Ocklawaha River – February 10, 2018

Continuing with our Ocklawaha series, today’s paddle was from the Orange Springs Park boat ramp across Lake Ocklawaha/Rodman Reservior with a take out on the Rodman Dam embankment.  There is no boat ramp or launch on the dam embankment, we just had to haul our selves and our boats up over the vegetation and the rocks to get up to the road on the top of the dam.

Orange Springs Park boat ramp

Orange Springs Park boat ramp

It was a warm and foggy morning when 8 of us met up at Orange Springs Park and unloaded our boats onto the grass there.  After the long shuttle drive around to the dam we finally hit the water about 10:15 as the morning fog was lifting.

Map of the trip

Map of the trip

The “island” that shows on the topo map is not land except during the periodic drawdowns when the river is 6-8 feet lower than normal.  Fortunately, the dredged channel for the “go-fast” power boats is on the north side, so along the southern stretch all we saw were a few fishing boats stopped or moving at slow speed to avoid the obstacles

We first crossed the river to the southern bank, which we would skirt all the way to the dam.  There were many floating rafts of vegetation just loaded with Red-Winged Blackbirds.

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Very wide and shallow with some chop, especially after lunch at Cedar Landing when the wind rose a bit – more like open water paddling than the rivers we normally do.

Wide open under blue skies and fluffy clouds

Wide open under blue skies and fluffy clouds

I didn’t get many wildlife pictures because most of the birds stay far away and my little point-and-shoot camera cannot reach far enough to capture most of them.  We saw Gallinule, White Ibis, Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Red-winged Blackbirds, Anhinga, Cormorants, Great Egret and spent a few minutes watching an Osprey pair building their nest.

Osprey nest-building

Osprey nest-building

After lunch at Cedar Landing we entered Rodman Reservoir proper.  This is the area of the river valley they flooded for the Cross-Florida Barge Canal.  Rather than harvest all the trees in the valley they either left them standing (figuring they would rot when submerged) or used a huge steam roller called the crusher-crawler to simply push the trees down into the mud.  40 years later, the trees are still floating to the top and some are still standing, either just above or just below the surface of the water.  This creates a slalom course and provides the occasional hull bump to surprise the unwary kayaker.

300 ton forest-leveling machine known as the Crusher-crawler. 1969.

300 ton forest-leveling machine known as the Crusher-crawler. 1969. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.

Slalom paddling through the dead tree tops

Slalom paddling through the dead tree tops

After rounding the final headland, Rodman Dam came into view about a mile in the distance and we headed south, still paddling close to the shore line.

Rodman Reservoir

Rodman Reservoir with the dam in the distance

Behind the kayaker you can see many of the dead trees that continue to float up from the bottom lining the shore.

Dead trees along the shore

Dead trees along the shore

After a hard pull against the rising wind we finally reached the south-west corner of the dam embankment and where we pulled our kayaks through the wind-driven vegetation and rocks up to the road at the top of the embankment.

Immature White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) on the dam embankment

Immature White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) on the dam embankment

Hauling up the rocks and bank.

Hauling up the rocks and bank.

With a lot of teamwork, we made it to the top of the dam

With a lot of teamwork, we made it to the top of the dam