Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Monday, October 25, 2010

Santa Fe and Ichetucknee Rivers

Kayaked the Santa Fe River Monday morning, October 25, 2010.  From Rum Island to Ginnie Springs, then back, past Rum to Poe Springs. 3 hours including snorkeling in three of the springs in the Ginnie system.

Left Rum Island Park at 9:00 am.   Paddled down River, past the run from Gilchrist Blue Spring.

Arrived at the Ginnie Springs campground.  What a difference a day makes. A weekday that is.  The bank, which was lined with tents was almost empty. One tent, maybe two at a prime spot, near Little Devil, Devil's Eye, and Devil's Ear Springs.  I looked for a spot where I could anchor.

Little Devil

Little Devil Run
  First, up River of the Run from Little Devil,  where I anchored the first time I visited Ginnie Springs.  I could not find a spot, and the current was strong, swimming against it  on the way back would be hard.  So, I paddled across the mouth of the run and found a spot to anchor.  I  had to swim against the current to reach the springs, but it was not as strong as it was on the other side of the run. Also, it would be at my back on my return. I'm glad I had to anchor down stream of the springs. That meant the sediment I stirred up anchoring, stepping into the water, ect, went downstream, away from the springs.  Had I anchored on the other side of the run, the detritus would have flowed over the springs, reducing visibility.

Devil's Ear

Devil's Eye

Little Devil
A few scuba divers were gearing up to dive, but they did not enter as I snorkeled.

Brown river meets blue spring

Boarded the kayak, above, and paddled back up the Santa Fe.


 Three canoes left Rum Springs Park as I approached, I saw no one else on the River as I paddled to Poe Springs

Poe Springs is an Alachua County Park, charging a $5 admission fee.  There was a time when paddlers were allowed to stop, briefly, for free.  I snorkeled the spring in those days. It is a bit dark, so I don't miss it. This was the first time I paddled into the spring. Just enough clearance to make it over the limestone barrier. A note on counties. I was in 5 different ones over my three day weekend.  The three area rivers, Ichetucknee, Santa Fe, and Suwanee, form natural county lines.  This morning paddle I began ins Columbia County, on the north side of the Santa Fe, swimming in the Devil's Springs, on the south bank, I was in Gilchrist County, now I was in Alachua.

After my visit to Poe, I headed back down the Santa Fe. To Lily Spring, home of  Ed Watts.

 Mr. Watts, aka "Naked Ed" was not home

Here is a spring in the middle of the Santa Fe, just off Pickard Spring.
Pickard Spring, below.
Hidden behind a screen of cypress trees, with no trespassing signs on a dock, the adjacent landowner is not as welcoming as Naked Ed.

Down the Santa Fe

 One turtle log had a snapping turtle down the log from the cooters.  By the time I got over the surprise of seeing its baseball sized head, it slid into the River.

I returned to Rum Island Park. just after noon.  Put the kayak on the car and walked to the empty spring.  Just as three canoes were coming in. "Talk about bad timing"  "What do you mean" "It was empty until you guys got here"  Unlike Sunday, I decided to speak up about people landing at the Spring, instead of on the River bank.  So I asked, "Why land here, and not on the River bank"  The leader answered, "We have as much right to be here as you". I responded that he did not answer my question and mentioned the sand and dirt that three canoes launching and landing would out in the Spring.  His response. Your fins  stir up more.  You are a bleeping idiot, I thought. Two flippers do not equal 3 canoes and 6 feet.  I stuffed the snorkel in my mouth and swam to the main spring hole.  Arms only, not kicking to avoid  stirring up the bottom.

When I got out, the leader was suggesting other springs to visit. Seemed like a nice guy, hopefully he'll think about my advice on where to land.  Meanwhile, I sent an email to a local outfitter, Adventure Outpost, asking where he advises his paddlers to land.  Here is the response, posted with permission "We definitely don't want anyone landing in or near the spring. Anyone landing there are not doing it on our advise or request. You're right, the place for boats to land is at the ramp, even though it's a little harder on our boats.

Feel free to advise people that you see landing near the spring, that you have it directly from Adventure Outpost that we don't want them landing in the spring basin. Tell them Lars and Patsy said so."

I went "home", packed, tidied up, staying in a home is a different feeling than a hotel, I want to be invited back.  I can't say enough about my lodgings.  The aluminum trailer might not look like much from the outside, but inside it had everything.  I emailed the owner I knew it wasn't a hotel, and would bring my own bath soap and shampoo, and would I need dish soap, paper towels ect.   I needed nothing.   There was even coffee in the fridg. When I asked what time I had to leave, the response was "At your leisure"

 Small town hospitality at its best.  I left the rent in an undisclosed location (the owner suggested it) locked the door behind me, locking the keys in a lock box, and left about 1:30.  I left when I did to get a couple hours in on the Ichetucknee River.

The float plan was to paddle up about an hour from the Last Takeout to Devil's Eye Spring (a different devil from the one on the Santa Fe) maybe take a dip, then head back. I started out at 2:15.

One car in the parking lot. On the Ich, I saw dark shapes ahead. Otters?  Then a bright yellow flipper.  Two guys snorkeling down the River.  They asked how much farther to the takeout, I told them I had left 15 minutes ago.   Then three paddlers coming down the River.  A woman at the Midpoint Landing.  I figured she'd be the last person I'd see.  Wrong. Not a lot of people, but a unique sight.  A guy snorkeling. Up the River.  I saw him atMill Pond Spring   He was past it, I went into the spring run, not to far, it is an restricted area to let him get ahead.  Of course, its much easier to paddle up River then to swim, so I soon caught up.  I slowed down, to take these photos.

I caught up to the intrepid swimmer again.  I wonder if he left a kayak at Devil's Eve, swam down River, not thinking how hard the upstream swim would be.  In a wide part of the River, I went into a side channel, and passed him, arriving at Devil's Eye at 3:30.
I looked for a spot to get out of the yak.  Ichetucknee Devil's Eve would be the 11th spring snorkeled this "Spring into Fall" weekend. Ichetucknee, Blue Hole, Troy, Peacock, Little River, Rum, Layfayette Blue, Devil's Eye, (Santa Fe) Devil's Ear, Little Devil.   I could not find a good spot, until, when  I was about to leave I found a spot shallow enough to step out.  Just as the snorkeler entered. By the way, he did not have a kayak in the spring. "What's next, the English Channel?"  He did not hear me as he dove into the spring hole.
I decided he deserved to have it to himself, so I ended the weekend with 10 springs swum.  Plus at least that many viewed from the yak or land.

It was 3:40 as I paddled back down the Ichethucknee.

I looked behind me, and there was the snorkeler, doing a butterfly stroke, coming down the River. He had a heck of a work out. Training for an Ironman Triathlon? He must have got out at the Midpoint Landing, just up stream of these limestone formations.

At Coffee Springs, an animal moved through the woods.  First thought deer, but it was smaller, feline, with a short tail.  Had to be a bobcat.  Just had a brief glance.  Here is Coffee Spring.

And, just down River, an otter.
A few minutes later, I saw a deer flash through the woods.  Only the third of the weekend.  One on the drive to Ichetucknee on Saturday, the other on the side of US 27 on the way to Peacock Springs on Sunday.

I landed at 4:45, completing my three day "Spring into Fall" weekend.  Although, with temperatures in the high 80's it still feels like summer.


Danny said...

Great pictures. Never seen that many turtles in one spot.

Dave said...

Danny, Turkey Creek, in Palm Bay would be a great place to take your boys. Not to long, lots of turtles, not to mention manatees, gators, and dolphins. No swimming, but the beaches of Melbourne and Cocoa aren't too far away