Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tomoka State Park

Tomoka State Park, May 17, 2009. Over four hour on four waterways and my best photo is one taken on land. "The Legend of Tomokie", by Fred Dana Marsh. 40 feet tall.

Even this gopher tortoise is a critic.

The dark item at the rear is not a tail. First time I've seen a tortoise defecate. It left a second load before went our separate ways.

It was not as if I did not have any scenic opportunities. It had been a year, April 2008 since my last Tomoka trip. In the Tomoka River at 9:35. Up River towards the Beach Road Bridge. Before getting to the island to the northwest of the bridge, I heard, then saw, a dolphin. Although it surfaced several times, I was unable to get a photo.

Not a lot of birds.

This blue heron and the anhinga are the only birds I got on the Tomoka.

Human traffic was light too. A family in a canoe launched ahead of me. They stopped at the mouth of Strickland Creek. This seems to be the spot for short term renters to stop, get out, walk around, than to return the rental concession. Anglers fished from the Beach Street Bridge and from the three piers on the Park's shore. I don't think I saw 10 fishing boats. On one, a woman reeled in a nice silver/gray 2 foot plus, narrow fish. Snook, maybe. Too far away to see the gill to tail line on its side.

I was able to find the entrance to Thompson Creek. Which can be difficult as many numerous canals cut through the salt marsh, making it hard to determine which entrance is the Creek. Tip. Look for a Manatee Zone sign where the Tomoka take a sharp turn to the west. On the east, the entrance to Thompson Creek. Which had no people. A few birds. A tri colred heron was in a canal with this great egret.

Canal-creek junctions are good spots to look for birds.

I reached the end of the Creek, a basin where Thompson meets two other Creeks, Dodson and Strickland. Dodson is short, Strickland leads north, back to the Tomoka.

Blue heron and tri colored heron.

The entire length of Strickland Creek is a manatee protection zone. So is all of Thompson Creek. Violators aren't an issue at Thompson,as it is to shallow for most motorboats. Strickland is another story. Slow No Wake signs are posted at regular intervals on the Creek. There are no Resume Normal Safe Operation signs on the Creek. Most boaters don't to understand the law.They slow down when they see a No Wake sign, then speed up when they think it is ok. Which it is not. Until out of the Creek when they see a Resume Normal Safe Operation sign.

This was my 6th to 10th Tomoka paddle. I've seen manatees in the Tomoka River, but never Thompson or Strickland Creeks. Until today. In Strickland Creek, approaching a Manatee Zone sign. I paddle over a big log. Wait a second. That's a manatee ! Not one, two. Mother and calf. Passing in the opposite direction. I reversed course to see if they would surface. They did not. Immediately. I had turned around when they surfaced about 20 yards to my right. Last thing is saw was the big one's tail as they headed up the Creek.

So, I can add Strickland Creek to places where I've seen manatees. Here's the list off the top of my head.

Tomoka River

Mosquito Lagoon

Indian River

Haulover Canal

Turkey Creek

Banana River

Wekiva River

Wekiwa Spring

Blue Spring Run

St Johns River

DeLeon Spring

Spring Garden Lake

Hontoon Dead River

Weeki Wachee River

Homosassa River

Crystal River

Halls River

Three Sisters Springs

Hunter Springs

King Spring

Chassahowitzka River

Fort De Soto

Orange River

San Carlos Bay

A few paddlers were on the Creek. One couple asked how close they were to the end of the Creek, and how "the return creek" was. I told them they were 10-15 minutes away, look for a fishing dock, then go right. I told them they'd like the other creek, narrower and no other boats. I saw them later, at the launch. I asked if they saw the manatee. Yes, surfacing right beside them.

I exited Strickland Creek, back in the Tomoka

Paddled past the launch, on the outside of a long narrow island/sandbar. Into the Tomoka Basin, formed by the confluence of the Tomoka and Halifax Rivers. Tomoka State Park is on the peninsula between the Rivers. I got to the tip of the peninsula, entering a creek/canal. Paddled up it a bit, then turned back, returning to the launch this time on the inside of the island. Lots of fiddler crabs on the shore.

This photo was taken from land, the ones I took from they kayak weren't as good. A nature trail starts at the Park's Museum which was closed, traversing a half mile through the Hammock to the statute. The site of a Timucuan village when Alvaro Mexia arrived in 1605. The return trail is near the canal/creek I had paddled earlier. That's where the fiddlers were.

Coral bean

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