Category Archives: Suwannee Quest

Suwannee Quest 12 – January 14, 2017

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.

Winter morning on the Suwannee River near Boundary Bend

Winter morning on the Suwannee River near Boundary Bend

 

Beautiful kevlar canoe kevlar canoe against Suwannee rock formations

Beautiful kevlar canoe kevlar canoe against Suwannee rock formations

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.

A side trip up Bethel Creek

A side trip up Bethel Creek

Inside the borrow pit on Bethel Creek

Inside the borrow pit on Bethel Creek

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.

One of the sleeping platforms at Dowling Park River Camp

One of the sleeping platforms at Dowling Park River Camp

 

Lunch time at Dowling Park River Camp

Lunch time at Dowling Park River Camp

Even though we took a leg stretch break at a rope swing the water was too cold for swimming.

Break area with rope swing

Break area with rope swing

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.

Charles Spring Run

Charles Spring Run

Swimming hole at Charles Spring

Having fun in the swimming hole at Charles Spring

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.

Late afternoon clouds coming in

Late afternoon cloud formation

Afternoon cloud buildup

Afternoon cloud buildup

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.

Ultralight plane stuck in the briars on the boat ramp

Ultralight sea plane stuck in the briars on the boat ramp

Hauling our kayaks around the ultralight plane on the boat ramp

Hauling our kayaks around the ultralight plane on the boat ramp

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.

Suwannee Quest 11 – November 19, 2016

Stage 11 of the Suwannee Quest – the YakPak’s attempt to lead the Sandhill Chapter of the Florida Trail Association in paddling all 206 miles of the Suwannee River in Florida – one piece at a time.

There were 10 of us on this segment of the Suwannee Quest from Suwannee River State Park to Boundary Bend boat ramp – about 12 miles.  After the shuttle and putting in at the State Park boat ramp the first thing we  investigated was Suwanacoochee Spring, about 500 feet up the Withlacoochee (North) River.  Suwanacoochee is a 2nd magnitude spring with a single vent that was walled in during the 1800’s to make a swimming hole.  The walls are in ruins now but the spring was gushing, even at low water.  Our second spring was just south of US 90 bridge – Ellaville Spring – another 2nd magnitude spring.  It pours out from between high limestone rocks .  According to Florida Springs, divers report that the spring depth reaches 150 ft (45.7 m) within an extensive cave system. The cave system extends underneath the Suwannee River eventually connecting with the Suwanacoochee Spring cave system.  The water level by the White Springs gauge was 49.84 – low low.

Suwanacoochee Spring on the Withlacoochee (North)

Suwanacoochee Spring on the Withlacoochee (North)

Ellaville Spring

Ellaville Spring

 

 

 

 

 

 

The water level was very low which led to two sets of shoals we had to negotiate.  The first one was at about the 1.5 mile mark, just north of the discharge canal.  The second one was around the 2 mile mark.  The first set of shoals looked formidable from upstream.  The middle and left side were clearly no-go’s, but there was a clean chute on river right.  Everyone made it through easily although the Sit-on-Tops shipped quite a bit of water.  I watched the faces of the kayakers as they entered the chute, many with eyes narrowed in concentration.  But it was all smiles when the Wheeee! factor kicked in and they realized they were not going to slam onto the rocks.

 

Shoals at 1.5 miles, looking up the center

Shoals at 1.5 miles, looking up the center.  Half the group is huddled up on river left waiting for us to find an open channel.

First shoals

First shoals

 

 

 

 

 

 

First shoals

First shoals

First Shoals

First shoals

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second set of shoals about 1/2 mile further downstream was shorter and easier with a clear chute on river left.

Second shoals

Second shoals

Second shoals

Second shoals

 

 

 

 

 

 

After our adventures with the shoals we passed under I-10 and just past Anderson Landing (not recommended for launching due to height above water) we stopped for lunch on a huge sand bar.  As we ate lunch the clouds rolled in and our blue-sky day became overcast and threatening, but it never did rain on us.  Below this point there were many interesting limestone rock formations and we were treated to some rich fall color.

Lunch on a sandbank

Lunch on a sandbank

Eroded limestone banks

Eroded limestone banks

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interesting rock layers

Interesting exposed rock layers

bluffs

Fall colors with limestone bluffs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall color on the Suwannee

Fall color on the Suwannee

Fall cypress on the Suwannee

Fall cypress on the Suwannee

 

 

 

 

 

 

And just at the end, with the Boundary Bend boat ramp almost in sight, we were able to watch a kettle of vultures coming in to roost for the night.

Paddling under a kettle of vultures

Paddling under a kettle of vultures

Black and Turkey vultures circling before roosting for the night

Black and Turkey vultures circling before roosting for the night

 

 

 

 

 

 

A black vulture circling

A black vulture circling

Ghosting down the river at the end of a special day

Ghosting down the river at the end of a special day

Suwannee Quest 10 – October 29, 2016

Stage 10 of the Suwannee Quest – the YakPak’s attempt to lead the Sandhill Chapter of the Florida Trail Association in paddling all 206 miles of the Suwannee River in Florida – one piece at a time.

Today we paddled from Manatee Springs State Park to Fowlers Bluff.  Nice ramps at both ends, altho wheelies are a help in the state park to get your kayak from the parking lot to the ramp. Right at the start we had a difficult decision to make – where to eat after the paddle – since there is a nice little river-side restaurant at Fowlers Bluff and good BBQ available at Manatee Springs. On our last trip we elected to eat at the Treasure Camp restaurant so this time we went back to Manatee Springs for the BBQ and were not disappointed.  The 3 Meat Plate was as good as we remembered it and I took home 1/2 of it for dinner Sunday night.  The water level by the White Springs gauge was 49.99 – low low.

Since it was close to Halloween some of us decorated our kayaks and dressed the part.

Skeleton relaxing on the Suwannee

Skeleton relaxing on the Suwannee

Halloween Spiders

Halloween Spiders

 

 

 

Paddling down Manatee Springs run in our Halloween finery

Paddling down Manatee Springs run in our Halloween finery

 

 

 

Kayak pumpkin

Kayak pumpkin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halloween pumpkin with autumn pinwheel

Halloween pumpkin with autumn pinwheel

Kayak spider

Kayak spider

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a bit windy on the river, enough to make paddling a little more strenuous than normal since in the Suwannee River valley it’s almost always a head wind. (Or at least it SEEMS like it’s always a head wind.)  But offsetting the wind there were very few motor boats on the river today.  I think everyone must have stayed home to watch the Florida-Georgia football game.  So there were only a few power boats to avoid on this stretch and they gave us plenty of room.

One of the few power boats of the day

One of the few power boats of the day

Choppy water from the wind

Choppy water from the wind

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the highlights of the trip were all the blooming Late Purple Aster (Symphyotrichum patens) bushes along the river teeming with various species of bees and butterflies.  We all had a lot of fun trying to get close enough and stay still enough to get some good pictures.

Late Purple Aster bloom

Late Purple Aster (Symphyotrichum patens) bloom

Honey Bee

Honey Bee (Apis spp.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carpenter Bee

Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa spp.) ???

Bumblebee (Bombas spp.)

Bumblebee (Bombas spp.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) and Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)

Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) and Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)

Gulf Fritilarys (Agraulis vanillae)

Gulf Fritilarys (Agraulis vanillae)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

Queen (Danaus gilippus)

Queen (Danaus gilippus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

American Painted Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

American Painted Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another neat thing we ran into along the banks was a Bald-faced Hornet (Dolichovespula maculata) nest hanging from a tree.  These guys of actually not hornets, but wasps and are pretty bad news, especially if you are allergic to wasp venom.  If you disturb the nest they will swarm en mass, so slow and gentle is the rule around them.  They are one good reason for avoiding any overhanging trees and branches on your river paddles.

Bald-faced Hornet nest as seen from the water.

Bald-faced Hornet nest as seen from the water.

This Bald-faced Hornet nest measured about 24 inches long and 12 inches across.

This Bald-faced Hornet nest measured about 24 inches long and 12 inches across at the widest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here you can see the white faces that give these wasps their name.

Here you can see the white faces that give these wasps their name.

Bald-faced hornets also have 3 white stripes on their tails.

Bald-faced hornets also have 3 white stripes on their tails.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After we took out at Fowlers Bluff we returned to Manatee Springs State Park for BBQ dinner.  Just as we arrived the Goodyear blimp passed overhead on its way to Tallahassee for the Florida State-Clemson football game this evening.  Here are a couple of pics from the park.  A great place to spend a hot day.

Sign at Fowlers Bluff. Only 20 more miles to the Gulf of Mexico!

Sign at Fowlers Bluff. Only 20 more miles to the Gulf of Mexico!

The Goodyear blimp at Manatee Springs.

The Goodyear blimp at Manatee Springs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manatee Springs head spring

Manatee Springs head spring

Looking down the run from the head spring

Looking down the run from the head spring