Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Ichetucknee River

Sub title: Spring Into Fall

Today, Saturday, October 25, 2008, I made the 150 mile trip to Ichnetucknee Springs State Park, for my Fall Ich paddle. Fall and Spring are the times to yak this beautiful River. Summer is overwhelmed with tubers, Winter, the days are too short. But, if I get out of bed at 4:50 am like this morning, a Winter visit is feasible. This morning, looking at the clock, I said to myself, if I'm up, I may as well get going. I was on the water at 8:00 am. I could have got out sooner, but I drove the last 15 miles at, or below the speed limit, as State Parks do not open until 8. But, the gate at the "Last Takeout" was open when I arrived. Perhaps more important, so were the restrooms.

So, I took off bright and early, as did this great blue heron.

A few minutes later, three, maybe four deer in the forest on my left. To far away to get a photo.

This flock of turkeys, at Coffee Springs, were within range. I had to poke the lens through the fence that protects the Spring. A snail, found no where else, resides here.

The weather was relatively cool, overcast. A light drizzle fell off and on. I paddled against a good current. Other than a pair of snorkelers, I saw no one until I was almost at the end of my paddle, the start of the River just outside Ichnetucknee Spring. And that was just three people. A short paddle, maybe three miles, it took about 2 hours with side trips to explore on the way up.

Devil's Eye Springs.

Great Egret

A short paddle, with a grand view at the end.

I walked down the stone staircase, entered the Spring, getting the underwater view.

Ichetucknee Springs is one of two swimable springs in the land portion of the State Park. The other, Blue Hole, is accessed via a 1/2 mile boardwalk and dirt trail. Getting there is half the fun.

Aquatic life at Blue Hole Spring.

I was at the Park 90 minutes and saw 4 people, on a Park employee.

I took less than two hours to go downstream, and I was barely paddling. Here are some of the birds seen.

And deer, three at Midpoint Landing.

Porous limestone, shown here, underlies Central and North. Underground water seeps through, and Dave has a place to paddle.

I went past my launch point, paddling just out of the Park, but seeing the water rushing between the bridges, turned back.

See the white area in front of the acrched bridge ? That's fast moving water. Would have been fun going down, coming back not so much.

Last time I did paddle down the rest of the Ich, into the Santa Fe River for a while and back. The previous trip, I put in the Santa Fe at Highway 27, and explored several Springs, Poe, Lily and Rum. That is by far the better thing to do. But this time, I decided to do something different. Travel a bit out of the way and visit Springs on the Suwannee River, that I've read about but never visited.

Before I left, I had to take a picture of this car.

A lot to like, from the Share The Road plate, to the Save Three Sisters Springs sticker (in the center). What clinched it was the Motion W on the window. Two Badgers, paddling the Ichnetucknee.

Speaking of Madison, the Spring I wanted to visit, Troy Spring, has the remains of a Confederate steamboat, the "Madison" at the bottom of the Run. As I had not planned this visit, I was not sure exactly where Troy Springs State Park was, other than near the Town of Branford. So west I drove on US 27. A bike path parallels 27 from Ich State Park to Branford. At Branford, the bike path goes north on State Road 129. I knew a spring was near the terminus of the bike trail.

Sure enough, I saw a sign for Little River Spring. About a mile west off 129.

Little River Spring from above. A wooden staircase takes visitors from a top the bluff to the Spring.

View from shore, Suwannee River in background.

Looking back from the River. I snorkeled, but the camera-which is two generations old, in a case not built for it, no view screen, was giving me trouble. I was the only one in the water at this Suwannee County Park. Other folks were there, and I got directions to Troy Springs. Back to Branford, west about 4 miles, follow the signs.

A zig zag concrete ramp traverses the bluff to the Spring.

Which is spectacular. A deep, wide hole, lots of limestone formations.

Good thing I got the camera to work.

Remains of the Madison, scuttled by her skipper in the Spring Run in 1863 so not to fall into Union hands.

I shared the Spring with two scuba divers. If you are in the area, this is a must visit. My next visit was to Ruth Spring. I had seen a sign on the way to Troy Spring, so I asked a family leaving Troy how to get there. "Out of here, turn, then maybe the fifth dirt road ?" I found it, eventually. After a tour of the Troy Springs Conservation Area, driving a maze of dirt trails in property managed by the Suwannee River Water Management District. A couple on a motor cycle pointed me in the right direction. Quite the secluded spring. The only people there, the family I met at Troy Spring.

No amenities here. Nice rock structure, than a very shallow run. So much so turtles kick up sediment.

One spring to go, Branford Spring. I got back on 27, drove into Branford. A city park, Ivey Memorial, is on the southeast side of the Suwannee. I saw picnic tables, boat ramps, no spring. I asked at the gas station across the street. "It's at the entrance, down the steps." A ha. Just off a parking lot that had a chain across the entrance. I parked nearby and walked down the steps.

Too murky for photography. Other than this shot from above.

Reflecting on the day, a paddle on the Ichnetucknee, multiple deer sightings, snorkel six springs, including four new ones. Troy Springs is well worth a detour after the Ich. Little River is also worth a visit.

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