Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Sunday, November 11, 2007

DeLeon Springs to Lake Woodruff (with Bonus Coverage)

Sunday, November 11, 2007 I put the yak in at DeLeon Springs State Park. This Park is noted for two things, a second magnitude spring and an old mill house where you cook your pancakes at the table. I like a third feature, access to the 21,000 acre waterways of the Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge.

The Spring is encircled by a concrete walkway, as you can see. The water spills over a mini waterfall into Spring Garden Lake. I paddled along the north shore of the Lake, past a triclored heron and a flock of coots (old coots?, I don't know) into Spring Garden Creek. Check out the Florida fall colors.

Spring Garden Creek is wider then some of the rivers I paddle. It flows for 3 miles into Lake Woodruff. The Wildlife Refuge begins at the Creek. No development, very few boats- fishermen moving between the lakes. I saw the usual birds, including quite a few limpkins, and osprey- this one in flight.I entered the vast Lake Woodruff, then headed back, against the wind and current. The only landing on Spring Garden Creek is about a half mile from Lake Woodruff. I stopped. A trail ends at the water. It is very scenic. First, a palm and oak hammock Then, pines begin to dominate, with a saw palmetto understory. The trail widens, about 15 feet of well mowed path. I have walked out to this area several times, thinking, it is perfect for deer. Today, for the first time, I saw one. Back to the yak, I checked out several small shell mounds. Snail shells, Spring Garden Creek and the lakes are part of the St Johns River- or, as the Indians called it , Welaka-River of Lakes.

The stretch of Creek from Lake Woodruff to just past the landing is a manatee zone. I have yet to see one in this area. I did see three alligators. I arrived back at DeLeon Springs and lingered outside the spring looking for manatees. I have see them here before. It is the first place I saw one from a kayak. None were present. I landed and took a dip. DeLeon is not a very clear spring, due to it being largely enclosed. I saw one fish. Still, a refreshing snorkel.

Having seen no manatees Saturday at the Mosquito Lagoon, nor any this trip, I thought I'd stop at Blue Springs State Park on the way home. As I drove, I caught the Packer score, 20-0. Passing through the town of DeLand, I saw a Gator's Dockside. I stopped and went in. Saw the TV the Packer game was on. A waitress led me to a table. I should have known not to trust her- she had on an ugly dark blue/purple and orange jersey with # 34. The game was no longer on. I turned around to a patron in Vikings colors and asked, "What happened to the Packer game?" "They were too far in front, so they switched games" "Still 20-zip ?" "No, 27, at least" Seeing things were well in hand, I left.

I arrived at Blue Spring, and manatees were in the Run. I walked along the boardwalk and saw about eight. Blue Spring Run is a manatee refuge and is closed to all human activity from November 15 to mid March. I thought that with manatees in the Run, the staff may have closed it a few days early. But then, I saw a guy walking towards me, toweling off/ "Is it open for swimming ?" "Yes, I wish I had a mask to see the manatees more clearly" I went back to the car for my mask, snorkel, flippers and camera.

Blue Spring Run is still cloudier than usual, see my Hontoon Island report from October. That, and the fact I was not wearing my contacts, made me think a snorkeler was ahead of me. Not a snorkeler, but a manatee with a line around its tail, float, and antenna. One of the rehabilitated manatees, being tracked by satellite. Later on, a Park worker told me it was Dundee. He may have been mistaken, according to the website

Dundee is no longer tagged. Here is a pic of the one I saw. Note the tether around the fluke.

The manatee was frolicking near the head spring. I had swum up from the scuba access point, a few hundred yards downstream. A tough snorkel against the spring flow. Much easier going downstream, Superman style, passing huge gar on the way. Two manatees were in the swim area, off a large swimming pier. They headed upstream. I did as well, back to the head spring. I saw no manatees on the way. I turned around, snorkeled past the scuba access point, and a manatee swam beneath me, headed upstream. Neat. But not as neat as the next one. This one was headed upstream, but then it floated downstream, as I floated above .

It did a barrel roll for my entertainment.

Just another day in the water. Looking back in the archives, I was in Blue Spring with manatees on November 13, 2005- note to self-visit again mid November 2008.


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