Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Santa Fe Springs Break

February's final paddle came on the Santa Fe River. The Santa Fe River has appeared on the Tales before, in conjunction with kayaking the Ichetucknee River. Today was the first exclusive Santa Fe River kayaking adventure since the inception of Dave's Yak Tales in October , 2007. I need to define "exclusive... kayaking adventure". The day continued with visits to snorkel Troy and Ichtucknee Springs. I'll get to that later.

This trip matches Myakka River State Park for the longest drive from yakdave HQ. About 150 miles. I left just after 6 am, the above photo of Rum Springs, just downstream of where I launched, was taken at 8:45.

The Santa Fe River is known for its many springs. The largest concentration are in a 10 mile stretch between US 27 and State Highway 47. I paddled that stretch, up from 47, and back, in April, 2007, BDYT. Before Dave's Yak Tales. From that trip, along with reading more about the Santa Fe, viewing maps, and a brief visit up and back from 27 in October, 2007,

http://davesyaktales.blogspot.com/2007/10/ichetucknee-and-santa-fe.html, I knew that most of the Springs are within a few miles in either direction of Columbia County's Rum Island Park.
Which has a boat ramp. Ever better, a dirt area in front of the "Boat Trailer Parking Only" area.

Saves wear and tear on the bottom.

Rum Springs is on the north side of the River. I paddled by a group camping. I don't think camping is allowed on Rum Island, I assume they were just outside the park, on unposted riverfront land. "Unposted" means no "No Trespassing" or "Private Property" signs. Such signs are present on the south bank, just downstream of Rum Island, for Blue Springs Park and campgrond, a private facility. Admission, $10.00 I paddled past,and soon saw the first tents at Ginnie Springs.

Ginne Springs is a Spring, one of seven on the property along south side of the Santa Fe, a campground with (I think) 200 sites, a world class dive destination and a place for local yokels to get drunk and stupid. I think I visited 6 of the 7 springs, plus one, July across the River. No picture from the kayak was as good as the one from Rum Island Spring.

So, I got in the water to further explore the first three springs, Devil's Ear, Devil's Eye, and Little Devil.

The tanks were near a stair case leading to the Little Devil. Why they were there, I don't know. I'll guess a class was in progress and students were using different tanks. O2 instead of nitrox, perhaps. Like Blue Springs, Ginnie has a $10 admission fee. From land. I anchored in the River, downstream of the Devils, then snorkeled up River.

It was difficult swimming against the force of three springs. Devil's Ear, in the River channel is a first magnitude Spring. Once I snorkeled over it, it got very cold. I was outside the 72 degree spring water and in cooler River water. I found warmth, and headed up the run past Devil's Eye to Little Devil, which is the jagged crack. These guys have no problem with cold, or going upstream with their James Bond-like motor things.

As seen in "Thunderball". Underwater action filmed at Silver Springs. My snorkeling was done after I had reached the end of the Ginnie Springs property and turned around. It took me a while to find a good spot to anchor, as the current was swift and I did not want to trespass. As evidenced by hte above photos, I was successful.

I got back in the yak, continued upstream, back towards Rum Island.

div>I entered the run leading to Blue Springs.

A lovely first magnitude Spring. Obvious how it got the name. Three other springs are on the property. I saw runs likely leading to two, but they were impassable. The run to Blue is a quarter mile, so unless you swim a long way, you need to pay the $10 entry fee. This is the run on the way out. The boardwalk extends to the Santa Fe.

Closeup. With belted kingfisher.

I paddled up River for 45 minutes.

To Poe Spring. This is the short run from Poe to the Santa Fe. In October 2007, the limestone was underwater.

Poe is in a Alachua County Park. $4 entry, but I have read they don't mind paddlers stopping by for a short visit. The spring is cloudy, but I saw a turtle.

I ate lunch at this dock along the Santa Fe.

One of two at the Park, this is the one near the Spring. Limpkins across the River.

Finished lunch and headed back to Rum Island. A beautiful day, high 78. The wind picked up, reaching a steady 20 mph at 3 and lasting until 5. Not quite so strong at 12:30 as I paddled into the west wind. Other paddlers were on the River. Lots of canoes and kayaks with the logo of Adventure Outpost, a local rental outfit. Others were from the Santa Fe Outpost. A few motorboats, only one going fast.

Turtles, unless under water, don't go fast. The Santa Fe is full of turtles. This group was generous enough to share with a great blue heron. Alligators, on the other hand, are scarce. i did not see any.

I went past Lily Spring. People were camping on the bank near the mouth of the run to the Santa Fe. I choose not to paddle in, visit the several small springs and chat with Naked Ed. Next door to Lily is Pickard Spring. Unlike the welcome Naked Ed presents at Lily, Pickard has "No Trespassing" signs. But, it is directly on the River, I paddled across the boil.

Springs on the Santa Fe River come in all sizes, from first magnitude gushing at least 64 million gallons a day from deep caverns to little outlets seeping from the bank, like this one on the north bank just upstream of Rum Island.

I landed at Rum Island, got the yak on the car, then snorkeled. There are several vents just off the bank.

In 5 hours I visited over a dozen springs, swimming in five. People in the area are passionate about these natural wonders.

Here is the website referred to on the sign.


Remember, when paddling most spring fed rivers, the local water supply comes from the same source, the Floridian Aquifer. The only reason to buy bottled water is to have a bottle to fill from the tap.

It was 2:30. I had come a long way, so I had to explore some more. I went to Troy Springs State Park, about 20 miles northwest of Rum Island. Several scuba divers deep in the 1st magnitude Spring.

The remains of a scuttled Confederate ship, the Madison, lay in the run the empties into the Suwannee River.

Some non- Civil War under water scenery.

I next considered a visit to Peacock Springs State Park. Seemed to be 20-25 miles away. But, in the wrong direction. With 20 mile average wind, I decided more driving was not a good idea. Besides, I could stop at Ichetucknee Springs State Park, on the way back. Well, not exactly. I had to go 4 or 5 miles out of my way to enter the north end of the Park. First time I entered the north end by car. My usual egress is by kayak.

I first went to Blue Hole Spring.

The name fits. Many bass, and other pan fish.

I was alone at first, but soon four young men appeared and began jumping in from the railing. I suggested that they may want to keep one eye up the trail in case a ranger appeared, as I doubted climbing the railing and leaping in would be met with favor. Wisdom passed, I walked the same trail to Ichetucknee Spring.

I think the stone staircase enhances the site, but the real beauty is below the surface.

The Ich was the eighth spring snorkled on the day. I guess that made up for not seeing any alligators,or deer, or otters, or manatees, or bald..... wait, a bald eagle soared over the parking lot as I got in the car.

I have posted a report on the Green Wave Forum. A few more pictures, many of the same ones, and directions to Rum Island. http://www.clubkayak.com/greenwave/treports.asp?trip=331

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Blackwater Creek and Lake Norris

Sunday, February 22, 2009, I visited the Lake Norris Conservation Area and paddled Blackwater Creek and Lake Norris. The Conservation Area is a joint effort of the St Johns River Water Management District(SJRWMD) and Lake County Water Authority. A kiosk at the site provides information.

This sign, on the opposite bank from the put in, is new since my last visit last March.

Also new are orange blazes on trees along the bank, marking the route. Not really necessary now, with the water low. I could have used them in the spring of 2005 when Blackwater Creek was a couple feet higher than it is now. I followed several dead end channels into the swamp that trip. Florida paddlers probably are aware that the Florida National Scenic Trail also uses orange blazes- rectangles on trees- to show the way. The Trail goes through the Conservation Area. Makes me think using orange for the paddling trail isn't such a good idea. I wonder if any hikers have thought they had to ford Blackwater.

It is a short paddle, about 20 minutes, up the Creek into Lake Norris. There is a reason why I led off this Tale with a picture of cypress trees, and why one is shown on the informational kiosk. The entire Lake is ringed with them. They make prime nesting sites for osprey.

Osprey are what Lake Norris is know for. This comes from the SJRWMD "Staff at the Boy Scout Camp located on the northern shore of the lake have reported counting more than 100 active nests in the cypress trees that ring the lake. "
The Lake has large great egret rookery. as shown by these photos. This comes from me.

The great egrets nests, I assume the bunches of twigs under several of the egrets are nests, are elegant in comparison to the massive osprey nests.

Vultures and anhingas also utilize the cypress.

Also wood storks. At least until they take flight.

Blackwater Creek is at the south tip of Lake Norris. I paddled along the western shore, through the cypress trees to the Boy Scout camp at the north end of the Lake. Maybe since I've only paddled Lake Norris on Sundays, I've never seen this vast collection of canoes, kayaks and sailboats in use.

There is a small spring on the Boy Scout property. According to the SJRWMD:

" Camp La No Che Spring is a 4th magnitude spring that discharges from a small cavern in the limestone on the east side of the pool. The semicircular pool is about 25 feet in diameter and is ringed with cypress knees at the base of a wooded, gently sloping hillside that rises northward. The pool is 1 to 2 feet in depth and detritus, green algae, and white sulfur-reducing bacteria cover the pool bottom. A prominent boil is visible in the pool above the vent and a hydrogen sulfide odor is present. The spring run flows about 200 toward the southeast to Lake Norris."

I followed the shore several hundred yards past the boat house,but was unable to find the run. Perhaps it peters out before reaching the Lake. I had been out about two hours. Lake Norris is a large body of water.

Paddling through the cypress turns the Lake into an intimate paddle.

I took a break at the end of a hiking trail just northwest of where Blackwater Creek enters Lake Norris. Other then this spot, there are few landing areas, as the west shore of the Lake, the Blackwater Swamp, is full of cypress trees with cypress knees. Not good for landing, unless you have your own house.

Entering Blackwater Creek, I saw the only alligator of the day. Sorry, no photo, it slid off the log too quickly.

Here are an ibis and raccoon from Blackwater Creek.

Blackwater Creek flows into the Wekiva River. Augmented by several small springs along the way, it is clear, not "black" by the time it reaches the Wekiva. But here, near its source at Lake Norris, Blackwater Creek is. Dark. So dark I did not see the log that snagged the yak. Precariously perched, I positioned to push off without tipping. As I did, a deer appeared from behind a cypress tree. Young buck, two stubby antlers. Behind it, another deer, no antlers, then a second young buck, followed by another. I'm looking right at them, making sure not to tip. Four deer in front of me and I can't get one stinkin photo to show my 10,000 dedicated readers.

Paddling past a man fishing with his son, I told them what I saw. His response, "I saw an eight point buck with five does yesterday" Lake Norris, just south of the Ocala National Forest is part of the wildlife corridor that stretches from the Forest to Wekiwa Spring. The anglers were one of three boats I saw in four hours.

I returned to where I began, and kept on. Had to see how "Not Passable" the Creek was. In addition to the sign across from the put in, there is another just downstream on a bridge crossing the Creek, with a final sign just past that.

None of the signs were present my last visit, eleven months ago. The Creek is full of downed trees, I dodged them for ten minutes.

Until this. Which I paddled around and through 90% of, having only a sapling a few inched above the Creek to push over. But, wanting to make this a short day, and having enough damage on the bottom of the yak, I turned around. More raccoons.

I soon landed.

The board was underwater the first time I launched here. I had a four hour paddle, topped of with a fifty minute walk. The trail is an old road.

Make sure you close the gate behind you. Part of the trail traverses a cattle pasture.

This wooden bridge,

crosses a lovely small stream.

On the way back, a large bird with a white head soared above. Bald eagle, always my first thought. I then remembered where I was. Osprey. The bird then opened its V like tail. Swallow tail kite, first of the season. Nice way to end the day.

No fees, few people, lots of wildlife. I'm thinking Blackwater Creek and Lake Norris are a better paddle than Juniper Creek.