For our 12th monthly Suwannee Quest paddle, we started at Boundary Bend boat ramp in Lee and took out at Lafayette Blue Springs State Park – about 13 paddling miles. Several times during the day it looked like thunderstorms, but it never thundered or rained and the clouds were awesome as they built up higher and higher. The water level by the White Springs gauge was 50.47 – medium low.
With several people getting lost on the backroads into Boundary Bend it was a late start, but eventually everyone got there and we were able to complete the shuttle. We actually got on the river around 11 am.
Along the way we explored a bit of Bethel Creek. It appears that the area was used as a borrow pit in building the local highway with no reclamation effort, so it provided a rather barren vista. But it did expose a beautiful bluff and someday we would like to explore it further.
We stopped at Dowling Park River Camp for lunch so those people in the group who had never seen a River Camp could explore. Most thought it would be an excellent place to camp on a future trip. (River Camps are set up for paddlers and hikers and can only be accessed on foot or by boat. They include a cooking pavilion, potable water, flush toilets, hot showers, 5 screened sleeping platforms and lots of room for tent camping.) Since the west side of the river around Dowling Park frequently floods, the sleeping platforms here are built up on stilts and the restrooms are portable units on flatbed trailers so they can be moved out if flooding threatens.
Even though we took a leg stretch break at a rope swing the water was too cold for swimming.
Later we stopped at Charles Spring to explore and the river water was definitely much colder than the 72 degree spring water – so I’m guessing the river water temp was about 60 degrees.
As we continued down the Suwannee the afternoon clouds closed in. But no rain or thunder, so all was good and the cloud formations were awesome.
Arriving at Lafayette Blue Springs State Park ramp we had a surprise waiting for us. An ultralight plane was sitting on the ramp, its wing tips tangled in the briars on either side. While we waited out on the water, the pilot and his friend wrestled the plane around so it finally was sitting sideways on the ramp (now with its tail in the briars) and we could get around it.
A little later, as we approached the town of Mayo on our drive home, lots of emergency vehicles passed us headed back toward the park and the town of Mayo was blacked out. We didn’t discovered until we got home that the pilot had gone back out on the river, clipped a power line over the river, and had died in the crash. A sad ending to a beautiful day.