Another wonderful day on the Silver River leading a paddle for the Florida Trail Association. The boat ramp at Silver Springs State Park as closed for 3 days while they replaced the geo-textile on the surface, so a last minute change was made to put-in at Ray Wayside County Park, paddle up to the head spring then paddle back to Ray Wayside via the Ft King Paddling Trail. This turned a planned 5.2-mile newbie all-downstream paddle into a 10.8-mile trip with 5.2 miles of that distance paddling upstream against a 3 mph current. After informing folks who had signed up about the change I had 11 people show up at the put-in, some with quite a bit of experience and some with very little.
The first cool thing on this paddle was one of the participants brought her Oru Bay folding kayak and I got to watch her convert it from a case about the size of an artist’s portfolio to a 12-foot kayak in about 15 minutes. You can read more info on Oru kayaks HERE.
The paddle on the upstream 5.4 miles took us 4 hours, including a short break at “The Cove” and a longer lunch break at the Silver Springs State Park metal ramp near the half way point. The trip back downstream took us a little less than 2 hours. Not too shabby for a group with half relatively inexperienced paddlers.
Three of my paddlers had inexpensive 10-foot boats and I was a little worried about how they would do on the upstream paddle. Short, light boats tend to track poorly, weaving from side to side with each stroke, especially with wind or current working on them. And they did have problems rounding bends when the current would catch them and shove them sideways, but they all persevered and had big smiles on their faces, so I was really proud of them.
Fist thing when we hit the river we saw some Saltmarsh Mallows on the river banks. They are related to the hibiscus and look like them, only smaller – 2-3 inches across compared to the Swamp Scarlet Hibiscus which is generally 6-8 inches across. And contrary to its name, it grows very well in fresh water as well as salt water.
On the way up we went slowly and watched a lot of wildlife. It seemed to be mamma and baby day on the Silver. Gators, Gallinules, Wood Ducks, Little Blue Herons, turtles, Anhingas and their young ones, to name a few.
After the head spring we headed over to the State Park hand launch (our planned put-in) and checked out the refurbishment. It looked pretty much the same except for some additional fencing to keep people from dropping their boats off to the side of the ramp and the addition of some rock at the end of the ramp. ROCK!?!? At the end of a canoe/kayak ramp? I’ll have to ask what’s up with that when I return with my next group on Saturday!
From there we headed back downstream via the Ft King Paddling trail. Just as we hit the river again we head some thunder in the distance and 3 of the group took off down river quickly. So quickly, in fact, that we didn’t see them again until we hit the take-out back at Ray Wayside. Not great for group safety, but there was no way I could catch up with them and they were some of the more experienced paddlers. Actually, the storm was not close, and in fact it didn’t hit on us for another 3.5 hours, so the rest of us had plenty of time to float slowly down the river, grabbing some more pictures on the way.
The group had done so well I presented each of them with a Silver River sticker for their kayaks – stickers usually reserved for members of the 5-Star Yak Pak.