Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rock Springs Run & Wekiva River

I paddled Rock Springs Run and a little bit of the Wekiva this morning, Tuesday, September 29, 2009. For the first time this month, 5 visits, I did not see any bears. I launched from Wekiwa Springs State Park at 7:40 am, soon seeing a green, blue and tricolored heron as I paddled downstream.

Fifteen minutes later, I began the upstream paddle on Rock Springs Run.

I wasn't very far up the Run, maybe to the sandbar popular with weekend renters, when I heard an engine. An air boat engine. What the F? Motors aren't allowed here. I paddled on, the drone of the air boat continuing behind me. I hoped it would turn back, but it persisted. Pausing at a shallow area, I could see it across the low lying vegetation. The operator was spraying the vegetation. Apparently a herbicide. How it affects the exotic plants, and not the native, and animals, like deer and bears that feed on the plants is beyond me. The herbicide must work fast. On Saturday, the edges of the Wekiva's shore were brown, today they were green. I assume it had a similar application to what I was witnessing on Rock Springs Run.

As the air boat was moving slowly, I continued my paddle. No sense letting it get ahead of me. I hoped it might turn back after spraying the open area. I entered the second tree canopied area heading upstream, the engine noise seemed to dissipate. But not for long. The noise got louder, the air boat was moving faster. Less non-native plants in this tree lined section of the Run. I pulled over, waiting for the air boat to pass.

It did, I waited for it to get out of sight, if not sound, and continued the paddle. To be fair, I see less wildlife in the heavily wooded section of the Rock Springs Run, probably because it is heavily wooded, than on the more open sections. Today, I saw nothing, as I continued to hear the airplane engine powering the air boat. I caught up to it just upstream of Indian Mound Camp, as the pilot had pulled over to refill his sprayer. I asked if he was going all the way up stream or would be turning back. He paused, spat a brown stream into the Run, and said, "Don't know if I'll make it all the way up" I did not inquire what would run out first, fuel, or herbicide, and once again, began paddling out front. It started up again. I passed Big Buck camp, and a canoer coming downstream asked, "What animal is making that noise?" I continued upstream, turning back at the large pine on the west, left bank. I passed the air boat as it continued upstream, the operator turned it off as I passed, a gesture well appreciated. Even at low speed the wind from an air boat propeller is strong. The canoe I had seen, now empty, was a Big Buck, I assume the occupant was camping there.

Downstream, I continued to hear the air boat for a long time.

I saw one more boat on the Run, a couple in a rental from the State Park as I neared the Wekiva. Arriving at the confluence, I had time to go down the Wekiva for a short time. Saw 2 paddlers and three alligators, a ratio I like.

I returned to the lagoon/lake area near the launch, took a few photos.

I landed at 10:55. After pulling the kayak up the hill and securing it to the car, I was in Wekiwa Spring at 11:30.

The Spring is a great way to cool down and beats a shower before heading to work. I'm not sure where these turkeys were headed as I left the Park.
Before I left, I stopped at the entrance station to renew my after hours pass and asks about the herbicide spraying. "Oh, they're doing it today?" I had assumed the Park was doing it. "No, the water management folks don't tell us when they are doing it" Oh, the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing? "Government work" You said it, I didn't.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hontoon Island Loop

I went to Blue Springs State Park today, Sunday, September 27, 2009. My plan was to do the Hontoon Loop, Snake Creek version. Snake Creek, above, was blocked, so I went through the northernmost canal to get from the Hontoon Dead River back to the St Johns River.

The day began with a snorkel in Blue Springs Run. I was a bit surprised at how high the St Johns River is. Tannic river water flows past the second boardwalk overlook. I was surprised because rivers that feed the St Johns, the Wekiva and Econlockhatchee, are getting low. I should not be surprised, the St Johns has a broad watershed, and there has been rain to the south recently. Yesterday was a good example of micro-climates in Central Florida. No rain as I paddled Rock Springs Run and the Wekiva River. No rain at my house, 12 miles south. Yet, I turn on my weather radio this morning, and heard over two inches of rain fell. At the airport. 10 or so miles southeast of beautiful Winter Park.

I pushed off at 9:45, paddling up the St Johns. Not much traffic, 5 or 6 powerboats. Not much wildlife either, this great blue heron is the only pic from Blue Spring State Park to Hontoon Island State Park. 75 minutes paddling time.
As I set up the great blue pic, I heard an exhale. I turned around, saw air bubbles, and moving greenery. A manatee feeding. Joined by a second. Unfortunately, I have no photos.

I rounded the tip of Hontoon Island, past the three quarters empty State Park boat docks. and began the paddle up the Hontoon Dead River. Saw saw hawks, cormorants, blue herons, Here is one.

The only wildlife photo from the HDR today. The water is just as high, as measured by this photo,
as it was the last time I paddled past, May 31, 2009. I was surprised it had been that long. The fence is my former break area. It is the only high point on the Hontoon Dead River. I took my break on the banks of Snake Creek, near one of my favorite trees.
Back in the yak, only to run into the scene in the first photo, so I turned back. I wanted to paddle Snake Creek to avoid boaters who don't know what "Slow Speed, Minimum Wake" means, and be on a smaller water way with rain likely. It did rain, but lightly, and only a couple law abiding motor boats as I paddled from Snake Creek to the northernmost canal.
The algae is a thin film, no problem paddling through it. It cleared, but later there was a second, less lengthy, patch.

I returned to Blue Spring about 2. In four plus hours, I did not see any alligators. That could be a first for this paddle.

After getting the kayak on the car, I was hot and sweaty, so I cooled of with the second snorkel of the day.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Rock Springs Run

I paddled Rock Springs Run today, Saturday, September 26, 2009, from the confluence with the Wekiva River to upstream of King's Landing. Got an early start, setting out from Wekiwa Springs State Park at 6:50 am. I drifted down the Wekiva, giving the sun a chance to come out. So early, I saw one green heron on a strech of River where I usually see several, plus great blue and blue herons in the morning. I heard lots of songbirds singing their wake up song. Did not take my first photo until 7:40, this great blue heron.

Between the great blue and the ibis, I spotted two deer on the right side of the Run. A few moments later, a noise on my left, a loud exhale. The same sound made by the bear I saw last Sunday. Peering into the bush, I saw a black shape. Fur, moving. A bear. I did not get a good look, and no pictures. I could hear it, moving about, just yards away, but obscured by the verdant foliage. My fourth bear this month on Rock Springs Run.

A short time later, another deer.

I saw one alligator, and no people for two and a half hours.

25-30 boats, mostly rental canoes, and a few kayaks came downstream from Kings Landing. I went past Kings Landing, until a downed tree blocked the way. Not sure if is the same tree that stymied me in July. I got out of the yak, thinking I'd pull it up on land, but the bottom was not firm, and rather than slog through it, or push the yak over the log, I decided an 8 mile plus upstream paddle was far enough. As I stood in the Run, I grabbed a fresh frozen water bottle, sandwich and nectarine to eat on the way downstream. I began the down Run paddle at 10:43 according to the time stamp on this photo.

Few people paddle upstream from Kings Landing. Long time Yak Tales readers know this is the best part of Rock Springs Run.
The first photo is also from this part of the Run. I passed the canal leading to Kings Landing, paddled past a few homes, and was back in Wekiwa Springs State Park.

Hearing voices and the clang of paddle on canoe, I let the current take me downstream, letting the group get out of earshot.
No noise but butterfly wings.

I know the yellow and black is a tiger swallowtail. Any one know what the black and yellow is?

I think Rock Springs Run is the best paddle in Florida. Great scenery and wildlife.

I enjoyed the scenery, moving slowly, putting space between myself and those ahead. One group that launched from Kings Landing returned upstream. I think by the time I got to the Wekiva River, I had passed most of the people I passed as I went upstream, they down, in the morning. And I was going slow. To enjoy the view.

As normal on a weekend, Rock Springs Run got crowded as I neared the Wekiva. The Wekiva, even more so with renters from the Park and Wekiva Marina/Island. But, wildlife can still be found.

I landed at 2:45. Took my time getting the kayak up the hill. Visited the little nature museum. It was 3:20 when I took this picture as I walked down the steps to the spring.
The swim in the 72 degree spring was very refreshing. No pics, to crowded. Bottom stirred up and I did not even snorkel to the source as it way to many people were straddling the vent.
The last time I paddled up Rock Springs Run, past Kings Landing, I went for a 3.5 mile hike. I was thought of doing it today, but I was beat. Makes me wonder what the difference was 2 months ago. Maybe the excitement of seeing a bear for the fourth time in September wore me out.