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