Tag Archives: Juniper Creek

Juniper Creek – July 1, 2017

Another member of the Florida Paddling Trails Association and I met up on their Facebook page and planned this nice little 7-mile paddle.  Although most folks never realize it, the Juniper Creek run does not end at the Juniper Wayside where the Juniper Springs Recreation Area shuttle picks you up.  Juniper Creek continues on down to empty into Lake George and there is also a parallel stream for half of the way called Little Juniper Creek.

Map of our trip

For this trip we put in at Juniper Wayside on SR 19, paddled down Juniper Creek to Lake George, turned north and paddled along the lake shore for about half a mile, then turned into Little Juniper Creek for the return to our cars.

The morning trip downstream on Juniper Creek was calm and restful, except for the pretty large gator I scared up just after the start!  I was still adjusting my seat in a very narrow section only 2-3 minutes into the trip and didn’t see him until the last minute.  He trashed his head at me to let me know that I was too close!   But he swam one way and I paddled the other way, so no harm done and it was a good reminder to me to pay attention.

Small gator

Small gator

For most of the morning we had Juniper Creek to ourselves.  A couple of airboats passed us, headed upstream, but the creek was fairly wide and they were courteous, so except for the noise shattering the natural sounds they were no bother.  We saw a couple of little gators in the vegetation lining the banks, an osprey pair wheeling overhead, a few turtles sunning on logs, and lots of Eel grass, Sagittaria, a few Swamp Hibiscus and some Mallow.

Grasses in Juniper Creek

Grasses in clear Juniper Creek

Saltmarsh mallow - Kosteltzkya pentacarpos - a relative of the hibiscus

Saltmarsh mallow – Kosteltzkya pentacarpos – a relative of the hibiscus

Broadleaf arrowhead - Sagittaria latifolia

Broadleaf arrowhead – Sagittaria latifolia

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper - Romalea guttata

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper – Romalea guttata – a voracious garden pest, but quite colorful

We entered Lake George at a shallow spot where many pontoon boats were rafted up for lunch and swimming.  The laughter of children drifted to us across the distance.  Two words of warning about Lake George which is a wide spot in the St Johns River.  Most important for paddlers is that it is quite large and very shallow.  That means any bit of wind across the lake can create significant waves.  And it can get very windy, especially in the late afternoon.  The second thing is that it is loaded with gators, so don’t go swimming with anyone that you can’t out-swim 🙂

Approachng Lake George

Approachng Lake George

Boats rafted up on Lake George at the mouth of Juniper Creek

Boats rafted up on Lake George at the mouth of Juniper Creek

 

More birds and wildflowers greeted us along the shoreline of Lake George as we turned north.  We saw Black Vultures and Osprey in the tall trees, hibiscus, mallow and rattlebox in the bushes, a stately Great Blue Heron and a pair of Green Herons – one of whom posed for me on a log.

Swamp Scarlet Hibiscus - Hibiscus coccineus

Swamp Scarlet Hibiscus – Hibiscus coccineus

Swamp Pink Hibiscus - Hibiscus grandiflorus

Swamp Pink Hibiscus – Hibiscus grandiflorus

Osprey - Pandion haliaetus

Osprey – Pandion haliaetus

Great Blue Heron - Ardea Herodias

Great Blue Heron – Ardea Herodias

Green Heron - Butorides virescens - lift his head features in alarm at something in the water

Green Heron – Butorides virescens – lifting his head feathers in alarm at something in the water

Rattlebox - Crotalaria spp

Rattlebox – Crotalaria spp – a member of the pea family

As we neared the mouth of Little Juniper Creek Cynthia recognized a friend of hers anchored  in his pontoon boat.  We paddled over and he invited us onto the boat for lunch.  From waist deep water it was easy to exit (and easier to get back in than I thought it would be).  He had cheese and crackers and peanut butter pretzels, I shared my sliced apples and Cynthia shared her turkey and spinach sandwich so it turned into a nice and unexpected smorgasbord.

After lunch we entered Little Juniper Creek for half of the paddle back – my favorite part of the trip.  Little Juniper is narrower than Juniper, starting out fairly wide at the mouth but narrowing to about two paddle widths as it approaches Juniper.  At one point there is a long island in the center, so I took the high road and Cynthia took the low road and we met up in Scotland at the end.  And it’s too thick overhead at the east end for airboats which was a blessing we realized as soon as we came back out into Juniper Creek.

Cloud reflections on Little Juniper Creek

Cloud reflections near the mouth of Little Juniper Creek

Little Juniper Creek becomes narrow and winding

Little Juniper Creek becomes narrow and winding

Buttonbush – Cephalanthus occidentalis

Buttonbush – Cephalanthus occidentalis

Enjoying Little Juniper Creek

Enjoying Little Juniper Creek

It was only 1.5 miles back to Juniper Wyaside but it really was spoiled by the constant parade of airboats.  Again, all but one – a young man probably trying to impress the girlfriend clinging to him – were courteous, slowing to idle speed (which the whole river is signed as idle speed/minimum wake but they don’t seem to pay any attention to it) as soon as they saw us. But the way was so narrow, the noise so loud, the wake was still appreciable (especially after the two passes by the young man and his girl) and the wind and spray from their prop wash was so bad that it certainly put a damper on the end of the trip.  And of course no gators, turtles or birds were left to be seen while crushed vegetation followed in their wake.  Not to mention the area just south of Juniper Wayside where they raft up and play music that can be heard even over the sound of their engines. I really don’t understand why Juniper Creek and Little Juniper Creek can not be declared a motor free zone.  There are hundreds of other little creeks off Lake George in the area that are available to motorboats to explore and party.

So if you want to enjoy this beautiful little trip my advice is to get out very early (there is no gate at Juniper Wayside, you can launch as early as you like) so you are off the river by 11 am when the airboats start showing up or do it only during the week or the winter when.

Juniper Creek – September 21, 2016

A sweet return to Juniper Creek spring run in the Ocala National Forest for the YakPak.  We saw our first hint of fall color of the year in a little Sweet Gum tree near the end and one little gator and a few turtles.

Most of the downed trees have been breached after last month’s tropical storm, but we did find a newly fallen oak tree that took the 4 of us about 3/4 of an hour to work our way through it.  We cleared and broke off what branches we could because we knew there was a canoe coming down after us, but with no real tools we couldn’t do a good job.  Had to get out of the kayaks into waist- to chest-deep water to work the kayaks, then our bodies under and over the trunks and limbs and through the entangling vines.  The Rec Area knows about it and it should be opened up by the weekend, but if you are going out there Thursday or Friday plan on being a little late!

The shallow and twisting upper run.

The shallow and twisting upper run.

Upper section of the run.

Upper section of the run.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The middle section generally has more obstacles.

The middle section generally has more obstacles.

And the lower section is wider and more open.

And the lower section is wider and more open.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little gator in the bushes.

Little gator in the bushes.

Just a little bit of fall color at the end.

Just a little bit of fall color at the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now a few pics of us working our way through the tree on the middle section.  While unexpected and tiring and took a lot of team work, it was not dangerous.  We know Juniper Creek very well and kind of expect the unexpected on this creek.  We actually had quite a bit of fun!  Got a little water on the camera lens, tho.

Overview shot of the trees blocking the entire creek.

Overview shot of the trees blocking the entire creek.

Starting to work our way in.

Starting to work our way in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working boat #3 through

Working boat #3 through

Working boat #4 through. (Notice the big smiles.)

Working boat #4 through. (Notice the big smiles.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the boats through, now only 2 people to get over the last trunk and through the underwater grape vines.

All the boats through, now only 2 people to get over the last trunk and through the underwater grape vines.

Last one through is a rotten egg!

Last one through is a rotten egg!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Juniper Creek – November 18, 2015

Back again to Juniper Creek with a second set of friends to see if we can find more Grass-of-Parnasus.  On the first trip we saw only one patch of Grass-of-Parnassus.  On this second trip 4 days later there were many patches along about a 1/2 mile stretch of the middle creek.

Large-leaved Grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia grandifolia)

Large-leaved Grass-of-Parnassus.  Flowers about 2 inches across, stalks about 30 inches tall.

Closer view of Large-leaved Grass-of-Parnassus (Parnassia grandifolia). Florida native, Florida endanged species. Flowers about 2 inches across, stalks about 2.5 feet tall.

Closer view of Large-leaved Grass-of-Parnassus. Florida native, Florida endanged species.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No gator sightings on this trip, only a couple of Cooters out sunning in the cool weather, but there were lots of fall flowers in bloom, especially the Late Purple Aster.

Closeup of Late Purple Aster (Symphyotrichum patens)

Closeup of Late Purple Aster (Symphyotrichum patens)

Late Purple Aster (Symphyotrichum patens) was everywhere along the creek banks.

Late Purple Aster (Symphyotrichum patens) was everywhere along the creek banks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once again, everyone enjoyed the 20 seconds of “Wheee” running through the “rapids”.  It’s so much fun, we wish it were much longer.

Running the "Rapids"

Running “the Rapids”

Running "the rapids" on Juniper Creek

The only thing hard is stopping at the bottom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the end you could swear it was snowing on us.  If you click on the last picture to enlarge it you can really see the white flakes raining down on us and settling on the water.  Actually, these are Baccharis latifolia seeds blown by the breeze, not that nasty stuff Yankees start getting about this time of year.  Lots of Baccharis bushes along the last 2-3 miles of the run.

Lower creek, almost to the take-out and everyone is still smiling. Baccharis latifolia in background.

Lower creek, almost to the take-out and everyone is still smiling. Baccharis in background.

If you look closely you can see white flakes raining down on us and settling on the water.

If you look closely you can see white seeds raining down on us.