Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Ichetucknee and Santa Fe

Turtles on the Ich Ichnetucknee Spring

Yak at Devils Eye

Bass, Devils Eye Spring

Blue Hole Spring

Saturday, October 13, 2007, I made the long (150 mile) trip from my home to the Ichnetucknee River and Ichnetucknee Springs State Park. Fed by 8 named springs, the Ich flows 7 miles into the Santa Fe River. 3.5 miles of it are within the State Park, this is the portion I paddled.

From Memorial Day through Labor Day, the Ich is a popular tubing run. After Labor Day, tubing is not allowed on the upper portion of the river. Tubers can launch half-way, but most provide their own transport back to the start, the seasonal tram service is not running. This done to help the river recover from heavy summer use. Fall through spring is the time to yak the Ich.

A deer greeted me as I arrived at the south end of the Park It was 8:45 as I launched from the last tube takeout Moss draped oaks and cypress trees dominate the forest. No palms this far north. The woods contained lots of woods ducks, flighty fowl that burst into noisy flight on my approach. Also woodstorks, herons, egrets, osprey, woodpeckers, kingfishers and anhingas. The clear water allows observation of a variety of fish and turtles. This was my 3rd time on the Ich, I have only seen one alligator. None this trip. I saw my second deer of the day along the run of another spring. I had gone past a restricted access sign to check the spring out. I did not linger long. Only one spring on the River, Devils Eye is open to the public. I thought of taking a dip when I reached it, but decided to do it on my return, once the air temps rose- it was probably in the low 70's.

The river was largely unoccupied. One tubing family, just in from the midpoint dock, and one kayaker, taking pictures. Bass ? No, algae for work. Wish I had his office.

Ninety minutes after I began, I was at the dock just outside Ichnetucknee Spring. I pulled the yak up on the carpeted platform (to prevent lawsuits by slipping tubers, I'd wager). Up a flight of steps and a short walk to Ichtucknee Spring. One woman reading at a picnic table, other thatn that, I had it to myself. Beautiful, cool blue water. A family of three came by, and asked me how it was. Smiling, I replied, Terrible !

I got out, then walked a half mile to Blue Hole Spring, and snorkeled it. The trio I had seen earlier were here, dad in the water, who-hooing. Just like Ponce de Leon when he encountered Florida springs. Blue Hole emits more water then Ichnetucknee Spring. Getting to the bottom of the shaft is hard, and the flow quickly propels one back to the surface. A run from another spring, Cedar, enters the pool. I snorkeled up the run, until it became too shallow. It is full of fish, lots of bass. I huge fish caught my eye. First thought, carp, no, then grouper- no way to far from the ocean, then I saw the black strip, wow! its a bass - biggest I have ever seen. At least 12 inches- high, close to 2 feet long. A monster.

After lunch on the dock near my yak, I put in for the downstream paddle. An egret caught my eye a bit downstream. It stabbed the water and pulled something out. Fish, I thought, until it began to squeek. First time I heard a fish make sound, well besides grunts. A close look revealed legs, frog legs.

The egret appeared irritated at is noisy prey. Four or five times it lowered its beak into the water, to silence or soften the meal, I don't know, perhaps both. The frog was still in the beak, not the gullett , when I let the current take me away.

I soon arrived at Devils Eye Spring, and took the dip I had bypassed earlier. Shells line the bottom of the spring. Not all on the bottom, some appear to float in the water, pushed up by the upwelling water. Lots of fish hanging around.

Back in the yak, but only for a short time. I arrived at the midpoint dock, got out, and waiting for some tubers to get out of sight, put on the snorkel gear and swam a quater mile to the next landing. Panfish darted out of swaying eel grass as I floated downstream. I caught and passed some tubers, a kayaker passed me. At the landing, back in the yak for the final part of the trip. or 5 groups of tubers were enjoying the day. No more than 20 people. The Ich is an international destination- two of the groups were not English speakers.

For me, it was a short paddle after a long drive. I went past the take out, bit only for a short distance. The current looked nasty as it passed under the US 27 and CSX RR bridges. I had paddled up through this section once before, but did not want to deal with it now.

So, back to the launch I paddled. Got the yak on the car and headed east on Highway 27, towards I-75, and home. But, they say, that Santa Fe, is less then 20 miles away, and I've got time, to roll down the river, and drive my car, Ichhhhhhh ne tuckne. -To paraphrase Neil Young.

27 crosses the Santa Fe River, and their is an adjacent boat ramp and parking lot. I figured I could paddle downstream for a hour, maybe see a spring or two, than get back before sunset.

So I did. In the water about 4:20. Swift, shallow in spots. Mini rapids over the limestone that is the geologic foundation for springs. Just over thirty minutes I was at Poe Springs County Park. I pressed on, planning to stop here on the return.

50 minutes into the paddle I arrived at Lily Springs, home of Naked Ed, who was both. Home, and naked. We had a nice chat- he moved behind the modesty fence on his dock, before

The yak was filling with water. Not an uncommon occurrence, but faster than usual. I must have done damage in the shallows. At Poe Springs, I dumped out a good deal of water, before snorkeling the spring. Other than a father and son playing soccer on the the beach area. I had it to myself. Editorial- I think it a bad practice to import sand, to have "beaches" at springs- the sand gets in the water, clouding the clarity, and over time, can fill the original spring.

I left Poe, and paddled the rest of the way upstream to 27. I went a bit beyond, a large Spring is just off the opposite bank. Its powerful flow reverses the river current. Impressive. Back to the launch, yak on car and on the way home at 7:20.


Ichetucknee Springs said...

Great photos! thanks for sharing!

Dave said...

Thank you for the compliment-its good to see folks are finding reports deep in the archives

Trendell said...

I love your reports! I have a small group and I've just recently stumbled across your adventures. Going to the Santa Fe this weekend and I was wondering where to launch that I could do a day trip and here you have it all planned out for me!! Thanks Dave!


Dave said...

You are welcome Trendel. I'll ask you to return the favor. Shoot me a quick email after your trip, I want to know how the late summer crowds (or lack thereof) are.