Category Archives: Juniper Creek

Lower Juniper Creek – November 8, 2017

Everyone, it seems, has done or at least heard of the Juniper Creek Run in the Ocala National Forest.  One of the most popular canoe runs in the Southeastern US, it is a 7-mile obstacle course of swift water, shallow spots, narrow banks, lots of downed trees to practice your maneuvering skills, and gators.  But Juniper Creek does not end at the Juniper Wayside where the concessionaire picks you up.  It extends another 3.5 miles down to Lake George – a wide spot in the St Johns River – and is paralleled by Little Juniper Creek for part of the way.

Sine few people have done the Lower Juniper and it’s a fairly easy out-and-back paddle requiring no shuttle, I offered to lead a trip for the Florida Trail Association.  We put in at the Juniper Wayside on SR 19, paddled down Juniper Creek to Lake George, paddle downstream on Lake George for about 1/2 mile to Little Juniper Creek and took Little juniper Creek 1/2 way back to our put-in.

Map of our trip

Map of our trip

Unlike the Juniper Creek Run, the lower Juniper Creek is fairly wide and marshy.  Quite frequently there is no place to get out on the banks.  But the marshy borders are generally loaded with wildflowers, small gators, and overhanging palm trees.

Floating down the Creek

Floating down the Creek

Palm trees hanging from the banks

Palm trees hanging from the banks

Late Purple Aster - a favorite fall wildflower

Late Purple Aster – a favorite fall wildflower

Water Hyacinth

Water Hyacinth

A small gator hiding in the weeds

A small gator – about 3 feet long – hiding in the weeds

Once you reach Lake George the horizon stretches out.  Just at the junction with Juniper Creek the water is shallow – about waist deep – perfect for a swim break in warmer weather.  Beware of high winds, however.  lake George is big and shallow.  You don’t want to be out there in a small boat when the winds pick up and the water gets choppy.  We skirted along the western shoreline for about 1/2 mile, watching the mullet jump in the lake and the birds fly overhead.

Lake George vista

Lake George vista

Just missed the jumping mullet!

Just missed the jumping mullet!

Bald eagle overhead and Great Egrets in shoreline trees

Bald eagle overhead and Great Egrets in shoreline trees

A small gator peeking at us from the weeds

A small gator peeking at us from the weeds on Lake George

Little Juniper Creek is narrow and winding for most of it’s way, with lots of overhead trees to duck under.  In fact we ran into 2 fallen trees that we had to saw our way through just before we reached the junction with Juniper Creek.  Trees that had not been down 2 weeks previously.  It was just enough excitement to add to the adventure, yet not enough to make anyone question whether we would make it.  Good thing I added my Silky Saw just before we put in 🙂

Little Juniper Creek

Little Juniper Creek

Low bridge!

Low bridge!

 

 

 

 

 

Sawing through a downed Sweet Gum

Sawing through a downed Sweet Gum to open a passage

Little Juniper Creek dumped us back onto Juniper Creek where we saw some more fall wildflowers.

Back on the wider Juniper Creek

Back on the wider Juniper Creek

A little fall color on Juniper Creek

A little fall color on Juniper Creek

Smooth Bur-marigold

Smooth Bur-marigold

 

String Lily aka Swamp Lily

String Lily aka Swamp Lily

and we stopped just before the take-out in a shallow spot on river right for a leg stretch break that turned into a water fight.

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Juniper Creek – August 19, 2017

Friday morning I made a last minute decision to paddle the Juniper Creek Run in the Ocala National Forest on Saturday with the Central Florida Chapter of the Florida Trail Association.  It was kind of nice to be just one participant among many rather than the trip leader for a change!

The weather was perfect – warm and dry with the 72 degree spring run providing our air conditioning. The hot sun filtering through the trees and hitting the cool water created a mist and a few sundogs for the first hour or so. Rather ephemeral to capture, plus Juniper is too twisty and obstacle-filled for anything more than grabbed shots – but here’s a few pics.

 

Sundogs on the upper creek

Sundogs on the upper creek

More sundogs

More sundogs

Lower water and overhead palms

Low water and overhead palms

Always lots of obstacles on the Juniper Run

Always lots of obstacles on the Juniper Run

Closeup of a Water Hyacincth

Closeup of a Water Hyacinth

Water Hyssop aka Herb of Grace (Bacopa monnieri)

Water Hyssop aka Herb of Grace (Bacopa monnieri)

The "Rapids"

The “Rapids”

The "Rapids" without a kayak

The “Rapids” without a kayak

 

Lunch and swim break on the lower run

Lunch and swim break on the lower run

 

 

 

Juniper Creek – July 1, 2017

Another member of the Florida Paddling Trails Association and I met up on their Facebook page and planned this nice little 7-mile paddle.  Although most folks never realize it, the Juniper Creek run does not end at the Juniper Wayside where the Juniper Springs Recreation Area shuttle picks you up.  Juniper Creek continues on down to empty into Lake George and there is also a parallel stream for half of the way called Little Juniper Creek.

Map of our trip

For this trip we put in at Juniper Wayside on SR 19, paddled down Juniper Creek to Lake George, turned north and paddled along the lake shore for about half a mile, then turned into Little Juniper Creek for the return to our cars.

The morning trip downstream on Juniper Creek was calm and restful, except for the pretty large gator I scared up just after the start!  I was still adjusting my seat in a very narrow section only 2-3 minutes into the trip and didn’t see him until the last minute.  He trashed his head at me to let me know that I was too close!   But he swam one way and I paddled the other way, so no harm done and it was a good reminder to me to pay attention.

Small gator

Small gator

For most of the morning we had Juniper Creek to ourselves.  A couple of airboats passed us, headed upstream, but the creek was fairly wide and they were courteous, so except for the noise shattering the natural sounds they were no bother.  We saw a couple of little gators in the vegetation lining the banks, an osprey pair wheeling overhead, a few turtles sunning on logs, and lots of Eel grass, Sagittaria, a few Swamp Hibiscus and some Mallow.

Grasses in Juniper Creek

Grasses in clear Juniper Creek

Saltmarsh mallow - Kosteltzkya pentacarpos - a relative of the hibiscus

Saltmarsh mallow – Kosteltzkya pentacarpos – a relative of the hibiscus

Broadleaf arrowhead - Sagittaria latifolia

Broadleaf arrowhead – Sagittaria latifolia

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper - Romalea guttata

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper – Romalea guttata – a voracious garden pest, but quite colorful

We entered Lake George at a shallow spot where many pontoon boats were rafted up for lunch and swimming.  The laughter of children drifted to us across the distance.  Two words of warning about Lake George which is a wide spot in the St Johns River.  Most important for paddlers is that it is quite large and very shallow.  That means any bit of wind across the lake can create significant waves.  And it can get very windy, especially in the late afternoon.  The second thing is that it is loaded with gators, so don’t go swimming with anyone that you can’t out-swim 🙂

Approachng Lake George

Approachng Lake George

Boats rafted up on Lake George at the mouth of Juniper Creek

Boats rafted up on Lake George at the mouth of Juniper Creek

 

More birds and wildflowers greeted us along the shoreline of Lake George as we turned north.  We saw Black Vultures and Osprey in the tall trees, hibiscus, mallow and rattlebox in the bushes, a stately Great Blue Heron and a pair of Green Herons – one of whom posed for me on a log.

Swamp Scarlet Hibiscus - Hibiscus coccineus

Swamp Scarlet Hibiscus – Hibiscus coccineus

Swamp Pink Hibiscus - Hibiscus grandiflorus

Swamp Pink Hibiscus – Hibiscus grandiflorus

Osprey - Pandion haliaetus

Osprey – Pandion haliaetus

Great Blue Heron - Ardea Herodias

Great Blue Heron – Ardea Herodias

Green Heron - Butorides virescens - lift his head features in alarm at something in the water

Green Heron – Butorides virescens – lifting his head feathers in alarm at something in the water

Rattlebox - Crotalaria spp

Rattlebox – Crotalaria spp – a member of the pea family

As we neared the mouth of Little Juniper Creek Cynthia recognized a friend of hers anchored  in his pontoon boat.  We paddled over and he invited us onto the boat for lunch.  From waist deep water it was easy to exit (and easier to get back in than I thought it would be).  He had cheese and crackers and peanut butter pretzels, I shared my sliced apples and Cynthia shared her turkey and spinach sandwich so it turned into a nice and unexpected smorgasbord.

After lunch we entered Little Juniper Creek for half of the paddle back – my favorite part of the trip.  Little Juniper is narrower than Juniper, starting out fairly wide at the mouth but narrowing to about two paddle widths as it approaches Juniper.  At one point there is a long island in the center, so I took the high road and Cynthia took the low road and we met up in Scotland at the end.  And it’s too thick overhead at the east end for airboats which was a blessing we realized as soon as we came back out into Juniper Creek.

Cloud reflections on Little Juniper Creek

Cloud reflections near the mouth of Little Juniper Creek

Little Juniper Creek becomes narrow and winding

Little Juniper Creek becomes narrow and winding

Buttonbush – Cephalanthus occidentalis

Buttonbush – Cephalanthus occidentalis

Enjoying Little Juniper Creek

Enjoying Little Juniper Creek

It was only 1.5 miles back to Juniper Wyaside but it really was spoiled by the constant parade of airboats.  Again, all but one – a young man probably trying to impress the girlfriend clinging to him – were courteous, slowing to idle speed (which the whole river is signed as idle speed/minimum wake but they don’t seem to pay any attention to it) as soon as they saw us. But the way was so narrow, the noise so loud, the wake was still appreciable (especially after the two passes by the young man and his girl) and the wind and spray from their prop wash was so bad that it certainly put a damper on the end of the trip.  And of course no gators, turtles or birds were left to be seen while crushed vegetation followed in their wake.  Not to mention the area just south of Juniper Wayside where they raft up and play music that can be heard even over the sound of their engines. I really don’t understand why Juniper Creek and Little Juniper Creek can not be declared a motor free zone.  There are hundreds of other little creeks off Lake George in the area that are available to motorboats to explore and party.

So if you want to enjoy this beautiful little trip my advice is to get out very early (there is no gate at Juniper Wayside, you can launch as early as you like) so you are off the river by 11 am when the airboats start showing up or do it only during the week or the winter when.