setting up your own shuttle on weekends, holidays or sunny days during the summer, be sure to get to get to Blue Run no later than 9 am to have any hope of getting a parking spot,  There is also parking along Pennsylvania Avenue (CR 484) west of the Blue Run parking area, but even there you have to be early to get a spot.

We first headed upstream to see the head springs.  I paddled along side the newbies, offering what I hope was good advice.  But one of the things I stress in my safety talks and really love about most of my FTA paddles is the sense of camaraderie.  Everyone knows that safety and good fellowship comes from watching out for each other, and the more experienced paddlers in the group helped the newbies as much as I did.

Looking out for each other on the river

Looking out for each other on the river

After about a mile we stopped at a little cove just inside the State Park boundary to regroup, watch the fish (usually lots of gar, sunfish and turtles), and check that everyone was doing ok.

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Break to watch the fishies

Cooters in the cove

Cooters in the cove

After a few minutes for picture taking we continued on up another 1/2 mile to the head spring for a longish break.  As we approached the head spring we saw both Scarlet Swamp Hibiscus and Pink Swamp Hibiscus in bloom as well as Sagittaria

Scarlet Swamp Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus)

Scarlet Swamp Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus)

Pink Swamp Hibiscus (Hibiscus grandiflorus)

Pink Swamp Hibiscus (Hibiscus grandiflorus)

Common Arrowhead or Duck Potato (Saggitaria latifolia) along the stream bank

Around the head spring we took a break to admire the clear waters.  Our newbies were having a lot of fun and doing just fine after the upstream paddle.

Rainbow Springs head spring

Rainbow Springs head spring

Hanging out at the head spring

Hanging out at the head spring

From the head spring it was all downhill.  We mostly floated with the current back towards K.P. Hole County Park.  Where Gissy Spring Run enters the Rainbow River it is shallow, just perfect for an early lunch and swim break.  Since several motor boats were blocking the entrance, we slithered between them in our little kayaks, paddled 200 feet or so up the spring run, then got out for our break.  About half the group walked up the run to where the gate declares private property while the rest of us just relaxed in the cool water.

Wading back down Gissy Spring Run

Wading down Gissy Spring Run

Lunch break at Gissy Spring Run

Lunch and cool-down break at Gissy Spring Run

After lunch we continued another 4 miles down the run.  We took our time, admiring the birds, taking pictures, and chatting to get to know each other.

Close encounter of the Cormorant kind - Double Crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)

Close encounter of the Cormorant kind – Double Crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)

Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata)

Common Gallinule (Gallinula galeata) feeding in the river grasses

Limpkin (Aramus guarauna) feeding along the river.

Limpkin (Aramus guarauna) feeding along the river. We saw lots of Apple Snail eggs for them.

Mama and baby Wood Duck (Aix Sponsa)

Mama and baby Wood Duck (Aix Sponsa)

Female Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) having a particularly bad hair day

Female Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) having a particularly bad hair day

Great Egret (Ardea alba)

Great Egret (Ardea alba)

Cormorant nesting tree

Cormorant nesting tree

As we entered the last mile we caught up with the morning’s tubers, but there were not enough of them to pack the water so everyone was having a good time.  As the gray skies were looking more and more leaden we picked up the pace a bit and reached our take-out at Blue Run just a little after 2 pm.  We loaded up the boats, then most of us headed to Swampy’s for a post-paddle burger and beer.  And all before it started to rain!

On the lower river, under increasingly gray skies.

On the lower river, under increasingly gray skies.

 

 

 

Melrose Bay – May 28, 2017

We tend to stay off the water over Memorial Day weekend because of the preponderance of drunks in motorboats.  But we thought a short paddle on Melrose Bay, an inlet off Lake Santa Fe, might be worth a shot since the whole bay is a “No Wake” zone.  And as we were putting in at the Trout Street launch who should pull up but a Fish & Wildlife Law Enforcement boat!   With the LEOs on the water in our area we had absolutely no problem with the motorboaters in the bay or out along the southern edge of Lake Santa Fe.

It was only a 2 hour paddle, but we slalomed in and out of the magnificent cypress trees and watched some Ospreys nesting.  We headed for Black Lake, but with the drought the canal into the lake was too shallow for us to get into it, so we returned to Melrose Bay.  Sometimes it’s not how far or how fast you paddle, its just enough to get out on the water and let the beauty fill you.

Cypress on Melrose Bay

Cypress on Melrose Bay

Magnificent cypress trees

Magnificent cypress trees

Paddling through the cypress on Lake Santa Fe

Paddling through the cypress on Lake Santa Fe

Cypress on Lake Santa Fe

Slaloming amid the cypress on Lake Santa Fe

Skirting along the edge of Lake Santa Fe

Skirting along the edge of Lake Santa Fe

Cypress on Lake Santa Fe

Cypress on Lake Santa Fe

Near the entrance to Black Lake

Near the entrance to Black Lake

Near the entrance to Black Lake

Near the entrance to Black Lake

 

Osprey nest with a pair of adults

Osprey nest with a pair of adults

Osprey nest with a pair of adults

Osprey nest with a pair of adults

Silver River – May 20, 2017

Today a friend was demoing a boat at Silver Springs, so I joined her for a 2-hour paddle and lunch afterwards.  As usual the Silver was full of wildlife, although today we saw no monkeys or snakes.

We paddled around the nursery tree island and watched the nesting Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) and Anhingas (Anhinga anhinga).   I was looking up approaching the island, getting ready to take a picture of a baby Cormorant.  When I looked down I found that I had drifted to within about 6 feet of a fairly large gator.  A little too close for my comfort level, although the gator did not seem disturbed by my presence.  Gators tend to hang out around the island, waiting for baby birds to fall into the water for a quick snack.

Gator-in-waiting

Gator-in-waiting

I managed to get a few shots of the baby birds.  Some are still sitting in the nests while others are out on the limbs, stretching their wings preparatory to their first flight.

Baby Double-crested Cormorant guarded by adults

Baby Double-crested Cormorant guarded by adults

Three little Anhinga, still with their baby fluff, out on a limb exercising their wings

Three little Anhingas, still wearing their baby fluff, out on a limb exercising their wings

We also saw many pairs of Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) swimming along the edges of the stream-side vegetation, but no baby Woodies.

Wood duck pair

Wood duck pair

Female Wood duck

Female Wood duck

Male Wood Duck

Male Wood Duck

The Pickeralweed (Pontederia cordata) is in bloom.  It’s such a beautiful native plant, providing cover and food for all sorts of animals in the river.  It just seems a shame to saddle it with a name like “weed”.

A closeup of Pickeralweed (Pontederia cordata) bloom

A closeup of Pickeralweed bloom

Bumblebee on Pickeralweed

Bumblebee on Pickeralweed

We saw several other gators, mostly smaller than the one at the nursery island.

A little gator (about 18 inches) peeking at us from the weeds.

A little gator (about 18 inches) peeking at us from the weeds.

And, of course, lots of Cooters (Pseudemys  spp) basking in the sun.

A Cooter drying his shell on a log in the sunshine

A female Cooter drying his shell on a log in the sunshine

Last weekend we saw dozens of immature Little Blue Herons (Egretta caerulea) sporting their white coats.  Today they were missing, but we watched several adult Little Blue Herons stalking for dinner.

An adult Little Blue Heron stalking amid the grasses

An adult Little Blue Heron stalking crustaceans amid the grasses

And we came across one Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) that let us get pretty close.

Usually very wary, this stately Great Blue Heron let us get to within about 20 feet of him.

Usually very wary, this stately Great Blue Heron let us get to within about 20 feet of him.

And we saw a couple of Green Herons (Butorides virescens) also stalking in the weeds.

A Green Heron, with its short legs, sticks near the shoreline

A Green Heron, with its short legs, sticks near the shoreline

We also saw a couple of Limpkin (Aramus guarauna).  Not exactly rare on the Silver, but we usually only see one or maybe two on each trip.  So there are snails on the Silver, but probably not enough snails to support a large number of these birds.

A Limpkin searching for Apple snails

A Limpkin searching for Apple snails

Near the end of our paddle, close to the state park ramp, we saw another bird we usually only encounter down near the confluence with the Ocklawaha – a Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea).  In this case it was a young one, not fully plumed out yet.

A young Yellow-crowned Night Heron

A young Yellow-crowned Night Heron