Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Chassahowitzka River

Sunday, November 14, 2010.  Third and final day of my birthday paddling weekend.  Birthday paddling. Just had a flashback to my youth, and a family tradition.  "The old mill"  The birthday boy or girl could not speak while eating the birthday cake.  If he/she did,  the family lined up, and the birthday boy/girl had to crawl between their legs and get spanked by his siblings.  I have 6 brothers and sisters, Where that came from, I have no idea.

Back to 2010.  Here is the inside view of my room at the Kings Bay Lodge.

 I'm getting the same room next time if I can.  There was liqour in the cabinet above. Vodka, whiskey, wine.  All labels I'd never heard of.  Probably left by a prior visitor.  I did not indulge, I'm a beer drinker, but its good to know it is there.  Two bottles of Becks Dark, too.  Who knows how long they've been there.
Not bad for 70 bucks.  The couch, not shown, is a hide-a- bed.  The place is old, water spots on the ceiling, paint fraying in spots, but the mattress was firm, the TV had ESPN, and oh yeah, the pool is a spring. Speaking of TV, I turned it on on Friday.  And what is on? A kayaker.  Just attacked by a hippo. I may have to watch Animal Planet more often.
The view from my door.

 I left at 9:05. The sign looks real cool at night, red and white neon.

Forty minutes later, I was in the Chassahowitzka River.

I paddled down the Chass.

To Houseboat/Snapper Spring, where a pair of cormorants guarded the entrance.

Three manatees in the spring.

I observed them for about fifteen minutes, then headed back to the Chas.  A couple kayaked past.  I did not see them when I got back to the River. They must have gone up Baird Creek.  As three is a crowd, I stayed on the Chas.

Juvenile black crowned night heron

I went up the shallow, less traveled branch of the River, to the right of a trio of islands.  The two branches combine again, up stream of the Chasshiwitzka National Wildlife Refuge.

My destination was Crawford Creek. My hope was to see bald eagles and dolphins.  I was not disappointed.

The eagle was on the north side of the Chas, along Little Gator Creek.  I was paddling towards Little Gator when a distant splash attracted my attention.
As I did not see a pelican rise from the froth, it had to be a dolphin.  As I see more eagles than dolphins on the Chas, I paddled west for a closer look.

It was a dolphin.  I turned back, the eagle had flown.
I lost sight of the dolphin for a while, but then,, there it was now up River of my position, hunting.

It went under again and I entered Crawford Creek.

Crawford Creek starts out fairly wide, flowing through marsh grass. After about a mile, you come to a group of 3 or 4 unique houses.  On stilts, palm frond and metal roofs, a cistern.  A county line has been crossed, leaving Citrus, entering Hernando.  Just past the homes, Blue Run enters from the right.  I continued up Crawford Creek. It becomes tree lined, the water, fed by Beteejay Spring gets clearer and clearer.   An otter popped up.  Then the above alligator lay in the early afternoon sun.  Manatees, bald eagle, dolphin, otter, alligator.  The Florida Trifecta plus two.  By far the best wildlife day of the weekend.  The Chas and its tributaries are much less developed than are the Crystal River/Kings Bay, the Homosassa, and the Weeki Wachee.  But the best was yet to come.  Not a different critter, but one in an unexpected place.

Far up the spring fed, tree canopied part of Crawford Creek I heard an exhale.  What was that?  I came round a bend, and a dolphin was coming down Creek, towards me in the clear spring water.  The opening photo was taken a few minutes after I first saw it.  I think it was the same dolphin I saw earlier.  Seeing one so far up a freshwater creek was very cool... I've seen dolphins far up some of the tidal creeks of the Chas, but never in a clear, tree canopied spring run. Usually home to great blue herons.

I followed the dolphin past the confluence with Blue Run, past the houses, where a group of guys suggested I tie my kayak to it, into the wide part of the Creek.  It stopped to feed.

 It is a treat to watch a top of food chain predator feed.  The dolphin would whip its tail across the water.  To stun prey, I reckon

I watched the hunt for about 15 minutes before I took off.


No paddlers where I was, far down stream. Motor boats going to and from the Gulf, not many. It was windy, but lessened as I got further from the Gulf.

I saw some kayakers at the Refuge sign.  2 ladies who turned back at the sign. Its about two miles from the launch.

Back up the quiet channel.

Back to the main channel.

I returned to the spring where the manatees had been in the morning.  A couple anchored, relaxing said they were there.  I think they had left, as I waited more than long enough, or so I thought for at least one to surface.  None did.  Paddled past the launch, over the first magnitude spring that supplies much of  the Chassahowitzka River's flow, back to the lovely Solution Holes.

I landed at 3:15, 5.5 hours on the Chas to complete my three day kayaking birthday weekend.


Anonymous said...

Looks like a fish camp to me! I love it! Have not seen this one, although King's Bay sounds familiar (Crystal River area?).

Wanted to ask you if you'd like to join a blogger river tour junket over at Hontoon Island. Please drop me a line at suzannamars@cox.net and I will fill you in!

Dave said...

There is a fish cleaning station, but I think to qualify as a fish camp, bait has to be sold. No bait sales at the Kings Bay Lodge. Kings Bay is the headwaters of the Crystal River.

Thanks for the invite, but I prefer solo junkets.