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.
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.
Here is the mandatory turtle pic
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 !"