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.
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.
We also saw a lot of little gators (under 4 feet) and turtles out basking in the sun.
Of course we saw all the usual birds. A couple of Great Blue Herons, a Great Egret, several White Ibis and Limpkin.
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.
All along the river some spring wildflowers were blooming as well as some winter ones still hanging around.
All in all, it was a delightful trip. The Ocklawaha really put on a show for us.