Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Blue Spring State Park Snake Creek Loop

Kayaked the St. Johns River, Snake Creek, and Hontoon Dead River today, Sunday, January 29, 2012. As on my last visit to the area, I launched at the end of French Avenue, not the main area of Blue Spring State Park. I had to look at the December 1st Tale to refresh my memory on why I did so that day. To avoid having to leave the Park at sunset. Today's reason was I had a guest. Who drove her car. So, to avoid her paying the State Park entrance fee, not to mention having to carry two kayaks from the parking lot, Stephanie and I launched from the waters edge. Heck, if I was alone I might have launched from French Ave. Passing Valentine Park on the way in, I saw it was full of tents and people. A Manatee Festival. Buses taking people to the State Park to view manatees. So, it would be packed.

We were on our way at 9:50.  Up the St. Johns River a short distance to Blue Springs Run, as two bald eagles soared overhead.

 One landed.  I thought both had.  Stepahnie, who paddle over to the tree, told me the other bird was a vulture. Which I can now see from the photo.  I had stayed on the other side of  the St Johns to check out the manatees at the mouth of Blue Spring Run.
 Which cannot be entered this time of year.  Cormorants on their usual spot on the bar that marks the manatee sanctuary.
Now, for a closer look at the eagle.

We continued up the St. Johns, veering right where it splits, towards Snake Creek.

 Entering Snake Creek

That's a little gator.

 These coots kept taking off, landing, taking off,  landing.  Like they were belted kingfishers.
Only coots don't land in trees.


Snake Creek is 3.5 miles long.  At least, that's what I heard a tour boat guide say as I entered it.

A bird filled 3.5 miles.

 And alligator.
Saw one group of paddlers, 5 in all, coming from the other direction.  For Snake Creek, that's a huge group.

Took a break just past the overhanging oak tree.  One of the few areas with solid high ground.  12:15. Stephanie arrived 15-20 minutes later.     A rental motorboat came up the Creek. "What's it like up there" "Shallow and narrow" He turned around. After lunch, we were back in the water.

Into the Hontoon Dead River.

  The Hontoon is broad, and sections have wide expanses of vegetation.   Making closeups difficult.

Unless you find a gap in the foliage and maneuver closer to shore, which is how I got the last group of photos and the opening picture of this Tale.
 Speaking of far off, lots of red shouldered hawks were flying about.  Only one photo.

These two were near the great egret above.  I'm assuming cattle egrets, but what do young great egrets look like?  "Looks like nonbreeding adult." states the Cornell University site.  I'd say these are cattle egrets.

 Into the canal linking the Hontoon Dead River to the St Johns.   The northernmost of three canals dredged for moving timber.

A lot of the canal is like this.  Almost impassable.  But, by paddling hard, we made it through.

Back to the St. Johns

Alligators enjoyed the 70 degree sunshine.

As we neared Blue Spring State Park, I said how I was surprised we had not seen any manatees out in the River.  Maybe because we were too busy watching the two bald eagles, again.  Riding the thermals, higher and higher.  Approaching the fishing/tour boat dock I told Stephanie to pay attention, or she might run over a manatee.   On cue, a huge one surfaced between our kayaks.

I don't think the people on shore were lined up to see cormorants.

I've seen manatees the last three times in my kayak, in three different parts of the State.  Kings Bay, on the Gulf  Coast, Haulover Canal, near the Atlantic, and now, Blue Spring Run on the St. Johns River.

Paddled back to the French Ave. launch.  Stephanie landed.  I could not, as I had not explored the area around the island opposite the launch site.

 I saw, but did not see, one manatee.    A tracking device tied to its tail.  I can find no reference to a Blue Spring  manatee with a red and blue float.  Or, is the ID color the yellow on the antenna? If so, this may be Jackie

I landed just before four.  Stephanie had her kayak on her car.  Talk about perfect timing.  She went home, I went into the main part of the State Park.  And biked out. But first, more bikes.

Bike riding Orange City EMTs.  Useful for events like the Manatee Festival.  Cheaper than a mounted patrol and no poop to clean up.

The Spring to Spring Trail starts just outside Blue Spring State Park. 3.3 miles from the Park entrance to the end.  There is a loop of about 2 miles at Lake Beresford Park.  Time constraints did not allow me to  bike the loop.

Including the Park road, and 8.5 mile ride.  I've seen deer before, today, a chicken.
View from the dock.

Hoped the eagle, or eagles, would be on one of the trees across from the Run, but they were covered with vultures.

I'll next be in the kayak Saturday.  But no Tale until Sunday.  Camping in the Seminole State Forest.  Hopefully, I'll see, and photo, a bear.  If I do, I'll post it.  So, check in during halftime, or after, the Super Bowl.