The paddling adventure for Saturday, December 8, 2007 was the Hontoon Loop. Blue Springs State Park, down the St. Johns River to Hontoon Island State Park, then on the backside of Hontoon Island along the Hontoon Dead River and Snake Creek, back to the St Johns River and Blue State Park. Blue Springs Run is now closed to human activity due to the seasonal manatee population. Paddle craft can land and launch from an area just inside a buoy line that motorboats can't cross, and outside a buoy line that prohibits all entry. I try to stay inside this area to watch manatees, at least until a Park ranger shoos me away. The staff of Blue Springs State Park are strict when it comes to human-manatee interaction, which is a good thing. A canoe with two park employees was in the run, so I did not linger, until I got just outside the buoy line, where I hung out watching 6 or so manatees. I took the above Blue Heron shot here. Notice the clear water near the heron ? That's the spring water, meeting and mixing with the dark water of the St Johns.
Leaving the manatees, I headed down the St Johns. I veered off the main channel son after I began, paddling around a small island in the River, I thought I might see some manatees here. I did, two. Back to the main channel, I saw this alligator. The weather was Chamber of Commerce. It's been unseasonably warm the last few days- low 80's instead of low to mid 70's, no clouds, no wind. For a while, I had the broad St Johns River to myself. Until three rental pontoon boats came towards me. Making wakes in a minimum wake zone. Makes me wonder how much the vendors instruct their renters about manatee zones. And, soon after the knuckleheads passed, two manatees appeared in the middle of the River. Like me, they were headed downstream. I paddled on their left for several minutes, until they either decided to stop and rest on the bottom, or sought sustenance in the succulent vegetation on the east bank of the River.
I reached the northern tip of Hontoon Island, paddled past the State Park facilities and entered the Hontoon Dead River to begin the journey back to Blue Springs. If not for a canoeing girl scout troop, I would have seen more alligators, 3 then people, 2, before I took a break , landing next to this limpkin, then getting out to stretch me legs with a walk through the hammock up to the top of a massive shell mound. Sabal palms raising straight through gnarled, fern covered live oaks, its a beautiful area. Back in the yak, I arrived at Snake Creek, and paddled it to the St Johns. Saw an ibis or two Or more. There were ibis on every tree, and lots of great egrets. And, as always, reat Great Blue Herons I arrived back at Blue Spring, and saw more canoes in the water then I have ever seen there. Nice to see so many people paddling. I decided not to land, observed manatees for a while from outside the buoys, then paddled to the nearby island to see what I could see manatees there. Nope.
Back to Blue Spring. Paddled between the ropes for a time, then saw one manatee, then another . Big animals. One barrel rolled beneath me. Six manatees were in the water nearby.
Two brief video clips below.