Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Wekiva River & Blackwater Creek

Sunday, January 31, 2009, I launched from Katies Landing and paddled down the Wekiva to Blackwater Creek

I paddled downstream, into a stiff north wind. I had considered paddling upstream first, after a long day Saturday on the Loxahatche River. But, heading down river would put me on the widest part of the Wekiva. Not good in the wind. Up river is more protected, and I could visit Blackwater Creek.

The forecast called for a high in the low 60's. It never got above 50.

The cool kept the alligators hidden. Except for one. A great blue heron burst into flight, honking loudly. As it did, a medium sized gator rose out of the water, jaws snapping. Just missed.
I reached Blackwater Creek in about 90 minutes. Saw a deer, to far and fast to photo. Paddled up the creek for 30 minutes

Coming out of the Creek, I saw the only boat of the day. Two guys fishing.

I've never got a deer photo on this section of the Wekiva. Until today

Two deer. I was able to get a better view paddling up a short side area off the main channel.

I landed just past 2, a nice five hour paddle.

This was my second visit to Katie's Landing since it re opened after a year of "improvements". The new restroom is still locked, outside bubblers-that's water fountain to you non-Milwaukeeans- not running. The idiots need to put the old port-o-let back. The State is enforcing the new $3 entry fee. A State law enforcement officer asked about my pay ticket or pass. I pointed to the pass on the dash, and said, "But I'm worried about the air force" Pointing to a truck, kayak in the roof, Colorado, U.S. Air force, plates. No parking is allowed river side, just loading and unloading.

I left, seeing a deer as I drove towards Highway 46. I stopped, figuring there had to be more than one, as it was looking back. Sure enough three more deer leaped over the wire fence, crossed Wekiva Park Dr., then bounded over the wood fence into the yard with the bear mailbox.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Loxahatchee River

A new location for Dave's Yak Tales. I had paddled the Loxahatchee once before. June 30, 2005. I went that day for the same reason I went today, Saturday, January 30, 2009. Avoid rain. I was not successful five years ago, I was today.
I woke early, made the 160 mile drive, and had to wait for the gate to open at 8 am
Jonathan Dickinson State Park is big, 11500 acres, covering parts of
two counties, Martin and Palm Beach, west of U.S. 1.
It's a four mile drive from the gate to the boat
launch. A herd of pigs foraged on the side of the road as I drove in. There are miles of hiking, off road biking and
equestrian trails. 135 campsites. Rental cabins.

The launch is concrete, one boat width.
Grassy area adjacent. A dock, with three levels if you choose to get in that way. Paved lot, spaces for cars and trailers. Two picnic tables under a shelter,
outhouse. No running water. (Other than the River)

The Loxahatchee River is one of two Federally designated "Wild and Scenic"
rivers in Florida. The other, the Wekiva River, including Rock
Springs Run and Blackwater Creek.
If you are wondering about the Myakka River, it has a State issued "Wild and Scenic" status. The Wekiva has both Federal and State status.

From the launch, it's eight miles to the Atlantic, via the Jupiter Inlet. I went the other way, into the "Wild and Scenic" portion.

To me, the beginning of the paddle is nice, but not great. Mangroves, more trees, pines, palms and cypress as you get up river. The Park's rental concession is up River from where I launched. They rent motor boats. On a Wild and Scenic River. That ain't right.

Lots of osprey and great blue herons.

Upstream of "Trapper Nelson's" the Lox changes character. Narrow, lush vegetation, alligators.

Trapper Nelson lived on the bank of the Loxahatchee from the 1930's to 1968. Living off the land, and water, he suuplementede his income wrestling gators, handling snakes, and keeping a small zoo. I wonder if authors like Carl Hiasson and Dave Barry got ideas for some of their South Florida characters from the "Wild Man of the Loxahatchee". It took a bit over an hour to reach the site, which has been preserved. A tour boat from the Park, which had passed me earlier, was docked. I kept going.

The Lox has two dams. What purpose they serve, or why they are on the River, I don't know. Back in 2005, the river was so high, I paddled over the first one. I don't know if I reached the second, I may have not even noticed it. Both were noticeable this trip. I portaged the first, it as a ramp going up one side and down the other.

I had forgot there was a second dam. I was reminded by paddlers coming downriver who asked, "How far to the second dam?". I saw about a dozen canoes and kayaks, coming down river from River Bend Park in Palm Beach County.

I arrived at the second dam at 11:45. A fisherman offered me a hand. I declined deciding the dam made a good point to turn back after paddling since 8:20. I asked how far it was to the launch site, 15-20 minutes. The outfitter, Canoe Outfitters of Florida, says it is and eight mile paddle from River Bend to Jonathan Dickinson. As I began my trip down river of where the renters take out, I had gone 7.5 miles, easy.
The current now at my back, I enjoved the scenery as I paddled down River.

I took a break at the dam. This out house is down a short trail. Back to the dam, I had lunch and entertainment.

The guy in the first photo has the right technique. Lean back so the front end stays up. Easy for me to say. Maybe some day, I'll do it. A lot of people went over. At least 10. All part of the same group. Peer pressure. No one tipped, but several took on a lot of water. Six people, in thre canoes watched with me. They were doing a to the second dam and back excursion. I waited for the krazy kayakers to get down river, then resumed my trip.

Next time you drive to or from West Palm on either I-95 or the Turnpike, wave as you cross the Loxahatchee River.

The noise from the two highways can be heard 5-10 minutes on either side of the side by side bridges.

I caught up with the dam jumpers, who had turned around. I saw no one else until I was almost back to the Jonathan Dickinson rental dock.

I stopped at Trapper Nelson's.
Unlike my 2005 visit, when all I did was ride out a storm in the boat house, today I landed and walked around.

Other than a ranger, sitting in a truck, waiting, I assume for the 3 pm boat tour to arrive, I had the site to myself.

Loxahatchee means "River of Turtles" I've seen more on other paddles, Turkey Creek and the Santa Fe River to mention two, but the Lox turtles do have an adventurous spirit. High wire act above.

The Lox is an interesting paddle as it goes from hardwoods to mangroves.

My 8:20 launch had coincided with high tide, low tide at Jupiter inlet was a 2:03. Low conditions at 3:05 when I saw the largest alligator of the day.
I took a side trip up Kitchings Creek, Saw a couple racoons, and a bald eagle. No pics of either.

A few, as in less then ten, raindrops fell on the creek, but ended almost immediatley. I had gone to the Lox to avoid rain and my plan worked. It was a beautiful cloudy, 80 degree day. I paddled out of the Park waters, briefly, before landing at 5:20, 9 hours after I began.

Due to my long paddle, I did not have time to explore more of the Park. My visit in 2005 was marred by the worst thunderstorm I've ever paddled through. I think that affected by view of the Loxahatchee River. I think it won't be five years before I visit again.