Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Monday, July 28, 2008

Rock Springs Run

Paddled Rock Springs Run this morning, July 28, 2008. In at 7:30 am, out at 10:30 am.

I followed a turkey family half way down the hill to the launch, two adults, a couple "teens"- bigger than the remaining 5 or 6 chicks. Too bad the camera was in a bag, not around my neck.

A nice morning. Saw green, blue, yellow crowned night, great blue herons, great egrets, ibis, limpkins, osprey, swallow tailed kites, turtles, and two alligators. Here are some of them.

I turned around at the spot where remnants of a logging road cross the Run, upstream of Indian Mound, not quite to Big Buck. Early paddles are the way to go in the summer. Beat the heat and avoid the rain. Here, turtles take advantage.

A great blue heron extends its solar panels.

I don't know why they do this. My guess is to dry, but perhaps its a mating thing. If anyone knows, post a comment.
I had the water to myself almost up to the time I returned to Wekiwa Springs State Park. Saw no mammals, other than squirrels. It has been a while since I've seen a deer along the Run. I know they are out there. I've seen them in the Park, twice since my last water view, and a reader has told me she has seen them during her trips.
I will not have the opportunity to see any this weekend, as I won't be kayaking. In Florida.
Family vacation to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I'd rather go to Wisconsin, but will make do. I 've found a local yak shop close to our location in Duck, so I will be getting out. May be able to post a written report, but no pictures until Sunday, August 10.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Haulover Canal

There are many ways to determine whether a kayaking excursion was enjoyable. I mean, more enjoyable, even more special than usual. One way is number of pictures taken. When I plugged the camera into the computer late today, Sunday, July 27, 2008, and press "download photos" it informed me I had taken 104 pictures. Usually I need some snorkeling shots to get that high.

But on a day when I had the Trifecta in the first twenty minutes, and Mullet Head Island hosted a diverse variety of birds, photo opportunities abounded.

As often is the case, a dolphin patrolled the waters of the Indian River just off the put in at the northeast corner of Haulover Canal. By the time I launched at 10:30, it moved on. As I paddled into the River, two manatees surfaced in a bay on by right. I paddled toward them, they headed into the River. I saw them surface a couple more times as I headed to the Mullet Head Island bird sanctuary.

The island was full. Pelicans, ibis, spoonbills, tri colored herons, reddish egrets, snowy egrets, great egrets, great blue herons, cormorants, black crowned night herons, all squawking, honking, whistling. I did not expect such a sight and sound on a summer day. More tri colored herons than I have ever seen in one place. Because it is a Sanctuary, boaters must keep back, so I can't do justice to the scene. Here is a reddish egret in the foreground, with at least 10 more herons, egrets and ibis in the background.

All those birds caught the interest of an alligator who floated off the northeast corner of the Island. I had the Trifecta-Dolphin, Manatee and Alligator. With an asterisk, as the dolphin was spotted from land. That would change soon enough.

Here is a rosette spoonbill.

I circled Mullet Head, returning to the corner where I saw the alligator. It was now on the other side of the spit of land where cormorants, herons and pelicans stood. The gator was to far away for a picture, but I tried anyway.

I paddled back to the Canal, thinking about all I had seen in 45 minutes, lost in the moment, not paying close attention to the water immediately in front of me, when the yak ran aground, or rather ran amanatee. A gentle rub, it rolled away, we went our separate ways.

If you've been reading Dave's Yak Tales for a while, you know I did not enter the Canal, but the alternate channel to the south. If you are a new visitor, welcome aboard ! In the channel, I could get bird closeups, a juvenile ibis (not yet all white) and tri-colored heron.

The end of the channel, a cove where it meets the Canal lived up to the name I have bestowed upon it.

"Dolphin Cove" I could remove the * from the Trifecta.

Next stop, Bairs Cove. I saw a manatee eastbound as I entered the area. I lingered a bit, saw just one manatee. Right in the middle of the Cove- which is a basin with an active boat ramp. I told an incoming boater to look out- of course the manatee did not surface. I had to settle for a great egret photo.

Next stop, the Manatee Overlook. Under the drawbridge and across the canal. On the way, the leader of half a dozen yakers said they saw a manatee. Likely the one I had seen headed east.

At the Overlook, people looked over the railing, and saw no manatees. I know that manatees often lay in the shade, just east of the Overlook. Two did so today. One with a horrific new propeller scar.

I assume its new, from the blood. I moved on, passing two greats,

blue heron and egret, that is, before exiting the Canal through an opening on the left, north side. As usual, a fishing boat was anchored, and as usual, manatees were nearby. I paddled about, then exited another opening, back to the Canal and into Mosquito Lagoon. Still more manatees. An unsuccessful angler thought they were scaring away fish. I think high noon in July may not be the best time to be fishing. Other anglers eyed the water for a catch.

I paddled north, away from the distant launch towers, and left the main part of the Lagoon into a sheltered are behind a line of spoil islands. "Spoil" being the detritus of digging the Inter Coastal Waterway, or ICW. Additions to the day's bird list. Green heron and belted kingfisher. Back into the Canal via the same opening I came through earlier. The manatees were still there. Passing between the boat and shore, so not to run over lines, I tapped my PFD, and said, "I always make sure its tightly fastened having run over manatees on more than one occasion in this spot". They chuckled. My statement is true, the opening is narrow, people are always fishing, manatees like the area, and it can lead to yak rocking. No incident today.

I went back to the Overlook. The scarred sea cow was still there. This one followed me as I drifted.

Back to Bairs Cove, where several manatees frolicked.

This egret peered in for a closer look.

With a flick of a fluke, I departed.

Back to Dolphin Cove. The first picture is from this visit. Here's another.

Picture, same dolphin. Paddled out of the Canal, passing a snowy egret,

Into the Indian River, more manatees and another dolphin.

made one more trip to Mullet Head Island.

I landed at 3 pm, seeing a dolphin on the way in. 4.5 hours on the water. An easy day as much of the time was spent sitting and watching. Yesterday, I closed by quoting Mick. Today, Neil seems appropriate.

Big birds flying across the sky, throwing shadows on our eyes.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Ocklawaha River

Paddled a new route today, Saturday July 26, 2008. The Oklawaha River. Attentive readers pause thinking, "wait buddy, I've read about the Oklawaha on Dave's Yak Tales". You are correct, but only as a brief add on to Silver River trips.

The Ock begins in the Harris Chain of Lakes, in Lake County, flowing north out Lake Griffin, 110 miles north, then east to its confluence with the St Johns.

The flow was impeded in the mid 1960's when the "Cross Florida Barge Canal" project began with the building of a dam. The "lake" behind the dam covered forest, dozens of springs, and prevented migration of game fish and manatees from the St Johns, up the Ock, to the Silver River. Richard Nixon, in the second most important act of his Presidency ( my family knows the first, and it's not resigning) ended Federal support of the Canal project in 1971. Almost 40 years later, the dam remains. Here is an informative link on efforts to remove the dam and restore the entire Oclawaha River.


Speaking of links, there are not many good ones on paddling the Ock. The best (until now, he he) may be http://www.outpostresort.com/rivertrips.html

an outfitter that rents kayaks, canoes and provides shuttle service (for a fee). I can't forget my one of my favorite paddling sites, http://www.clubkayak.com/cfkt/trips/oklawaha_river.html,

but that link is not the paddle I did today, which was from Eureka, upstream to Gores Landing, and beyond and back. The best link was an email for a Dave's Yak Tale reader, who wrote she thought I'd like the Ock, and if she could paddle up and back from Eureka to Gores Landing, so could I.

With apologies to those who live there, Eureka is a spot on the map, the junction of Marion County Road 316 and the Ocklawaha River. I read that there are ramps on both sides of the River. Driving west from Salt Springs on US 19, I saw the a high bridge spanning the River. A road came out on my left. I turned, and drove to water's edge.

The above photo was taken at 4 PM. I put in at 7:30 am. Three pickups with trailers were parked, one angler launching just before me on the concrete ramp. I put in from the bank next to the cypress tree. The ramp area has no facilities, other than a trash can. As I drove in, a few miles east of the River I passed a large parking area. It appears to be a trailhead, perhaps for horses. It may have facilities. You may want to stop, to avoid going au naturel.

The current was fairly strong, as it is the flow of two Rivers, the Ock and the Silver. Stop paddling, you will go backwards. With the National Forest on the east bank and St Johns Water Management District land on the west, this is a 99.5 % wild paddle. The .05 is one house atop a bluff.

Maybe its the time of year, but I was not impressed by the variety of wildlife I saw. I was on the water an hour before I saw my first bird, a great blue heron. I heard small birds in the cypress forest, but could not see them. Here is the first alligator I saw, two miles into the paddle.

By the end of the day, I saw 10 gators. Bird inventory is blue and great blue herons, great and snowy egret, belted kingfisher, and ibis. Not much variety, nor great numbers. Could be the season. Summer is slow time for bird watching in Florida.

I sure this blue heron was happy he had little competition for his lunch.

Birds being scarce is bad, people in short supply, good. Upstream, I saw one group camping, and 4 or 5 anglers. Almost three hours into the paddle I saw my first fellow kayakers, coming downstream. Two groups, in canoes blazed with the Canoe OutPost logo followed, I must be getting near Gores Landing.

I thought Gores was on the left bank, and when I came to a spot on the right, with two landing areas, picnic tables, campers parked, I thought, this has to be something else, I could not have gone 8 plus miles already, and paddled on. After an hour, at 11:30, 4 hours after I began, I turned around. As a boater slowed to pass me, I asked "a dumb question" " Is Gores Landing on the left, about a mile , mile and a half downstream" " More like two"

I arrived, and had lunch beneath a fern and moss covered oak.

I was siting at a campsite. Most are close together, but two that I saw, are on the River bank. Only one was occupied. There is a restroom, with outdoor shower.

When I got home, I looked at a online map from the SJRWMD= St Johns River Water Management District. It has Gores printed on the left, east side of the River. So I'm not a complete idiot.

I left Gores at 12:45. The River continued to be uncrowded. If it had not been for a group of 3 couples in three boats that I saw four times, it would have been almost deserted. On a Saturday.

The largest gathering, by far, was here, including the above sextet.

The splash is from a young lady who swing into the River, on the rope that can be seen over the umbrella. The bank is high here, and someone built a platform, maybe 10 feet high for launching. The prior swinger did a full front flip in the air after letting go.

Here is the mandatory turtle pic

Another alligator

And, the ever popular alligator using turtle as pillow.


Great blue heron grooming.

Many descriptions of the Oklawaha quote a 19th century poet, Sidney Lanier, who called the Ock, "the sweetest water-lane in the world" As I paddled, I thought old Sid did't get out much, Weeki Wachee, Rock Springs Run, to name two, are "sweeter" to me. But, as I passed a smiling gator, smiling myself, I decided the Ock is pretty nice. I'll have to revisit in the fall, when the birds should be abundant. I hope to live long enough to see the dam breached. Manatees and monkeys on the Silver River. A lottery will have to be implemented or else it will be overrun with nature lovers.

I close paraphrasing a 20th century poet, who turned 65 today.

"I know, it's only kayaking, but I like it, like it, yes I do !"

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mosquito Lagoon

Sunday, July 20, 2008. Put in at Lot 7, Canaveral National Seashore at 9:37, finished about 2:00 pm. A scorcher. No afternoon clouds, as you can see from the above photo, taken at 1:40.

I paddled north to Bethune Park, then back south, past the put-in to Castle Windy. Maybe a 8 mile paddle ? I'm not sure. To my surprise, I did not see a dolphin all day.

As expected, I saw many manatees. The bulk of them at Bethune Park. Six, seven maybe eight in the cove off the Park's pier overlooking the Lagoon.

Also visible from the street. This is a good, and somewhat unknown, spot to see manatees. Unless you live in the neighborhood , and its a stop on your dog walk.

Birds observed were great blue and green herons, great egrets, ospreys, belted kingfishers, pelicans, cormorants, gulls and vultures.

Maybe I can sell this photo to a cell phone company. Or the Tavern League of Wisconsin. More Bars in More Places.

Here's an egret amongst the mangroves.

Just missed this one

This car in the parking lot brought back memories.

Last pic, another vehicle.

I told the driver I liked his use of available space. "Anything to avoid hitching up the trailer"