Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hontoon Island Loop

I did the Hontoon Loop, Snake Creek version today, Sunday May 31, 2009. Finished the paddle accompanied by manatees in Blue Springs Run. Which is where I began the day.

I had a late start, up late watching the Magic post game festivities. 10:00 am and already a good crowd at Blue Springs State Park. My usual parking spot occupied. People at the swim dock, others floating down the Run. Another crowd at the swim/scuba entrance. I got in, and snorkeled to the Spring. No walking, the water level is high making the swim easier than it has been lately. You would think, or I did think, more water would make the flow faster. Then I heard a great explanation. Watch water drain from a sink. The last bit of water goes down the drain quickly. On the way to the Spring I passed folks walking up the Run, as scuba divers swam below. All the activity and the high water made visibility poor. At the Spring, more scuba divers in the hole, others standing on the rim. Way too crowded for me. But I did get a few pics, mullet mostly, on the down Run snorkel.

I got in the St Johns River at 11:00. Lots of pontoon boats out, the landing area for power boats outside Blue Spring Run full. I heard a group yaking on one boat. Had they been yaking ala me, they would have see this gator.

The alligator was one of just two I saw during my 4.5 hours on the water. Which was a low number for a sunny May day. On the other hand, the high water, flowing past the cypress trees well inland, meant fewer sunning logs that I could see.

Not a lot of birds either. This cormorant is the only photo during the hour paddle to Hontoon Island State Park.

I was glad to round the tip of Hontoon Island at the State Park. Too many fast boats in the St Johns. Fortunately, about half the paddle from Blue Spring to Hontoon is Slow No Wake. On the back side of the Island, all of the Hontoon Dead River is Slow No Wake. One criminal violated the law. I don't think I saw 4 boats on the HDR.

The photo with the fence is to show the water level. This former landing area usually has dry land in front of the barrier Although I am wondering what "usual" is. The water was even higher in August and September after Fay.

Into Snake Creek, where I saw no other people. Not much wildlife, either.

I heard lots of splashes as something- alligators probably, entered the Creek, unseen in the vegetation. Very few birds. But, then, a deer. A young buck. Velvet on the antlers. Just the second deer I've seen paddling the Hontoon Island Loop. I've seen other son the Island, but from the hiking trail. Sorry to say, no photos. Well, I have 2, but the buck is not in them.

I saw the buck just before Snake Creek enters the St Johns. It had splashed away after seeing me- perhaps I'd see it on the other side- the St Johns. No such luck.

It was nice to be on the water. Two gators, the buck made up for the lack of birds. I had checked out a few spots where I've seen manatees before, but saw none. Paddled up Blue Spring Run to the swim area- can't go past from 11 to 5, not expecting to see much, when, of course, I saw three manatees.

Eventually, 5 or 6 manatee were in the Run. Nice way to end the paddle. But not the day. Rode my bike 7.5 miles on the Park road and the bike path just outside.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Banana River

As a kayaker, I am fortunate to live where I do. Living in the center of Florida, I have multiple options. Last night, planning today's paddle, I considered St. Augustine, then thought the Banana River No Motor Zone would be a good paddle. But over the evening, the marine forecast changed from a light chop to a moderate chop. The River is a not a true river, but an estuary, an arm of the Indian River. Long and wide, a moderate chop would make it a tough paddle. So, I went to bed, thinking I'd go to a true River, the Hillsborough. But, when I arose, the marine forecast called for a light chop. East to KARS Park and the Banana River.

"KARS" stands for Kennedy Athletic Recreational and Social" You don't have to be a Space Center employee to launch your kayak, as long as you have five bucks. I paid mine at the entrance station, a point I need to remember. Looking at the KARS website last night, it said the "Country Store" opens at 8:45. On my to prior visits to KARS I must have arrived after 8:45, as I paid at the store. Today, I paid at the entrance station, and was in the water at 8:30. Note to self-the gate opens a 6:00 am.

A group of 5 or so kayak anglers was preparing to go out as I put in. The Banana River No Motor Zone has world class fishing. No motors means less pressure on the resource both in terms of catch, and keeping the sea grass beds healthy.

Manatees are the reason for the no motor restriction. So, I paddled to a spot where I'd seen them before. Near the docks and boat launch just outside the NMZ. A rosette spoonbill flew north as I made my way south. Into the short channel, lined by rocks/riprap, where snowy egrets and killdeer (pictured) eyed the water.

My third visit to the No Motor Zone, and for the third time, I saw no manatees in the many miles of protected river, but several in the dock area.

My guess is the like the deep water, which, I assume was dredged to create the launch site. The rest of the west shore of the Banana River is very shallow. I left the manatees, and reentered the NMZ. Paddled north.

Took a while to get some good pics, the cormorants were photoed at 9:45. Afterwards, birds were abundant.
Blue heron

Tri colored heron

Reddish egret

Great blue heron

Dancing reddish egret.

I found the, or a spoonbill that I saw at the start of the paddle. There were two, one took off.

There will be more pics of this one.


The osprey was near this sign.

Snowy egrets

As promised, more spoonbill pics. All the same bird.

Tri colored heron.

Reddish egret

I paddled to the NASA causeway. Nothing but buses on the bridge. Tours of the Space Center. A few cars parked on the approach. Have to be a NASA employee or retiree to launch there. I turned around.

Still the same spoonbill. More snowy egrets, reddish egret and tri colored heron.

Birds seen, but not pictured. Green heron, wood stork, black crowned night heron. I also saw several alligators, no pictures. I did not see any dolphins, which was a surprise, having seen them on my prior Banana paddles. Lots of leaping fish, one stingray.

The birds require guidance.

The return paddle was a more difficult than the outbound. More wind as the morning shifted to afternoon, and as usual this time of year, it was out of the south. Heared a noise on the bank,something coming through the growth. Gator? It continued, then I caught a glimpse of black and grunting. Wild pig.

I went back to the boat launch, checking out the manatees. I doubt folks on the cruise ships docked at Port Canaveral see much wildlife.

I wondered what these little bids were. Pint size sea gulls. A few computer clicks reveal they are least terns.

I learn something new every day. I landed just after 2:30. a six hour day. Fishing must have been good, as two of the guys who put in when I did landed as I was driving away. On the other hand, maybe they were out that long just to get one.