Dave's Yak Tales

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Weeki Wachee River

I kayaked the Weeki Wachee River today, Saturday, May 2, 2009. The trip odometer on the Versa is at 175.6. I pushed the reset after driving about a half mile, so I'll say its 176 miles round trip from home to Rogers Park. Where I arrived a bit after 7:30. I paid the $2.00 parking charge, and parked at the canoe/kayak ramp. Two paddlers were already there, but were waiting on friends, so I was first on the River. My last visit, January 24, I began paddling in 30 degree weather. It was in the 70's at 8 am and rising. Warmer temperatures meant there is no reason for manatees to seek the warm waters of Hospital Hole, the 145 foot deep sink hole half a mile upstream from Rodgers Park. Just because they don't need the warmth of the 72 degree spring water rising from the depths doesn't mean manatees wouldn't be there. I paddled across the surface, lingered, lingered longer after a boat passed by. No manatees surfaced. The boat was the first and last I would see for over an hour.

I did not see a lot of birds. Mottled ducks, like the one above were the most prevalent. Also saw a blue heron, lots of great blue herons, cardinals, red shouldered hawk, vultures, and gulls. Saw a few more, which you will see.

The first mile or so of the paddle upstream from Rogers Park has homes on the left, north, side of the River. Upstream, the WW passes through the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area. Halfway up River are two landing areas. Or, former landings. They have been closed for the last few years due to vandalism and other issues. Greenery is growing in the steps up the bluff. Good breakfast spot for a whitetail deer.

It ambled along the bank.

Caught up to its buddy.

Following it into the forest.

Past the second closed landing, I began to encounter paddlers coming downstream. Along with turtles and an ibis.

I reached the end of the upstream paddle at 10:08.

The sign is a a few hundred yards upstream of the launch site. Which was busy. I turned around, passing a family that was just starting their paddle. From their excited chatter, "It's so clear ! Look at all the fishes !" Had to be their first visit.

Another ibis.

I passed a group, rentals on the shore, in the water. The rental concession must be doing a poor job of informing people they are not supposed to swim until well downstream of the launch area. Another group was in the River as I came up stream. Weeki Wachee is now run as a State Park. Perhaps signs letting downstream paddlers know when they can swim need to be posted. There are signs, visible to the up River paddler. I landed just past those signs. Thanks to the Central Florida drought, I could land far up River from where I usually do. Meanwhile, in north Florida, several Parks along the Suwanee are closed due to flooding.

This is the only picture I got as I snorkeled down River.

The River was stirred up by all the people in the water, making it less clear. Not just those wading where they should not, but more that I passed as I floated downriver. I added to the sediment as I began my snorkel, but once freed from the muck where I began, I did not touch bottom until I ran around in a shallow section. My dive flag was gone. This has happened twice before on the narrow, twisting Weeki Wachee. I recovered the flag one time. Snagged on a tree. I asked a group coming downstream if they saw it. "Yes", answered a paddler,but it is pretty far up. So up River I went. Asked more paddlers if they saw the flag. No one did. Nor did I, and I paddled to the spot I had begun the snorkel. I think I failed to ask the person who found it, and put it in his kayak.

An advantage of my detour was some of the crowd got downstream of me. Glimpsed another deer. Then came to another spot where people were swimming. One punk. jumping from a tree, splashed me. On purpose. I gave the little twit and earful. A non-profane scolding, which was difficult, but that would bring me to the delinquent's level. It was good to hear his buddy say. "You know, he can come back".

I stopped for lunch and passing paddlers said the same thing happened to them. I never did a cannonball near a canoe when, I was a kid. Growing up in Shorewood, WI, my buds and I threw snowballs at cars.

Great egret.

Back to Hospital Hole, a manatee.

After the picture, it swam up River. I decided to swim too, beaching the yak and getting in the Weeki Wachee. Snapper.

This opening is the top of a tube that goes down a long way. Maybe. Looks to narrow to enter.

Here is a link from a diving site about Hospital Hole. http://www.floridacaves.com/hhole.htm

No more manatees in or near the Hole. Back in the yak, passing Rogers Park at 1:55.

Plenty of time to continue paddling. Under the County Highway Bridge, then a short paddle to a local street bridge on the left. This got me out of the more populated section of River. Housing wise, homes only on the left bank, and boat wise, only locals are in this channel. And readers of Dave's Yak Tales. Seeking more solitude, I entered a narrow creek that I thought would take me to Mud River. It might, but I did not get there. Depth decreased and a log blocked the path. Paddle on, and saw another creek. Also heard the obnoxious roar of an airboat. No way I want to be where that monstrosity is, so I headed up the creek. This was the one that leads to Mud River.

I had a peaceful paddle through a area of tall grass and scattered trees, so close, yet worlds away from the now crowded Weeki Wachee, when I heard the airboat's evil roar. No !! Don't come here !. I held my paddle high so it would see me. The creek is narrow, I moved to the side and let the devilish contraption pass. Even though it slowed down, the propeller wind still blew me about.

Airboats are worse than kids jumping out of trees. I say all airboat users need to be tied to a stake in knee deep water and made to stand in back of their infernal machine with the engine running. See what its like, jerks.

Ok, rant over. I entered Mud River. Which is pretty clear, as it is spring fed. Paddled into a stiff wind from the west to the confluence with the Weeki Wachee. Back in the WW, I headed out to, and just past the Bayport Pier.

As you may have guessed from the tilted photos, too windy and rough to go into the Gulf. Just as well. Bayport to the Spring and back is 16 miles. With my scenic route to Mud Creek, I did closer to 17 for the day. I hoped to see a dolphin to add to the manatee. No such luck. I'm not sure what kind of waterfowl this is.

At a distance, I was not quite sure what this next bird was when I saw it on a distant tree on the north bank of Mud River, as I paddled up the Weeki Wachee. Arriving at the confluence, I headed up Mud River for a closer look. Still far away, I was not 100% it wasn't an osprey.

The bald eagle made it a three icon day. My "Florida Icons" are alligator, manatee, dolphin, black bear, white tail deer, otter, bald eagle and rosette spoonbill. I hope to see at least one of these magnificent eight creatures each time I'm on the water. To refresh your memory, on this trip I saw a bald eagle, three deer, and a manatee. Speaking of manatee, I paddled back to Hospital Hole to see if any were present. Nope. I did see the guys who were at the launch before me. They had a long day. On the water almost as long as me.

Above is the relatively new kayak rental place across from Rogers Park. My January 2008 Tale http://davesyaktales.blogspot.com/2008/01/weeki-wachee-river.html has become a forum for people unhappy with their experience at the outfitter near Weeki Wachee Springs. As the attraction is now a State Park, I suggest contacting the Park to voice your concerns.

For an alternative rental location, try the Kayak Shack. Phone, on the orange kayak, is 352-597-5295. I have no idea what the rates are, or if they are more customer friendly then the other outfit. Just providing info.

I landed at 4:15, an 8 hour 25 minute day on and in the water.

As is my custom, I ended the day with a meal at the Upper Deck with its wonderful view.

What? Not expecting sole stuffed with scallops and crab over rice pilaf, and vegetables ? Clam chowder and bread with oil already consumed.

Another view from my bar stool.

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