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!

Santa Fe River – August 27, 2017

A quick morning trip on the Santa Fe River from US 27 to Rum Island with a couple of paddling buddies – 2 kayaks and 2 SUPs.  Storm clouds were building up for our usual summer afternoon rain, so pics are not that great, but we had fun.  The river is quite high.  This is the first time we’ve been able to paddle into Poe Springs since last fall and maybe the first time ever to paddle up into Jonathan Spring.

Beautiful clouds on the Santa Fe

Beautiful clouds on the Santa Fe

2 Kayaks and 2 Sups on this trip

2 Kayaks and 2 Sups on this trip

Sunning Florida Cooter on the Santa Fe

Sunning Florida Cooter on the Santa Fe

Immature Little Blue Heron

Immature Little Blue Heron

Heading up Lily Springs run

Heading up Lily Springs run

Lily Springs - an empty chair at Ed's place

Lily Springs – an empty chair at Ed’s place

Hairy flower at Lily Springs. Definately a Mitchella, probably Mitchella repens L. Partridge berry or squaw vine.

Hairy flower at Lily Springs. Definately a Mitchella, probably Mitchella repens L. Partridge berry or squaw vine.

Jonathan Spring entrance.  Usually this is where we stop and get out.

Jonathan Spring entrance. Usually this is where we stop and get out.

Jonathan Spring - we could paddle right into it.

Jonathan Spring – we could paddle right into it.