Ocklawaha River – March 8, 2017

Absolutely glorious trip with 13 other paddlers on the Ocklawaha River from Ray Wayside Park to Gores Landing Park – exactly 11 miles by my GPS.   At first the weather report was for rain, then it changed to thunderstorms in the afternoon.  Well, it did start to cloud up on us around 1 pm, but we never got a drop of rain or heard any thunder.  This simply reinforces the concept that in Florida if you wait for absolutely no chance of rain, you will never get out. So just pack your rain gear and go.  You can always change your mind when you get to the put in and head with your friends to the nearest restaurant.  🙂

After unloading our boats at Ray Wayside County Park and shuttling most of the vehicles up to Gores Landing County Park ($5 parking fee at each of these parks) we set off down the Silver River and then joined the Ocklawaha.  The trees were looking all spring green, the river was unusually clear.

The Ocklawaha under a bright blue morning sky

The Ocklawaha under a bright blue morning sky

Spring has sprung! Heading down the river from our lunch spot at Grahamsville Landing

Spring has sprung! Heading down the river from our lunch spot at Grahamsville Landing

Under a cathedral of trees

Winding river under a cathedral of trees

One of the highlights of the trip was seeing three manatee.  The first one was alone, heading upstream, feeding on the bottom grasses just under the SR 40 high-rise bridge.  About an hour later we saw two more, also heading upstream.

Manatee, just below the surface

Manatee, just below the surface at the SR 40 bridge

Manatee surfacing beside my kayak near Ray Wayside

Manatee surfacing beside my kayak

We also saw a lot of little gators (under 4 feet) and turtles out basking in the sun.

A couple of Cooters (Pseudemys spp) sunning on a log

A couple of Cooters (Pseudemys spp) sunning on a log

A beautiful young gator still with his juvenile stripes (about 3 feet long)

A beautiful young gator still with his juvenile stripes (about 4 feet long)

Another beautiful little gator (about 4 feet)

Another beautiful little gator (about 3 feet)

A little bitty gator - about 8 inches long.

A little bitty gator – about 8 inches long.

Of course we saw all the usual birds.  A couple of Great Blue Herons, a Great Egret, several White Ibis and Limpkin.

A curious White Ibis (Eudocimus albus ) peeking out at us from behind the foliage

A curious White Ibis (Eudocimus albus ) peeking out at us from behind the foliage

Limpkin (Aramus guarauna)

Limpkin (Aramus guarauna) – must be Apple Snails around here

Then we had a close encounter with a Red-shouldered Hawk.  We first saw it standing in the water acting a little strangely and we thought it might be injured.  But as we stopped to take a better look it flew up onto a low branch of a neighboring tree and shrilled at us.  You can also see a short video of it HERE.

Red-shouldered hawk in the water

Red-shouldered hawk in the water

Close encounter with a Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

Close encounter with a Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

All along the river some spring wildflowers were blooming as well as some winter ones still hanging around.

String Lily (Crinum americanum) also called Swamp Lily

String Lily (Crinum americanum) also called Swamp Lily

Alligator lily (Hymenocallis palmeri) also called Spider lily

Alligator lily (Hymenocallis palmeri) also called Spider lily

Water Primrose (Ludwigia spp.) - an exotic invasive, but still very pretty

Water Primrose (Ludwigia spp.) – an exotic invasive, but still very pretty

Blackberry blossom (Rubus spp.)

Blackberry blossom (Rubus spp.)

All in all, it was a delightful trip.  The Ocklawaha really put on a show for us.