Category Archives: Ocklawaha

Ocklawaha River – March 8, 2017

Absolutely glorious trip with 13 other paddlers on the Ocklawaha River from Ray Wayside Park to Gores Landing Park – exactly 11 miles by my GPS.   At first the weather report was for rain, then it changed to thunderstorms in the afternoon.  Well, it did start to cloud up on us around 1 pm, but we never got a drop of rain or heard any thunder.  This simply reinforces the concept that in Florida if you wait for absolutely no chance of rain, you will never get out. So just pack your rain gear and go.  You can always change your mind when you get to the put in and head with your friends to the nearest restaurant.  🙂

After unloading our boats at Ray Wayside County Park and shuttling most of the vehicles up to Gores Landing County Park ($5 parking fee at each of these parks) we set off down the Silver River and then joined the Ocklawaha.  The trees were looking all spring green, the river was unusually clear.

The Ocklawaha under a bright blue morning sky

The Ocklawaha under a bright blue morning sky

Spring has sprung! Heading down the river from our lunch spot at Grahamsville Landing

Spring has sprung! Heading down the river from our lunch spot at Grahamsville Landing

Under a cathedral of trees

Winding river under a cathedral of trees

One of the highlights of the trip was seeing three manatee.  The first one was alone, heading upstream, feeding on the bottom grasses just under the SR 40 high-rise bridge.  About an hour later we saw two more, also heading upstream.

Manatee, just below the surface

Manatee, just below the surface at the SR 40 bridge

Manatee surfacing beside my kayak near Ray Wayside

Manatee surfacing beside my kayak

We also saw a lot of little gators (under 4 feet) and turtles out basking in the sun.

A couple of Cooters (Pseudemys spp) sunning on a log

A couple of Cooters (Pseudemys spp) sunning on a log

A beautiful young gator still with his juvenile stripes (about 3 feet long)

A beautiful young gator still with his juvenile stripes (about 4 feet long)

Another beautiful little gator (about 4 feet)

Another beautiful little gator (about 3 feet)

A little bitty gator - about 8 inches long.

A little bitty gator – about 8 inches long.

Of course we saw all the usual birds.  A couple of Great Blue Herons, a Great Egret, several White Ibis and Limpkin.

A curious White Ibis (Eudocimus albus ) peeking out at us from behind the foliage

A curious White Ibis (Eudocimus albus ) peeking out at us from behind the foliage

Limpkin (Aramus guarauna)

Limpkin (Aramus guarauna) – must be Apple Snails around here

Then we had a close encounter with a Red-shouldered Hawk.  We first saw it standing in the water acting a little strangely and we thought it might be injured.  But as we stopped to take a better look it flew up onto a low branch of a neighboring tree and shrilled at us.  You can also see a short video of it HERE.

Red-shouldered hawk in the water

Red-shouldered hawk in the water

Close encounter with a Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

Close encounter with a Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

All along the river some spring wildflowers were blooming as well as some winter ones still hanging around.

String Lily (Crinum americanum) also called Swamp Lily

String Lily (Crinum americanum) also called Swamp Lily

Alligator lily (Hymenocallis palmeri) also called Spider lily

Alligator lily (Hymenocallis palmeri) also called Spider lily

Water Primrose (Ludwigia spp.) - an exotic invasive, but still very pretty

Water Primrose (Ludwigia spp.) – an exotic invasive, but still very pretty

Blackberry blossom (Rubus spp.)

Blackberry blossom (Rubus spp.)

All in all, it was a delightful trip.  The Ocklawaha really put on a show for us.

Ocklawaha River – January 11, 2017

For our second monthly Florida Trail Association we repeated the second on the Lower Ocklawaha from Rodman Dam to Johnson Field Landing on State Rd 19.  But this day our paddle was under bright blue skies with temps warming into the upper 70s.  It was chilly when we arrived and as we crossed the dam a mist covered Rodman Reservoir creating an ethereal beauty.  About the only time you can call Rodman Reservoir beautiful!

Early morning mist over Rodman Reservoir

Early morning mist over Rodman Reservoir

On this trip we again stopped for lunch at Davenport Landing for lunch and a leg stretch and again, this time or purpose, took the northern braid to parallel the main channel of the river.  This group seemed to have a little more trouble with the one place on the braid where we had to either scooch over a couple of logs or crash through the branches of a recently downed Sweet Gum tree, depending on which side you took.  But everyone got through dry and unscathed so it all just added to the adventure.

Forcing our way through the fallen Sweet Gum tree

Forcing our way through the fallen Sweet Gum tree

Again we saw lots of little gators, most of them under 3 feet long.  Some of them were sunning on logs in the water and some were resting in the vegetation.

A little gator peeking

A little gator peeking out …

A little gator crawling out onto a fallen limb

… before deciding to crawl out …

A little gator deciding to swim away from us

… then seeing us deciding to swim away into cover.

We also again saw lots of Great Egrets gathering for breeding season.  Great Egrets (Ardea alba), along with their cousin the Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias), are normally solitary except during breeding and nesting season when they gather into colonies.  During breeding season the Great Egret has filmy feathers (aigrettes) that flow from the back and the beak can darken from yellow to orange.  If you can get close enough you can also see that the area around the eyes turns greenish.

A small colony of Great Ibis

A small colony of Great Ibis

Great Egret in breeding plumage

Great Egret in breeding plumage with filmy aigrettes cascading from the back

We also saw a few String Lily (Crinum americanum) plants along the banks.  Also called Swamp Lily, these are common wildflowers on streams in Florida.  They flower from late fall through early spring.

String Lily or Swamp Lily (Crinum americanum)

String Lily or Swamp Lily (Crinum americanum)

We read the braids correctly again today and popped out onto the main channel of the Ocklawaha just west of the SR 19 bridge having enjoyed our backwoods adventure on a picture-perfect winter day.

The SR 19 bridge from the Ocklawaha River

The SR 19 bridge from the Ocklawaha River

 

 

 

Ocklawaha River – February 8, 2017

With our monthly paddles for the Florida Trail Association we usually schedule a paddle on Wednesday for those available during the week and the same paddle on the following Saturday for those who can only get away on the weekends.  This month we chose a section of the Lower Ocklawaha River, from below Rodman Dam to Johnson Field Landing on SR 19.  A paddle of only about 7.8 miles, but a beautiful stretch of the untamed Ocklawaha River.  Another plus is it that it is generally frequented only by a few bass fishermen in smaller boats.

Just as we passed these young men pulled in a small bass.

Just as we passed these young men pulled in a small bass. They released her back to the river.

Tuesday night we had a big storm – lots of rain, some hail, and high winds, so Wednesday morning was still overcast and kind of gloomy.  Rain was predicted for the day but the chance of thunderstorms was very low, so we decided not to cancel.  As it turned out, since everyone brought their rain gear, we only had a brief sprinkle as we were loading the last two kayaks before heading home.

We met up at the Rodman kayak launch on the west side of and below the dam and after unloading and setting up our own shuttle, the 9 of us started out about 9:30 am.  The weather although overcast, was warm as we glided down the river with a gentle current.  The first stretch is part of the original route of the river, but because of the dam channeling most of the water into a spillway canal, it has only a mild current.

"The Gang" on the lower Ocklawaha

“The Gang” on the lower Ocklawaha

After about 2 miles the spillway canal joins the river and the river widens with more water and a stronger flow.  If you look back upstream on the canal you have a good view of the downstream side of the dam.  I hope I live to see the destruction of the dam and a return of the river to its original state.

A view of Rodman Dam from downstream

A view of Rodman Dam from downstream

Another couple of miles down the river brought us to Davenport Landing.  This was once a steamboat stop along the river where the boats would stop for fuel and is now a US Forest Service campsite.  Unless the river is very high there is a nice sandy landing area here for kayaks.  Since no one was camping there the day after the big storm we had lunch and a leg-stretch break up in the middle of the lovely camping area.  Billed as a camping spot for river paddlers, it is usually filled with long-term car campers since there is a forest road leading in to it and it’s free.

Davenport Landing

Davenport Landing

Davenport Landing campsite

Davenport Landing campsite

After lunch the group was eager to get back on the river.  Perhaps a little too eager, since the guys up front took a wrong turn to the north into one of the river braids and by the time we caught up with them it was a long way back to the junction.  But after a look at the GPS we determined that taking the next little creek to the right would get us onto a more southerly braid that would eventually take us back to the main channel near our takeout.  The only question was, would the braid be open all the way?   But we decided to play explorer and ventured on.  As it turned out, we made it through with only one tight spot and it was a delightful trip – much narrower, more twisting and shallower than the main river.  Along the way we saw several little gators (under 3 feet), a few Great Blue Herons, and a lot of Great Egrets gathering in colonies for the breeding and nesting season.

Just a little guy sunning - under 3 feet.

Just a little guy sunning – under 3 feet.  You can still see his yellow baby stripes on his belly and tail.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

Great Egret in breeding plumage

Great Egret in breeding plumage

At the end of our adventure in the backwoods braid we emerged out into the main channel of the Ocklawaha exactly where we were supposed to – just west of the SR 19 bridge and our take-out of the day at Johnson Field Landing.

The boat ramp at Johnson Field Landing

The boat ramp at Johnson Field Landing