Due to Hurricane Irma, personal family issues and the January Canadian winter blast that reduced temps in the eastern U.S. to well below normal, there has been little time or inclination to get out on the water recently. But Wednesday I was able to hold my scheduled monthly Florida Trail Association paddle on the Lower Ocklawaha from Rodman Dam to Johnson Field Landing on State Rd 19.
(I also must apologize for the pictures. My good camera quit on me in December and temporarily I’m reduced to using an old, old point-and-shoot camera with no zoom. Between the older camera and the misty rain, I couldn’t get any good wildlife pics on this trip.)
With spitting rain we really did not expect many of the 20 people who had signed up to actually show up, but 10 paddlers were in the parking area by 8:45 and decided they were not going to melt if the drizzle continued throughout the day. At least it was warm, with temps in the 60s to 70s all day. In fact, with the recent warm up the water temp was lower than the air temp, so we paddled through misty waters all day making for a very atmospheric ride.
With the drizzle and mist we saw little wildlife in the morning. A Great Blue Heron flew ahead of us down the river for a couple of miles. A committee of Black Vultures roosted solemnly in the tops of the stream-side trees and eyed us from on high. And a Pileated Woodpecker swooped across the river.
On this trip we again stopped at Davenport Landing for lunch and a leg stretch, chatting with a young couple from New York who thought our unseasonably cold Florida weather was at least a relief from their deep snow and sub-zero temps.
At lunch the drizzle stopped and in the afternoon a few turtles and gators appeared along the river banks. We saw one HUGE and well-fed gator (approx 11-12 feet) as well as one little guy (around 30 inches) still with some of his baby stripes. Also a few turtles basking on logs. A Red-shoulder Hawk fluffed out his down at us from a perch on an overhanging tree. More Pileated Woodpeckers were seen and heard in the forest and a couple of Kingfishers swooped over our heads.
We saw many big and small trees uprooted by Hurricane Irma along the river, so we stuck to the main channel all the way to the SR 19 bridge, passing up the braids we sometimes take to create a more adventurous trip. Everything was clear on the main channel until we turned in after the bridge. Many trees had come down on the canal to the boat ramp, stretched their limbs all the way to the bridge pilings in places. Our maneuverable, shallow draft kayaks and canoe had no trouble weaving around them, but a motor boat might have to pole out from the boat ramp to the river.