Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Friday, May 16, 2008

Suwannee River

From Manatee Springs State Park

Where the deer saw me off

To Fanning Springs State Park

Big Fanning,

and Little Fanning

Back to Manatee,

where the deer welcomed me back.

This was my fourth trip to the Suwanee. The first three I paddled downstream only, using a Park service provider shuttle the first time, a car-bike shuttle the next two. I now have a bad knee, so a 14 mile bike ride is not an option, so I did the patented Dave upstream/downstream paddle.

For a time, I was unsure which way was up. The Suwanee flows south and west, from the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia, to the Gulf. Out of the Spring Run, I turned right, north. Windblown waves negated the current, the sun behind thick clouds, I questioned my sense of direction for a time.

This section of the Suwanee is similar to the St Johns from Blue Springs to Hontoon Island in width. The latter has more wildlife.

I saw great blue herons, great egrets, kingfishers and anhingas.

A few turtles, no gators. I have yet to see my first Suwanee River manatee. I did see three Gulf sturgeon, and heard the loud SPLASH ! of many more as these large fish threw themselves out of the water. My last visit, I only saw one. Today,one of the three launched itself about 10 feet to starboard. I stayed near shore for three reasons, wind brake, avoid the occasional fast boat, and stay clear of 6 foot, 100 pound, bony fish. In recent years, several boaters on the Suwanee have bee injured by sturgeon. None of the victims were paddlers.

It took a bit over three hours to reach Fanning Springs State Park. As I approached, I saw the first and only kayak of the day. I paddled up narrow, shallow run,

To Little Fanning Springs. Or at least close to it. The fifth picture on this report is what I think is Little Fanning. A circular basin, clear water flowing from a tangle of cypress roots. But, my prime Springs info source, Springs Fever states "water flows from the base of a limestone bank". Perhaps there is more than once source. I did see a gauge just over the roots, perhaps that was in the actual spring.

I had no issues identifying Fanning Springs. A short, deep run ends at a floating dock. Boats can tie up. Kind of high for a yakker with a bad wheel, so I stepped into the water and pulled the yak up. An alternate paddler landing is a bit upstream on the Suwanee. It requires a bit of a walk to the Spring. This Friday afternoon, with only six people at the Spring, and no boats, there was plenty room for the yak and I.

Here is a picture from a dive platform above the Spring.

I have underwater pics, but none too great. As I snorkeled, it seemed as if there was a lot more algae covering the limestone walls and outcrops of Fanning Spring. Looking at pictures from my May, 2007 visit, there is more.

After a sandwich, I was back in the yak for the downstream paddle back to Manatee Springs. With the wind in my face, it seemed like I was going upstream. I took a break at the Andrews Wildlife Management Area Dock.

The dock is much to high for a kayak, but a staircase goes up the bluff to a covered picnic table grill, and hiking trail head. Before hiking, study the kiosk for hunting dates. No hunts in May.

Here, the bluff is sand, other parts of the River have limestone banks.

8 hours and 16 miles after setting out, I returned to Manatee Springs.

After putting the yak on the car,as the deer watched, I snorkeled the Spring.

Manatee Springs has miles of hiking trails. I strolled the short, 0.6 mile Sinks Trail. Saw another deer. Two more on the side of the Park Drive as I exited at 7:45. Eight deer for the day. Perhaps a name change is in order.
A fine day, despite battling the wind, and rain- three downpours on the upstream paddle. Still beats work- and this was a paid vacation day.
Here is my Green Waave Forum version of the trip.


WaveRunners said...

I enjoyed your blog and photos. I especially liked the turtle under water. I have not been able to get close enough to them to get a good pic since I am on the water. I have seen quiet a few manatee. Keep going back. It's a great place.

Dave said...

Thanks. Just slow down when you see paddlers. Or better yet, trade in those things for a couple of kayaks.:)