Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Wekiva River, Blackwater Creek

Put the kayak in the Wekiva River at Katies Landing, Sunday, January 27, 2008 and paddled 4 miles downstream to Blackwater Creek. That's the Creek in the first photo.

The day began cool and cloudy, keeping alligators hidden.

Mostly. This is the only one I saw. The sky did clear, and it warmed up this little fella. Not to warm, the high for the day was 66.

It rained a few inches last week, and it showed in both the water level and current. Good if you're a mottled duck.

Also good for paddling downstream. It took 90 minutes of easy paddling to reach the mouth of Blackwater Creek, a four mile trip. When I arrived I saw my first boat of the day, and it was downstream, so we did not cross paths.

Blackwater Creek is a narrow waterway that flows from Lake Norris to the Wekiva. I have yaked it in three spots.
(1) From a launch in the Seminole State Forest, downstream 5 miles to the Wekiva and back. This requires a permit from the Division of Forestry. I did it once. Other attempts to obtain a permit resulted in unreturned messages.

(2) Paddling the upper portion of the Creek near Lake Norris.

(3) Entering the Creek where it joins the Wekiva and going upstream.

Blackwater Creek changes greatly with rainfall. I've paddled it when it the water level with low, water clear from the small springs that feed it. I've paddled it when heavy rains make it hit or miss to locate the channel. This trip, the channel was well defined, level higher than my last visit. Banks where I glimpsed large alligators in the summer and fall were underwater.

I planed to paddle about 90 minutes in the creek. I was at the 70 minute mark when I arrived here.

So I turned around.

A beautiful, serene, paddle.
The great egret above was not bothered by my presence as I moved closer,

remaining focused on its prey.

I also saw hawks, woodpeckers , anhingas and a lone limpkin in the Creek. Saw the splash of an alligator, diving for cover in the shoreline vegetation as I approached.

Out of the Creek, I had to paddle against the current. Fortunately the wind was at my back.
I took this into consideration when planning my day. Nice when the forecast is correct.

Dave's wading birds + sunning turtles = alligators matrix did not compute this trip. As stated above it was cool and they could have been beneath algae mats like this one.

I had noticed the algae on the way downstream. Coming back, I began to see flecks in the water, and wherever there was a blockage in the River, vast amounts of it bunched up. Smelled a bit too. Runoff from recent rain, I'd reckon.

I encountered five motor boats on the way back, no paddlers.

One green heron.
And one otter. Briefly peeking above the surface, then disappearing. Not even an arched back or flick of tail.

A bit more than six hours after I began I landed at Katies Landing, secured the yak and was on my way home.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Haulover Canal and more

Saturday, January 26, 2008 I kayaked the Haulover Canal. The paddle portion of the day is here:

I posted on that site at the suggestion of a reader of this site, who said they are looking for a "Central Florida Expert" That reader is the Northwest Florida Expert

At first, I was unable to post pictures on the Green Wave site, but eventually figured it out I have more, and bigger, pics here.

As mentioned in the Green Wave Forum, my day continued after I finished yaking. Here are a few pics.

After the short paddle, I stopped at the Scrub Jay Trail. This is a one mile loop. I had almost completed it, without seeing any name sake birds, when I saw one on the gentleman's cap. I have read that the jays will do this, now I saw it. Other scrub jays were in a nearby tree and several more on the path. In the Ocala National Forest, the only other place I have seen these birds, I never see them on the ground. Then Mr Jayhat pointed out the peanuts on the grass. Left by someone else.

Back to the parking area, I walked along what seems to be a service road/trail along the water Here was some of the best birding of the day. A flock of white pelicans. Unlike brown pelicans, they don't dive for dinner. Instead, they work as a team, corralling their prey. The area was full of roseate spoonbills well.

And herons, and egrets and herons, oh my!

Next stop, Black Point Wildlife Drive.

A "veritable plethora of avian varieties" to quote brother Andy.

I ended the day with a walk on the 2 mile Palm Hammock and 1/2 mile Oak Hammock Trails. Saw a wild hog. No bird pictures.

Refuge literature states the area attracts so many species because it is where the temperate and subtropic zones meet

The gumbo limbo next to the oak is apt illustration I could not leave without talking a picture of this historical marker. On, Wisconsin !

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Blue Spring St Johns Snake Creek Honton Dead River

Put the kayak in at Blue Spring State Park Sunday, January 20, 2008. A "cool" 50 degrees with a "lake wind advisory" Perfect for manatee watching and few people on the River. I was protected from the wind in the Snake Creek and canal portion of the paddle.

Here's a map of the area.

The first three birds are a wood stork, black crowned night heron and yellow crowned night heron. All birds I don't see every day. The picture with the canoes in the background is where I launched at Blue Spring State Park. A manatee is in the foreground.

I cheated. The manatee pictures above were taken from the boardwalk along the Run, not the yak. The wind prevented me from getting any publication worthy manatee pics while paddling.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Rock Springs Run to Kelly Park

The photo on the left is the end of the tube run at Kelly Park in Apopka, FL. I have viewed it from the other side, after snorkeling the Run. I have tried to reach it by kayak since April 2005. Today, I made it.

Now, to quote Paul Harvey, the rest of the story.

Saturday, January 19, 2008 was cool (60's) overcast, with 40% chance of rain. Perfect day for kayaking.

I thought of doing a road trip, but rain was forecast from Orlando north and west, so I decided to stay close to home and paddle Rock Springs Run. I am fortunate to have this gem 20 minutes from my door.

I arrived at Wekiwa Springs State Park just prior to it opening and was in the River at 8:20. I let the spring fed current do much of the work as I made my way to the confluence with Rock Springs Run. Now, I had to do the work, paddling up the narrow fast flowing stream. I encountered the usual ibis, limpkins, blue herons, Great Blue herons, Great egrets, anhingas red tailed and red shouldered hawks.

I spied the hindquarters of a deer, tail flashing as it ran into the cypress and sabal palm forest. I think I interrupted breakfast.

The one deer outnumbered people on the Run. No one at the three primitive campsites a bit less than halfway up the Run. As I paddled on, I assumed I'd encounter downstream paddlers, launching from King's Landing. False assumption. Perhaps the weather kept people away. As I stated above, a perfect day for kayaking, no one on the water !

Just nature and I.

It's about 8 miles from Wekiwa Spring to Kings Landing, the launch point for 99% of those who paddle Rock Springs Run. 1% is me, and anyone else who goes against the flow. A short canal connects the Run to Kings. I looked up it, and saw the first people since I paid the ranger at 8:00. Shortly thereafter, I saw my first paddler.

The most beautiful mile of Rock Springs Run is upstream of King's Landing. The first time I paddled all the way up Rock Springs Run, hoping to get to Kelly Park, in April 2005, this is what I encountered:

I had to get out of the yak for the first time to portage over some downed trees. This was repeated several more times. Branches and vines wrapped around the kayak and I. It has to clear soon, I thought. Water shallow, just up to my thighs, occasionally feet sinking in muck. Itdid not clear. Thought the African Queen would appear.When I got to another thicket, these with thorns, itwas time to turn around.

That first trip, I wound up on a side channel, but even the main Run had dead fall every 20-30 yards. On subsequent visits I'd portage a log or three, just to get to water like this.

Then, this September, I paddled past Kings Landing, and kept going. No obstacles. I noticed many fresh saw marks. Someone had cleared the Run. That someone was the folks from Kings Landing. I sent them a thank you email.
Clearing the Run was good business. Now the Kings Landing folks can rent canoes to paddlers up and down from their location. I encounter two canoes on the cleared area, proving the point.
I still had not got all the way to Kelly Park, where Rock Springs is located. On the upper, upper portion of the Run, some blockages remained. Looking at maps, and satellite imagery, I knew I had almost reached Kelly Park a couple times. Today, I decided to go all the way. This tangle forced me out of the yak.

Just a short time later, I was at Kelly Park.

12:15, just under 4 hours for the nine mile upstream voyage. My quest to reach Kelly Park, first attempted in April, 2005 was fulfilled. I turned around, and headed downstream. A pause to get out and pull the yak over the thicket, then I let the flow from Rock Springs help push me downstream. I stopped for lunch at my usual spot, an island in the Run. I finished lunch, and emptied my leaky yak and was ready to go. But, I waited to let a Boy Scout Troop get ahead of me. Once they were out of earshot,I put in and continued the journey home.

A Great egret joined the ibis I saw on the way to Kelly Park.

And, as always limpkins on the Run.

Spotted two otters, several miles apart, on the way back. During the afternoon, the clouds cleared, temps edged toward 70. The campsites, unoccupied on the way up, now had tents.
I arrived at the confluence of Rock Springs Run and the Wekiva River. To my surprise, no one was on the water. Other the one alligator, taking a swim in the warm waters of the spring fed river. I was able to see it underwater, which is a unique perspective. I returner to Wekiwa Springs State Park at 5:25, 9 hours after I left, just over five hours from the time I left Kelly Park.