Category Archives: Santa Fe

Santa Fe – June 24, 2017

Before I got heavily into kayaking my main outdoor activity was backpacking.  Yes, there are some fantastic backpacking opportunities in Florida!  Even if we don’t have mountains we have forests, streams and even some swamps to tromp through.  As a former long-distance hiker I still have many friends in the hiking community and one group, started by one of these friends, is Trail Dames – a hiking group for “curvy” women.  I.e., women who don’t look like the models that appear in the equipment catalogs and online gear retailers.  Too short, too tall, too skinny, too weak, too fat, too old, …  In other words, ordinary women rather than the lovely young things that grace the media and make people believe that that is how you must look in order to try backpacking.

Trail Dames

Trail Dames

In April the local chapter of Trail Dames asked me to lead a beginner kayak day trip for them in June.  So I was faced with finding a place in north-central Florida that could 1) accommodate up to 16 beginning paddlers, 2) offered nearby camping and motels for those who were coming from a distance, 3) offered opportunities for swimming, or a least cooling off, 4) was serviced by a rental company that shuttled, 5) was suitable for people who had never kayaked before, and 6) was short enough but also fun enough that we could meet up around 10 am and be done by around 3 pm.

After a lot of thought the area I chose was what I call the “Springs Section” of the Santa Fe River – from the River Rise boat ramp on US 27 near High Springs, FL to Rum Island County Park.  I contacted RUM138 and arranged for a discount for the group and they agreed to handle both the rentals and the shuttle at both ends.  I also talked a friend who was a good paddler and whom I could count on from a safety aspect to paddle sweep for the group.

The "Springs Section" of the Santa Fe River

The “Springs Section” of the Santa Fe River

I met my friend Cassie at the River Rise boat ramp at 9 am, we unloaded our boats off to the side.   (We did this because there are very few outfitters I trust to haul my personal boat.) While she stayed to watch the boats I drove to RUM 138 to meet the participants.  By 10:15 am most of them had dribbled in.  Their leader gave a 1/2 hour talk about Trail Dames and hot weather safety then RUM138 was ready to load them on the shuttle bus.  But first, and this is one thing I really like about RUM138, everyone was helped in picking out a kayak.  Some had preferences (SOT or sit-inside), some wanted to trip out a specific model, some didn’t know what kind of boat they wanted, and RUM138 helped each of them make the decision then loaded their boats on the trailer.

Due to all this it was after 11:00 before we arrived at the boat ramp, so I was really glad I had picked a very short paddle!  We unloaded all the boats, got everyone’s gear loaded up, then I gave a short overview of what they would see on the river, how to hold a paddle, how to get in and out of a kayak, and some safety precautions – just enough to get them started safely.  As it turned out, about 1/2 of them had not only paddled before but had paddled the Santa Fe many times, so there were only 4 real newbies in the group.  The newbies clustered around me in the front and Cassie in the back and we kept a sharp eye on them for the first 2 miles down to Poe Springs County Park.

Setting off at the US 27 bridge

Setting off at the US 27 bridge

Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus) circling overhead

Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus) circling overhead

At Poe Springs County Park we got out on the limestone shelf at the entrance and walked up the run into the park for lunch.  After lunch and a bathroom break, some swimming and playing in the run we took off again for Lily Springs, only another mile down stream.  We had some fun going through the shoals just below Poe, but the water was high enough it only caused some bumps going through, so long as they followed my line to avoid the shallow water.

Kush seems to be enjoying the bumpy shoals as much as we are.

Kush seems to be enjoying the bumpy shoals as much as we are.

Common Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) - an exotic invasive we hate to see on our rivers

Common Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) – an exotic invasive we hate to see on our rivers

Immature Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea) with fish

Immature Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea) with fish

Since my last trip earlier in the month at extreme low water we had had over 7 inches of rain, so we were able to paddle up the run to the springs area and the springs had been flushed of all the algae that had clogged it.  We had a wonderful break there playing in the springs.

Enjoying Lily Springs

Having fun at Lily Springs

Florida Cooters (Pseudemys floridana) basking in the sun to get rid of the algae

Florida Cooters (Pseudemys floridana) basking in the sun to get rid of the algae

American White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) in bright red breeding integument

American White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) in bright red breeding integument

Setting off again we paddled to Jonathan Spring which was about waist deep and gorgeously clear  – one of my absolutely favorite springs.  By this time it was almost 3:00 pm, but we were only a few minutes from our take out at Rum Island.  I offered the group to continue on down to Gilchrist Blue Spring, but the consensus was to stop at Rum.

Crystal clear Jonathan Spring

Crystal clear Jonathan Spring

Enjoying Jonathan Spring

Enjoying Jonathan Spring

RUM 138 was at Rum with a trailer so we were able to load up quickly. Rum 138 offered to come back later to pick up the people if we wanted to see the spring there and take a last swim, but again everyone decided they were done for the day and we returned to our cars at RUM138.  After picking up our personal boats at Rum Island and hauling Cassie back to US 27 boat ramp, Cassie and I met up with most of the rest of the group at The Springs Diner in High Springs for an early supper together.

Sharing supper at the Springs Diner in High Springs

Sharing supper at the Springs Diner in High Springs

So – it was a rather logistically complicated trip which led to almost more time spent getting going as actually on the river, but the newbies learned that kayaking is not all that complicated and everyone had a good time.  If I ever do this again with the group I will make sure we go someplace where the outfitter is right on the river so we can get on the water faster as well as insist that we start much earlier in the morning.  Lesson learned.

Santa Fe River – May 17, 2017

Just a short trip on the Santa Fe River this Wednesday.  Partly to check out the water level for a large newbie trip in June and partly just to escape the heat and humidity now in north Florida.  We left a car down at Rum Island county Park and put in at the US 27 boat ramp.

The water level right now is REALLY low although the shoals both above and below Poe Springs are runnable on river right if you pick your line carefully.

Tripping down the Santa Fe at low water

Tripping down the Santa Fe at low water

We swam at Poe Springs to cool off altho we had to walk in rather than paddle in due to exposed rocks. We had the park all to ourselves for the 1/2 hour we were there.

Looking upstream on the Poe Spring run from the Santa Fe

Looking upstream on the Poe Spring run from the Santa Fe

Looking downstream on the Poe Spring run from the top of the spring

Looking downstream on the Poe Spring run from the top of the spring

We walked into Lily Springs, too, because the spring run was too shallow to get our paddles deep enough into the water to get up against the current. The springs are full of algae and it looks really empty without Naked Ed in residence.

Lily Springs sure looks abandoned without Naked Ed in residence.

Lily Springs sure looks abandoned without Naked Ed in residence.

Lily Springs filled with algae. Water level at the top is just barely covering the first spring vent.

Lily Springs filled with algae. Water level at the top is just barely covering the first spring vent.

Jonathan Spring was flowing and pretty, although the rocks at the entrance were all exposed and had been moved apart to allow the run to flow through them.  Rum Island Spring was low, but is still a great swimming hole.

Santa Fe River – January 5, 2017

One of the YakPak was downsizing her fleet and gave me a Dimension Jolt kayak to give away to someone who needed it.  I cleaned it up a little and posted a “free to good home” notice to my paddling regulars.  The first response was from a nice gal in south Georgia who was looking for something easier to load and paddle than her barge-like Hobie sit-on-top.  We met up near High Spings, FL on the Santa Fe River so she could take it for a spin.

While chilly and foggy early on it turned into a gorgeous Florida winter day.  We put in at the High Springs Ramp of US 41/441, paddled up to the River Rise and floated back down to our start point.  It’s was only a little 5.6 mile paddle, but we saw a few birds, some lovely river homes, were serenaded by a canoeing fiddle player, and the used kayak has found a new home with a paddler who will appreciate it.

Paddling up the Santa Fe

Paddling up the Santa Fe

Anhinga and Cooter sunning on a fallen tree

Anhinga and Cooter sunning on a fallen tree

River Rise

River Rise – where the Santa Fe returns from below ground for the remainder of it’s journey to the Suwannee

Florida Softshell Turtle (Apalone ferox) sunning on a log

Florida Softshell Turtle (Apalone ferox) sunning on a log

Canoeing fiddler playing on the bank

Canoeing fiddler playing on the bank