Suwannee Quest II-01 – November 18, 2017

Last year I lead a fun paddle series that we named the Suwannee Quest.  It was an attempt to paddle the entire Suwannee River within the state of Florida, one weekend a month.  The first paddle was  January 16, 2016 and the last one was April 29-30, 2016.  On the Saturday night before our final paddle we all ate dinner together at a local restaurant in the town of Suwannee and I asked the group what river they wanted to do next?  The response was “Let’s do the Suwannee all over again!”  Thus, the Suwannee Quest II was born.

Our first paddle of the Suwannee Quest II was on Saturday, November 18, 2017 from Roline Landing boat ramp to Cone Bridge Rd boat ramp.  A distance of 16 paddling miles.  We were late getting started because the street sign for the turn into Roline Landing was missing and it took extra time for everyone to meet up in the right place.  On the way out I noticed that the sign post was still there, but the sign at the top was gone.  Probably knocked off by one of the logging trucks since there was evidence of a major timber harvest all along Woodpecker Pkway.

Map of the trip

Map of the trip

With the water level so low there was a wonderful beach at the bottom of the Roline Landing boat ramp where we were able to unload and prep our boats.  After shuttling most of the cars down to Cone Bridge Rd ramp, we finally hit the water at 10:15.

Getting started at Roline Landing boat ramp

Getting started at Roline Landing boat ramp

One of the things I love about this upper section of the Suwannee are the lovely, gnarled old Tupelo trees.  They only line the banks for about 30 miles in Florida, reaching their southern-most limit and disappearing totally by the time you reach White Springs.

Giant Tupelo trees line the upper Suwannee this far north

Giant Tupelo trees line the upper Suwannee this far north

The cypress trees were all aflame with their yellows and oranges, reminding us that in spite of the balmy weather it is really autumn in north Florida.

A little fall color from the cypress trees

A little fall color from the cypress trees

Since we got such a late start due to the missing sign, our first break was for lunch at Turner Bridge boat ramp.  It’s a very steep ramp, but there is a little park at the top with a large grassy area and two picnic tables, making it a lovely place for a lunch stop.

Turner Bridge boat ramp

Turner Bridge boat ramp

After Turner Bridge it was a short way to the shoals above and below CR 6.  But there was still several inches of water over the rocks, so we didn’t even scrape bottom, much less have to get out to line our boats through.  And just enough ripples to provide a bit of a “Wheee!” factor to the paddle.

Shoals north of CR 6

Shoals north of CR 6

Shoals south of CR 6

Shoals south of CR 6

Below CR 6 the sandy banks are interspersed with limestone outcroppings, some displaying small miniature seepage waterfalls.  If you canoe/kayak camp along the Suwannee you should collect your water from these small waterfalls since the river itself is full of “floaties” that will clog your water filter within minutes.

A weathered limestone bank

A weathered limestone bank

Limestone bluffs

Exposed limestone banks

Seepage waterfall

Seepage waterfall

Seepage waterfall

Seepage waterfall

Limestone bluffs

The many sandy banks provide good resting places.  Also good swimming in warmer months.

Sandy banks

Deep sandy banks …

... make for great rest and swim breaks

… make for great rest and swim breaks

After many more small twists and turns of the river we reached our take-out at Cone Bridge Rd boat ramp with just enough time to load all our boats and get on the road before dark on this short late autumn day.

The Suwannee this far north is narrow and winding

The Suwannee this far north is narrow …

... with lots of twists and turns.

… with lots of twists and turns.

Cone Bridge Rd boat ramp

Cone Bridge Rd boat ramp

Lower Juniper Creek – November 8, 2017

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.

Map of our trip

Map of our trip

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.

Floating down the Creek

Floating down the Creek

Palm trees hanging from the banks

Palm trees hanging from the banks

Late Purple Aster - a favorite fall wildflower

Late Purple Aster – a favorite fall wildflower

Water Hyacinth

Water Hyacinth

A small gator hiding in the weeds

A small gator – about 3 feet long – hiding in the weeds

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.

Lake George vista

Lake George vista

Just missed the jumping mullet!

Just missed the jumping mullet!

Bald eagle overhead and Great Egrets in shoreline trees

Bald eagle overhead and Great Egrets in shoreline trees

A small gator peeking at us from the weeds

A small gator peeking at us from the weeds on Lake George

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

Little Juniper Creek

Low bridge!

Low bridge!

 

 

 

 

 

Sawing through a downed Sweet Gum

Sawing through a downed Sweet Gum to open a passage

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

Back on the wider Juniper Creek

Back on the wider Juniper Creek

A little fall color on Juniper Creek

A little fall color on Juniper Creek

Smooth Bur-marigold

Smooth Bur-marigold

 

String Lily aka Swamp Lily

String Lily aka Swamp Lily

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.

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Silver River – October 4, 2017

A quick morning paddle on the Silver yesterday to introduce her to a couple of new kayaking friends and provide me with a bit of stress reduction.

The water is still high but has dropped a couple of feet since Irma hit Sept. 10. Overcast and quite windy which may explain why we saw no monkeys and very few birds. But lots of gators, including one mama gator with a bunch of little ones sunning on a log.

Coasting down the Silver near the head spring

Coasting down the Silver near the head spring

Florida Cooter sunning on a log

Florida Cooter sunning on a log

Little Blue Heron

Mature Little Blue Heron

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant – love their turquoise eyes

Gator taking a snooze

Gator taking a snooze

Pickeralweed

Pickeralweed closeup

Cormorant and Cooter

Cormorant and Cooter sitting on a log

Mama Gator and babies

Mama Gator with babies strung out on the log behind her

Young Tri-colored Heron

Young Tri-colored Heron

Limpkin

Limpkin – must be Apple Snails in the river!