Ocklawaha River – January 11, 2017

For our second monthly Florida Trail Association we repeated the second on the Lower Ocklawaha from Rodman Dam to Johnson Field Landing on State Rd 19.  But this day our paddle was under bright blue skies with temps warming into the upper 70s.  It was chilly when we arrived and as we crossed the dam a mist covered Rodman Reservoir creating an ethereal beauty.  About the only time you can call Rodman Reservoir beautiful!

Early morning mist over Rodman Reservoir

Early morning mist over Rodman Reservoir

On this trip we again stopped for lunch at Davenport Landing for lunch and a leg stretch and again, this time or purpose, took the northern braid to parallel the main channel of the river.  This group seemed to have a little more trouble with the one place on the braid where we had to either scooch over a couple of logs or crash through the branches of a recently downed Sweet Gum tree, depending on which side you took.  But everyone got through dry and unscathed so it all just added to the adventure.

Forcing our way through the fallen Sweet Gum tree

Forcing our way through the fallen Sweet Gum tree

Again we saw lots of little gators, most of them under 3 feet long.  Some of them were sunning on logs in the water and some were resting in the vegetation.

A little gator peeking

A little gator peeking out …

A little gator crawling out onto a fallen limb

… before deciding to crawl out …

A little gator deciding to swim away from us

… then seeing us deciding to swim away into cover.

We also again saw lots of Great Egrets gathering for breeding season.  Great Egrets (Ardea alba), along with their cousin the Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias), are normally solitary except during breeding and nesting season when they gather into colonies.  During breeding season the Great Egret has filmy feathers (aigrettes) that flow from the back and the beak can darken from yellow to orange.  If you can get close enough you can also see that the area around the eyes turns greenish.

A small colony of Great Ibis

A small colony of Great Ibis

Great Egret in breeding plumage

Great Egret in breeding plumage with filmy aigrettes cascading from the back

We also saw a few String Lily (Crinum americanum) plants along the banks.  Also called Swamp Lily, these are common wildflowers on streams in Florida.  They flower from late fall through early spring.

String Lily or Swamp Lily (Crinum americanum)

String Lily or Swamp Lily (Crinum americanum)

We read the braids correctly again today and popped out onto the main channel of the Ocklawaha just west of the SR 19 bridge having enjoyed our backwoods adventure on a picture-perfect winter day.

The SR 19 bridge from the Ocklawaha River

The SR 19 bridge from the Ocklawaha River