Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Rock Springs Run

I was back at Wekiwa Springs State Park this last day of August, 2008. The weather forecast had a 60% chance of showers in all directions 100 miles from Winter Park. So, I stayed close to home, got a pre 7:00 am start and got a four hour paddle in. It is now 1:30 pm, overcast and windy. I made the right decision.

As I dragged the kayak down the hill, I saw the line in the sand I had left dragging it up last night. I had a second reason to visit Wekiwa Spring, see if the manatee I saw on Thursday was present. I walked around the Spring, did not see or hear it. To the yak, and into the lagoon, where an alligator floated near the left bank. I made the easy paddle down the Wekiva to Rock Springs Run. There is one post Fay barrier, a downed tree crossing the River. Today, and yesterday, it was a matter of powering over it. As the water level falls, it will become an issue unless/until it is removed. On the other hand, if Hannah arrives......

Paddling up the Run, I heard, then briefly saw a deer on the right side, the first one I've see on Rock Springs Run in a couple months. I later heard, but did not see, two more.

I wrote yesterday about seeing the guys who worked to clear the Run of downed trees. The barricade in the top photo must have toppled overnight. The view is the return, downstream view. I had to duck low to get under, losing hat and sunglasses in the process. I do not know if a canoe could fit. Perhaps if the paddlers lie on the deck. This is just before the big hollow cypress tree, Run left headed upstream.

Usually my Rock Springs Run trips take me to a least the end of the State Park property. Today, with the Fay swollen current, I turned back after two hours, about 20 minutes upstream of the Big Buck campsite. Here is where I came about.

My Tales from yesterday, and last Saturday, have photos of the Buffalo Tram campsite on the Wekiva. Rock Springs has three primitive campsites. The next view is coming out of Big Buck, looking towards the Run.

The last time I had this view was my first time paddling this far on Rock Springs Run. In the spring of 2005, when the water level was high after the 2004 hurricanes.

Next, Indian Mound campsite.

Pre Fay, one has to scramble up a root lined, 2-3 foot high bank. Today, I just slid the yak on shore.

As I paddled, I noticed the Run smelled different than usual. An organic aroma. Soggy, decaying vegation, I thought. Getting out of the yak a Indian Mound I saw what was causing the stench.

Dozens of dead pan fish. I guess pools, with no Run access were created as the water level receded, the pools dried up, and now dead fish litter the shore.

Mosquitoes are another unpleasant result of Fay. Lots of the bloodsuckers, which usually are not a problem. I have to go back to the early 1990's to recall the last time I was irritated by mosquitoes on the Wekiva River and Rock Springs Run. Deer flies are the usual biting insect.

Here is the final campsite, Otter Camp.

Highest and driest of all.

I spotted to alligators as I came down the Run, one big, one small. Both quickly moved off the log each was on as I approached. I would not have got a pic even had my camera's view screen not died yesterday. In order to get some decent pictures, I removed the camera from the waterproof case, so I could at least look thorough the view finder. Here are a few pics after that decision.



First people I saw in 3.5 hours. They, and a later group asked how far to Rock Springs. "Farther than you can paddle, nine miles, four and a half hours in normal conditions"

And conditions are not "normal".


I also saw blue, great blue, and green herons, belted kingfishers, wood ducks and vultures.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Wekiva River

I went to Wekiwa Springs State Park this afternoon, Saturday, August 30, 2008. I worked in the morning, so was not on the water until just before 1:00 am. Which was to bad, as it rained almost the entire 5 hours I was on the water. That explains the water spots on the photos. Not just rain affected my photography. The LCD monitor died, so I had no idea what mode I was in or whether the subject was centered, or even if, after pushing the button, I got a photo.

As I shoved off, I asked a canoe wrangler if any manatees will still around. He replied one had been in the Spring early in the morning. I headed down the Wekiva, hoping to see one. The water level has gone down about a foot since last Saturday, but is still very high. The top photo is the Buffalo Tram campsite. Last week, no grass was visible, but you still can't pitch a tent or build a fire.

I paddled downriver two hours, than turned back. I did not see any of the wayward manatees that have taken advantage of the record high water level to visit Wekiwa Spring. Which doesn't mean they were not present. With rain pelting down obscured the chance to see air bubbles, or other sign of submerged manatee. The rain also kept reptiles hidden. No turtles or alligators.

I did see lots of birds. Great numbers of blue herons. Many tricolored herons. Also great egrets, anhingas, limpkins, green herons, belted kingfishers, ibis, yellow crowned night heron, and vultures.

Here are the "best" of the bird photos, limpkin and tri colored heron.

A silver lining on this cloudy day was very few people were on the water. A grand total of 6 boats in five hours. The last two, as I ate some chicken near the confluence of the Wekiva and Rock Springs Run. The first of the two was a small, noisy motor boat. coming down the Run. A few minutes behind, a canoe from Kings Landing. "Must have sucked to be behind that thing", I said. "They were clearing the way " If, by chance the guys in those boats are reading this, thank you. Hard work to clear the Run from post Fay debris on such a rainy day. I did see fresh saw marks.

Just as last week, the Run was swifter than usual. The current felt even more powerful, that was likely due to the fact I had been paddling over 3.5 hours before I started up the Run.

I landed at the almost deserted State Park at 6:20. All the rain sent most people home. Just three other folks were in the Spring. The manatee I saw Thursday about this time, 7 pm, did not make a return visit while I was there. I may visit early tomorrow, just to see if the manatee are still visiting.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Manatee in Wekiwa Spring

I took place in an historic event today, Thursday, August 28, 2008. Not the Democratic National Convention. Even more historic. Not Brett Favre preparing to play for some team other than the Green Bay Packers. Even rarer. I swam near a manatee in Wekiwa Spring.

I am glad I grabbed the local section of the Orlando Sentinel after finishing the sports pages at lunch. Or I would have missed this article.

The printed page had a picture, the web link does not. After reading, I knew where I was going after work.

I arrived at the Park, and walked down the steps to the Spring. Hoping for a chance to see a manatee where they have not been spotted in generations. After reading the article, I assumed swimming would not be allowed, but had the snorkel gear in the car just in case. As I got closer, I saw a group of 15-20 people standing on the concrete deck overlooking the Spring vent. A couple folks were in the water. And, from the loud conversation, so was a manatee. I did not see it, but dashed up the stairs, got on my swim trunks, grabbed the snorkel gear, and hurried back to the Spring. But, just as I was about to go in, a ranger came and instructed those in the water to get out. So sat on the edge, hoping for a glimpse. Which was difficult, as I my glasses were on a bench with the rest of my stuff. After awhile, I got up to get my glasses. Back to the edge, I commented to a gentleman in a wetsuit that noisy kids playing on the steps were as loud as a motor boat, keeping the manatee submerged. He agreed, saying if people had kept quiet, the ranger may not have come down. Eventually, I saw air bubbles, but no manatee. Finally, I saw it, just a brief look at the snout as it came up for air.

The manatee was in the center of the pool. The ranger eased the no swim ban, saying we could swim around the rim of the Spring pool, but if the manatee approached, we would have to get out.

So I began to snorkel. The water was a bit cloudy from the recent record rainfall. I could not see the manatee as I circled the pool. A second lap, and I saw it. I took a few pictures, but distance, cloudy water, and late hour conspired against me. As did the ranger, who told me to move away as the Spring flow pushed me towards the manatee. I gave the ranger a thumbs up, and moved closer to the edge. I made another lap and a half, but did not see the manatee again. It must have swam out of the pool into the Lagoon area, as a few folks were back swimming in the middle of the Spring pool.

Earlier this year, I wrote about seeing a manatee near Katies Landing. That manatee made it as far as the State Road 46 Bridge http://davesyaktales.blogspot.com/2008/04/wonderous-wekiva.html

That seacow was 10 miles downstream of the Spring, and was a rare sighting. A manatee in the Spring is something never seen,as far as I know, in recorded history. If you have read more than three Tales on this site, you know I see manatees often, and have had the opportunity to get close. But to see one in my "home " Spring, above water, in the water, in the center of the State of Florida, was special, even if I do not have a photo to post.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Haulover Canal

I worked from 3:00 to 7:00 today, August, 25 2008, so I took advantage and paddled the Haulover Canal this morning. On the way, via Highway 50, I saw how much rain Fay dumped on, and in, the lower St Johns River. Yesterday, I crossed the River on 520 on the way out, the BeeLine on the way back, so I've had three perspectives. It will take a long time for all that water to drain out of the surrounding lowlands, pasture, marshes, and head toward Jacksonville.

My usual put in on the northeast side of the Canal was closed. A gate crossing the dirt road, first time I've seen that. There is a sign at the entrance "If Littering Continues, The Area Will Be Closed For 30 Days " Was it closed for that reason, or was the road washed out, or did a Federal employee not wake up ? Later, I asked some anglers at the launch how the road was, they said fine. Dedicated, they parked and walked. I put in at the other side, near the Bairs Cove Ramp. A tour group from a local outfit, A Day Away Tours, was at the same spot, guide on his phone, directing guests to the new put in. I got set to go, grabbed the sunscreen, which wasn't there. Oh well, I'll only be out a couple hours, how red can I get ?

I headed out, reached for my watch, forgot that too. I'd use the tour group as my watch, figuring they had a two hour tour. My tour began at the manatee hangout, Bairs Cove. None made their prescience known. I headed west, towards the Indian River, past a great blue heron, snowy egret, and great egret.

Into the Indian River, a dolphin broke the surface to my left. More dolphins ahead, as I made way to Mullet Head Island.

This pic, and the opener, are that pod.

High water affects bird life. I usually see waders, herons, egrets, on Mullet Head. Today, the only waders were ibis. Lots of roosting divers, cormorants and pelicans.

The white fluff is a baby pelican. I need to take time to learn the video function on my camera. More for sound than movies. The cacophony raised by the cormorants was interesting.

Here is the usual Mullett Head bird perched on Refuge sign shot, this time an osprey.

I paddled back to the Canal, no boats as you can see.

As usual, I did not enter the Canal from the perspective in the photo, but from the channel to the north, right in this view. Saw another dolphin. Along with another indication of highwater, a low limestone, tree covered barrier between the main canal and my route. In normal conditions, the limestone is much higher.

No dolphins in "Dolphin Cove", nor manatees in Bairs Cove. On the the Manatee Overlook, where, after waiting, I saw a manatee raise its fluke. On towards the Mosquito Lagoon, where, in the cut leading to the protected bay like area, another dolphin hunted.

Again, deeper than usual water was a factor, this area is usually quite shallow, this dolphin was further in the area than I have seen in my four years visiting Haulover Canal.

I paddled on, exiting back into the Canal from another cut, into the Mosquito Lagoon, around and island, the first of a string that go on to the north, back into the sheltered bay. The dolphin was gone, but a manatee surfaced in the same area. Meanwhile, two manatees came up loudly in the canal, spray blowing from of their noses, flukes raised high, backs arched, as the were in a hurry to get somewhere. This great blue heron, on the other hand, was patient.

I kayaked back to the Overlook, and saw a manatee. Got a picture, barely, but since I have good photos from yesterday at 1000 Islands, I won't post it. I also saw the tour group for the first time since I put in. They landed, I went to Bairs Cove. Again, no manatees seen. I went on the Dolphin Cove, into the Canal a bit, than back to Bairs. It is the rare occasion that I don't see manatees here, and on the fourth visit today, I saw one. Also this bird duo.

Here's a close up of the reddish egret.

I had a nice two hours on the water, which is plenty of time for a bright, red sunburn. The SPF 30 was on the kitchen counter, where it had fallen out of the cooler.

Hopefully I'll have is Saturday afternoon, when I'll be yaking again, after working the a.m. to make up for today's short day.

A final photo.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

1000 Islands, Cocoa Beach

Not to be confused with Ten Thousand Islands, Everglades.

Counting the North Carolina trip, I have four consecutive weekends of new paddling places for Dave's Yak Tales. This was my second visit to the 1000 Islands, located on the Banana River in Cocoa Beach, off A1A, just south of the Minuteman Causeway. I paddled it in March 2006. Today, Sunday, August 24, 2008 I made it back.

The boat ramp is at a park on the end of the appropriately named Ramp Road. I parked next to a concrete ramp, and walked to the restrooms. On the way, I passed a second, smaller concrete ramp, with a dock underwater. The restrooms appear to be permanently closed, so as I did a Who's Next homage behind the building I spotted the kayak launch. A cut in the mangroves with an astroturf ramp. Which was completely underwater. If you don't know, Cocoa Beach is in Brevard County, which was pummeled all week by Tropical Storm Fay. Lots of dry palm fronds down near the ramp. Here's a picture of the launch.

As I put in, I heard the distinctive, "Pheeww" of a surfacing manatee. I did not see it. Due to manatees, the entire 1000 Islands are a year round no wake area. The Islands were formed thousands of years ago, and mosquito control projects in the 1960's cut canals in the area. Perfect for paddling.

A marked channel, green and red day posts, passes the ramp. I took it north and east, famiarlizing myself with the area. Off the marked waterway a maze of mangrove islands waits to be explored. Homes line part of the north side of this channel. Fortunately, plans for more development of the area has been quashed.

Wading birds like the picture great blue and tri colored heron roost in the mangroves.

I paddled to a spot where a channel intersected the route I was taking. Manatees were in the intersection. Two are visible in the first photo. My last couple of manatee posts I had to apologize for poor photos. Not today.

One of the group decided to check me out. It pushed the yak for a while, than swam back and forth underneath the hull, coming up for a taste.

Eventually, the sea elephant sought more interesting companions, and waved goodbye.

I followed the manatees, at a distance, back the way I came. After a while, the disappeared. I returned to the ramp, dropping off four glass bottles I retrieved from the water. Then back in the yak, this time south bound. Large condos or apartments line the west shore, but you can soon enter the mangrove maze and think you are in the middle of the Everglades or other wild location.

I entered the open water of the Banana River, hoping to add a dolphin to my manatee sighting. I did not see any.

Nor did I see the mantee(s) that surfaced below my kayak, raising it high out of the water, dropping it with a tremendous splash. I just griped my paddle and enjoyed the ride. As it was happened, I thought, this one could capsize me. It did not, but this is why I always wear a lifejacket. This is not the first time I've had a manatee surface below me. From the duration, splash, size of the wake as it, they swam away just below the surface, it had to be more than one. I provide entertainment for a father and son fishing . "How's your kayak ?" "Wet !"

After that open water thrill, I sought the sancturary of the mangroves. I do not think a canoe could make it through this tunnel.

Unless the paddler got off the seat and sat on the bottom. In a different mangrove maze I think I saw an alligator. I was focused on an osprey, but saw something floating at the entrance of another narrow cut in the mangroves. Could be a gator, I'll have to look closer after this picture, I thought.

When I turned around, the object was gone, but air bubbles floated to the surface. Pretty sure is was an alligator.

The mangrove islands can be confusing, this steeple is a good navigational aid.

It's close to the ramp area, which I passed, looking for more manatees.

I found two, in a residential canal, and observed them from a distance. "Leave them alone ! " an unseen voice rang out. Sounded like the classic mean old lady whose yard is foul territory because no one has the guts to get the ball out of her garden. As I was leaving them alone, I continued my observation, noting all the docks have power boats. I think Mrs Grumpy should be more concerned about her neighbors, but it is always good to see, or in this case hear, someone with a passion for manatees.

I spent about 4.5 hours on the water. The 1000 Islands are a great paddle, open water to narrow mangrove tunnels, lots of wildlife. I need to visit more than once every 31 months.

There is also a post on the Green Wave Forum.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Fay, Fay, Go Away !

I saw something today, Saturday, August 23, 2008, that I had not seen since Monday. Sun and blue skies. Tropical Storm Fay surrounded the Orlando/Winter Park area all week. First, coming in from the southwest on Tuesday, crossing the state south of here, than camping out for two days off the Brevard County coast. It began to move again Thursday afternoon, heading northwest. It rained almost non-stop since Tuesday. Thursday afternoon brought the worst for my location. Winds steady at 25 mph, gusting to 40. Lots of small branches, and the occasional large limb scattered about. But, Fay is finally moving away, northwest towards the Panhandle. So last night I searched for places where the weather may be suitable to paddle. But even going as far away as Jupiter and Jonathan Dickinson State Park to the southeast, and Sarasota and Myakka River State Park to the southwest, rain chances still were 50%. Locally, the forecast called for a 60% chance of showers. I decided to stay close to home and go the Wekiwa Springs State Park. If I got wet, I'd have a short drive home.

When I open the garage early this morning, I saw the moon, the clouds were finally breaking up. I put in at Wekiwa just before 7:00.

The drag to the launch was twenty five- thirty yards shorter than normal. Usually there's another ten yards of dry land in front of the trash receptacle and kiosk. The River was all the way up to and beneath the rental shack.

I cast off, seeing the boardwalk from the launch beach to the spring underwater, the footbridge separating the swim area from the paddling area above water, barely.

Downstream towards Rock Springs Run, I had to maneuver around a couple downed trees. The River, normally clear close to the Spring, was brown from runoff after four days of relentless rain. Also wide, spreading into the adjacent forest. I reached Rock Springs Run, also brown water. The current was not as swift as I expected. Water very high. I could not see a landmark, a sandbar, run right, protected by a wall of logs. All underwater.

My intent was to go upstream just past the campsites, than turn back. As I passed the 2 miles to Kings Landing Takeout sign (from the opposite direction) the current picked up. Instead of spreading across a broad area, the Run was being funneled in a narrow area. I still hoped to get to Big Buck and beyond. However, I came to a downed tree, just downstream of the Otter Campground. I saw a section of vines that perhaps I could force my way through, but decided against it. I decided to come about and go with the flow.

I had been out for a hour when I made the turn.

I saw limpkins, and more osprey than usual on the Run. More water than usual to find fish. As I paddled, I noticed something. Or rather, the lack of something. No high water marks on the trees. The Run was higher than the high water mark.

Back to the Wekiva, I followed it downstream. This great blue heron posed on a downed tree just upstream of the bridge before Wekiva Marina.

Years ago, I ate at the restaurant in this building, Alexanders. It closed after a fire. Perhaps it could have used the high water back then.

Canoes and the rental office at the Marina were inundated.

Turtles have their own homestead.

At 9:30, I paddled past the large, ancient shell mound. Today, the rope swing was this high.

August of 2007, this high.

I paddled past,thinking I'd take a break at the Buffalo Tram campsite, should it be empty. I don't know what I was thinking, after seeing the Shell Mound so low. Buffalo Tram was empty of campers, but full of River.

Last visit, the sign was well back of the bank. I paddled over the campground, I looked for the fire ring, but could not locate it in the dark water.

A trail, wide enough for Park service vehicles to traverse, leads away from the campsite. A good place to stretch your legs.

Today, you would have been wet to mid thigh. I headed up the trail for five minutes, until coming to downed limbs in the water/trail way. Beyond the obstacle the water was still navigable, but I reversed course. The Wekiva flowed deep into the palm and oak hammock, its amazing what four plus days of rain can do.

I left Buffalo Tram rejoining the "regular" channel of the Wekiva.

Here is the sign, from behind. Remember, it usually is set back 10-15 yards from the River.

With the Wekiva overflowing its banks, I explored places I have not been before, off the main channel. Back to the Shell Mound, I took a break on high dry ground. I packed the loaf of bread bag that held my sandwich and cookies with beer bottles and cans as I left.

I thought after four days of no sun, I would see more alligators. On the other hand, favorite sunning perches were underwater. I did see five, heard a sixth. Here are three.

And, the day's bird gallery.

Blue heron, limpkin, tri colored heron.

I saw two other paddlers, or four. Four guys in two canoes from the Wekiva Marina. Seems they opened for business despite the high water.

Motor boats are docked below the roof behind the blue walkway. The usual egress is beneath the boardwalk. They may stay docked awhile.

The first picture was taken as I paddled towards the Marina. At 11:30 on Saturday, the section between the Marina and the State Park is normally packed with paddlers. Today, none. I figured the Park was not letting people go out. I figured correctly. Not only was the rental concession closed, but as I returned, I saw yellow tape and signs announcing the shoreline and spring were closed. They had not been there when I put in.

This is a rare photo, looking at the empty Spring pool at 11:53 am on an August Saturday.

Here is how it usually looks on a weekend, this one, Sunday, May 28, 2008.

The lawn sure is greener today. I landed, gave two Park rangers a report on the conditions, then dragged the yak up the hill and tied it to the roof.

A swim would have been welcome, but as mentioned above, the Spring and entire shoreline was closed.
There are 5-6 submerged steps between the railings.
I had a fascinating paddle at my favorite, and home, venue. It was good to stay dry. Nothing like an early start. Out before 7, in just before noon. Its been raining most of the afternoon as I've been composing this Tale. I'll have to do another weather.com search to determine where I'll go tomorrow.