Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Ichetucknee and Santa Fe

I made the 150 mile trek to Ichetucknee Springs State Park, Saturday, April 12, 2008. I had been thinking of visiting the last few weekends, but a nagging cold kept me closer to home. I'm now 85% of my normal self, and improving.

The put in was the last tube takeout dock in Ichetucknee Springs State Park I was in the water at 8:35, just ahead of two guys from New York in a handcrafted wood canoe. I would see no one else for 90 minutes, until I was almost all the way to the upstream launch point, near Ichetucknee Spring. Wildlife was scarce too. Saw a great blue heron, blue heron, several great egrets, cormorants, osprey, anhinga, kingfishers, pileated woodpeckers, red shouldered hawks- not a lot for a day that ended at 5:30. Recent reports on the Green Wave Forum had a manatee and bald eagle on the Ich. I was not so fortunate. Nor did I see other major fauna, otters, deer and alligators, all seen on past visits.

The most impressive bird was this black crowned night heron,

As I took the picture, I encountered the first people, I'd seen since I put in. I drifted to close to the heron, and it took flight. The man in the lead of 4 kayaks said they had just seen a deer, but it ran off. That explained the noise I heard in the woods.

Before I arrived at the dock, I saw another 4 paddlers for a total of eight. This is by far the most I have ever seen in three previous visits, 2 which were on weekends.

I arrived at the dock, pulled my yak up, grabbed the snorkel gear and headed to Ichetucknee Spring.

I shared the spring with bass, sunfish, mullet,

and people. The two folks were the only other people in the Spring. Three's a crowd so I made the half mile walk to Blue Hole Spring. On the way, I saw deer tracks, perhaps the one I heard from the River. I also saw more paddlers headed downstream, the River visible through the trees.
Blue Hole is spectacular. It is bigger the Ichetucknee Spring, and is quite blue.

The run from another spring, Cedar, flows into Blue Hole. On my last visit, I saw the largest bass I have seen in this narrow, shallow watercourse. No giant bass today. Just a lot of them.

Plenty of other fish.

At the Hole itself, the picture of the day.

After twenty minutes, I got out, stubbing my toe on the last step. The couple that was in Ich Spring came as I was leaving, I had it to myself. I saw more kayakers from the trail as I walked back to Ichtucknee Spring. People were now gathered at the Spring, and nearby picnic area. I went to my yak, ate a sandwich, as a kayaker, and then a family with tubes and rubber rafts got in. Violating Park rules. No tubing is allowed on the upper portion of the Ich from Memorial Day to Labor Day. This allows the River to recover from the use/abuse caused by 100s of people a day in the summer.

Until today, I had never seen a yak at the dock, other than mine. I must have picked the right days for no crowds.

I got my yak in and paddled/drifted downstream, past turtles and limpkins,

until I arrived at Devils Eye Spring. This is the only spring down river of Ichetucknee and Blue Hole that is not restricted.

After a brief snorkel, I was back in the yak, next stop, Mid-point landing, from where I hoped to snorkel, towing the yak a quater mile to the next dock. But, the warm weather, high temp 85, brought out the tubers. Tubing is allowed in the off season from the midpoint landing.

Lots of tubers were enjoying afloat under blue skies. For the rest of the way, there were few times I did not see people ahead of me It must be nuts in the summer time.

I arrived at the put in, and decided to keep going. Maybe outside of the Park, I would not need to share the Ich with tubers, and maybe, closer to the confluence with the Santa Fe River, I'd spot a rare Ichetucknee manatee.

Half of the Ich, 3 miles, is within the confines of the State Park, the remaining 3 miles is not. My idea that there would e no tubers outside the Park was wrong. There were plenty. Outside the Park, they can drink. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it tends to increase the noise level. Wildlife takes drastic measures to cope.

I kid. A bird carved out of a cypress knee, you never know what you'll see on the water.

I reached the Ich's confluence with the Santa Fe River. A dozen or so boats were anchred just insdie the Ich. My guess, waiting for friends tubing the River. I headed up the Santa Fe for about 30 minutes. I saw three "Slow No Wake" signs. I guess all the powerboaters I saw are illiterate, or were going to fast to see the signs.

Nature came out.

Paddling up the Ich, a challange is presented just before entering the State Park. The River flows beneath two bridges, US 27 and CSX RR. They are offset, and the flow constricted, and at an angle is fast. On my last two Ich trips, I did not go past 27 because the current was fast and furious. This trip was a hard paddle, but I made it.

I arrived back at the put in, which was full of tubers. I decided to get some more paddling in, and continued upstream. My plan was to get past the last group of tubers, go five minutes, then drift back. After almost reaching the Mid Point Landing, I realized that was not going to happen, the tubers were so numerous. So I turned around and difted back to the put in. I landed a bit after 5:30, a 9 hour day. I stepped out of the yak and ow! The toe I stubbed, back at Blue Hole really hurt.

The price of adventure.


Anonymous said...

You have inspired me to go and see this wonderful place

Dave said...

Bring your mask and snorkel.