Tag Archives: Juniper Wayside

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 – May 23, 2015

We had a wonderful paddle for the holiday weekend on Juniper Creek in the Ocala National Forest.  We put in at Juniper Springs Recreation Area and took out at Juniper Wyaside on SR 19, dpoing our own shuttle.  Shuttle service and rentals are available at the Rec Area for those without boats.  They rent canoes and kayaks, but we strongly recommend kayaks since they are shorter and more maneuverable.

Juniper Creek is 7.2 miles of twists and turns and low trees on crystal clear water through a designated Juniper Springs Wilderness Area.  We’re always a little sore after Juniper because of the jinking and gyring about, but we love it and return again and again.  Loads of people out there today for the holiday, but once on the run they tend to spread out.

Juniper Creek is a “No-Disposables” run and they will check your coolers at the launch site.  So be sure to take alone plenty of water in Nalgene or bicycle-type bottles and pack your lunch/snacks in tupperware-style containers or dry bags.  Also, if you plan on doing your own shuttle, be aware that the Juniper Wayside take-out parking lot is very small – only room for about 15 cars if none of them have trailers.  So on weekends and holidays, plan on having your shuttle vehicle(s) there before about 9 am in order to get a parking spot.

Narrow and twisting

Narrow and twisting

Low bridge on the Juniper Creek run

Low bridge on  Juniper Creek

 

 

 

 

 

 

A familiar sight on Juniper Creek, but it's all just part of the fun

A familiar sight on Juniper Creek, but it’s all just part of the fun

Another familar sight, dodging fallen trees and stumps in the water

Another familiar sight, dodging fallen trees and stumps in the water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another obstacle to negotiate

Another obstacle to negotiate

Close up of either an Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) or Great Pondhawk (Erythemis vesiculosa) dragonfly that landed on a yellow kayak paddle

Close up of either an Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) or Great Pondhawk (Erythemis vesiculosa) dragonfly attracted to a yellow kayak paddle