Zoobird

Dangerously organic!

Hello "wanna go" crew,
 
We're entering into a couple of the most popular weeks of the year for paddling. And, as always seems to happen, the schedule has changed a bit due to customer requests. Fortunately, the requests were for popular trips; a couple of which we'll be doing multiple times. This should increase your odds of finding a suitable date if you want to do one of these.
Paddling conditions are still very good on all our local waterways. Water levels are still close to average after the wet summer, so places like Prairie Creek (this Saturday, 12/21) and Cross Creek (next Friday, 12/27) are still good, but maybe not for long. Ichetucknee, which we'll be doing two times in the next couple of weeks (Monday, 12/23 and Sunday, 12/29) is in the very last stages of autumn color. And, of course, people with visiting family love to paddle with manatees, so over the holidays, we'll be doing Crystal River three times, (Thursday, 12/26, Saturday, 12/28 and Monday, 12/30).
Also, I would be remiss if I didn't remind you procrastinators (my people!!) that Adventure Outpost has expanded our offerings. Our new Springs Republic part of our store is more of a boutique (I'm calling it a river boutique) that offers things like jewelry, apparel, shoes and art. 
We also still carry all kinds of outdoor and paddle gear, paddles,
vests, etc, as well as kayaks and canoes.
Our river tour coupons are always popular gifts. If you don't want to make the drive, just call and we can take the order over the phone. We'll then e-mail coupons to you. It's a slackers dream (more of my people!)
Our new location is just across from
the Great Outdoors Restaurant in the heart of High Springs. So, if you find yourself in our neck of the heart of downtown, I hope you'll stop in and say hi.
I hope you all have a great holiday. And if I don't see you before then, Happy New Year!
 
Now, here are details for the holiday
trips:    
 
- Saturday, December 21:  PRAIRIE CREEK
 
We'll be meeting at 9:00 A.M. The fee is $39 for "wanna go" members, ($50 for others), or $25 with your own boat ($35 for non-members).
 
 
Description 
 Located about 20 minutes east of Gainesville, Prairie Creek connects two of North Central Florida's most popular havens for wildlife watching, Newnans Lake and Paynes Prairie. So, it's no surprise that a paddle down this winding, dark-water, creek offers a variety of plants and animals. We usually see a number of water birds, and if you watch closely, you'll probably spot a few turtles sunning on logs and branches debris on the riverbank.
We'll start our paddle on Newnans Lake. The dense marsh thickets that sprouted during droughts a few years ago are still thriving, as is the abundant wildlife that loves such places. Around the edges of these marshes, American lotus plants are at the tail end of their bloom. While many are still displaying their showy yellow flowers, most are sporting the odd looking seed heads that are commonly seen in flower arrangements.  
 
As your boat glides into the mouth of Prairie Creek, you'll realize you've discovered one of Gainesville's least-known natural treasures.
 
For most of it's run, Prairie Creek courses through a mature forest of mixed hardwoods and cypress which form a dense, closed canopy overhead. Most years, seasonal rains cause the creek to brim and spill over the low, sandy banks into the forest. This keeps the understory relatively free of vegetation and allows good viewing into the forest.  As our journey carries us closer to the prairie basin, marsh and deeper swamp habitats become more prevalent, and the wildlife changes accordingly. Water birds, including ibis, wood storks, egrets and herons become more common. The last leg of the trip skirts along the backside of the huge Camp's dike, erected in the '30's to divert the creek's flow away from the prairie.    Gliding down the first section of Camp's Canal, we'll pass the controversial weir that, as dictated by State regulations, allows a percentage of the water to flow onto the Prairie and shunts the rest down the canal to River Styx and Orange Lake. 
Wildlife 
As mentioned above, we might spot some wading birds, osprey and possibly a bald eagle on Newnans Lake. The creek forest is home to woodpeckers (we commonly see a pileated or two), owls and various perching birds.
History 
This trip takes us into one of the wilder areas of the Paynes Prairie domain which boasts a fascinating cultural and written heritage dating back nearly 12,000 years (somebody should write a book!).  Prairie Creek, while being an interesting and fun little creek, bears the scars of heavy abuse. Here, you'll find a good example of how important even the smallest changes to a system can have a huge impact.
In the 1930's, the natural flow of Prairie Creek onto Paynes Prairie was blocked by a dam and redirected to River Styx and on to Orange Lake.  Later, the head of the stream, where the water entered from Newnans Lake, was dammed to keep water levels high in the lake. It wasn't until the '70's and '80's that it became clear how harmful these alterations were to all of the systems involved, especially the Prairie. The dam at the Newnan's Lake end was removed, but the sediment that accumulated while it was in place remains and has created a block to sediment flow out of the lake. Removing the dike and canal at Paynes Prairie has proved to be more of a challenge. With two highways and a number of private properties around the basin, letting the water levels rise and fall, uncontrolled, would require a lot of changes and preparations. 
For our purposes, the most relevant event in this creeks history is the recent flooding brought on by the hurricane season. This comes on the heels of a three year drought which is just ending. At it's most extreme, in 2002, Prairie Creek was more a hiking trail than a stream. But, the waters have returned and so will we. 
Skill level 
Intermediate. Even though there's plenty of water and it's a relatively short trip (about 2.5 hours), there will be a bit of weaving between obstacles in some places. The main consideration is your physical ability. 
 
 
 
 
 
- Monday, December 23  (9:00 AM)ICHETUCKNEE (short version - 2 hours)
 
  
Serenity
  
We'll be meeting at 9:00 AM at the Ichetucknee River, about 45 minute drive north from Gainesville. The fee is $35 for "wanna go" members ($45 for non-members) or $25 with your own boat ($35 for non-members). * NOTE: There is an additional $5.00 per person park entrance fee.
 
The meeting site at the river is about 30 - 40 minutes from Gainesville. We'll be on the water for about 2 hours. It's all downstream. ** RESERVATIONS REQUIRED!
 
 
Description
 
Ichetucknee is one of the stars of Florida's "Springs Heartland."  When you see it you'll understand why. While its crystal clarity and lush growth of submerged vegetation is typical of Florida's 900+ artesian springs, the fact that it maintains this clarity for its entire six-mile run to the Santa Fe (compliments of nine named springs and a number of unnamed ones), is exceptional.
 
Ask a hydrologist and he'll tell you Ichetucknee's story begins long before its emergence from its namesake spring in a namesake park. He'll tell you about its springshed--the underground equivallent of those above-ground watersheds so nicely diagramed in our grade-school texts that show rain water running down hills and valleys into rivers. If he's feeling brave, he might begin at the beginning, describing a time when Florida was under a shallow sea and animal remains settled on the bottom. This accumulated and compacted for millins of years to form a layer of limestone 1,000 - 2,000 feet thick in places. He'll tell you about the vast network of hollow channels that formed in this rock and now carry underground streams and reservoirs of water called the Floridan Aquifer. It is water from this aquifer that makes up the bulk of water gushing from the springs of Ichetucknee. 
 
 
By this point, our impassioned hydrologist will likely be alone--maybe with one or two sympathetic companions. If you happen to be one of them and foolishly feign a remnant of interest, he's likely to continue with a description of some creeks in Lake City that disappear into sink holes and join the underground channels of the aquifer as they course towards their eventual reemergence at the Ichetucknee springs. He'll watch your eyes as he makes this last statement to make sure you understand the implications. "Everything that washes into those creeks goes into the aquifer--our drinking water!" he'll say. "And some of it will emerge at these springs, where it will pass through the gills, wash the leaves and quench the thirst of every living thing it passes between here and the Gulf of Mexico." These springs aren't the beginning or the end of Ichetucknee's story, they are the middle--a brief interlude while the Big Girl does a set change.
 
As it gushes from the head springs to begin its six mile journey  toward  Santa
 
Fe river, Ichetucknee begins as a narrow stream threading between 15 foot high walls of limestone. Sculpted by quick flowing water for thousands of years, the rock formations along this stretch are a wonderful contrast to the scenery we typically see on other Florida rivers. Soon, the high banks move further apart and become obscured by a fantastic variety of aquatic plant life and trees. Another mile and several springs bring us into a nice cypress forest which lines the river for the rest of the way.
By the end of the six mile run (a couple of miles beyond where we'll end this trip), the Ichetucknee's springs have combined to form a substantial river which adds nearly 233 million gallons of water to the Santa Fe river every day.
 
 
Wildlife
 
On its relatively short run of six miles, Ichetucknee passes through a surprising diversity of habitats. In the first quarter mile, it wends narrowly under a high canopy of bald cypress, ash, red maples, hickory and basswood. The lower shroud of redbud, Virginia willow, swamp dogwood and salt bush is crowded, in many places by a tangle of climbing hemp, ground nut and dodder vines. Phoebes, vireos and prothonotary warblers love this area, when they are here. 
 
Fifteen minutes into the trip, we enter a broad wild rice marsh, where a nice mix of submerged and emergent vegetation supports a birders dreamscape of ibis, cormorants, anhingas, wood ducks, wood storks, great egrets and limpkins. Some summers we spot an occasional roseate spoonbill. When the river is running at above average levels, manatees ascend the river and are usually spotted in this marsh section.
 
An hour into the trip, you'll enter a more mature, high-canopied river forest of bald cypress, ash, red maples, tupelo, water oaks and hickory. Pileated woodpeckers, as well as a few smaller members of the woodpecker clan, like this area. Watch for barred owls, red-shouldered hawks, prothonotary and parula warblers and listen for yellow-billed cuckoos, tanagers, and red-eyed vireos.
 
River otters are commonly seen in all sections of the river. Equally common, though less commonly seen, are beavers. After being trapped out of Florida in the 19th and early 20th centuries, beavers have re-expanded their range. The southern extent of their range is now the Suwannee and Santa Fe River basins (of which Ichetucknee is a part). The fact that they were here before the trappers arrived is confirmed in the river's name. "Ichetucknee" is a Seminole name meaning, "place of the beavers."
 
 
For many paddlers, the highlight of paddling Ichetucknee are its turtles. Suwannee cooters, yellow bellied turtles and others crowd nearly every large log along the river. Watch the river bottom for dark, fist-sized loggerhead musk turtles. Conversely, alligators are scarce. We haven't seen a gator on one of our Ichetucknee tours in over two years.
 
 
History
 
Over the past 12,000 years, these waters have quenched the thirst of an amazing cast of characters beginning with the Paleo-Indians who left traces of their passing in the river bed and surrounding countryside. For hundreds of years Timucua Indians from the nearby village of Aquacaleyquen enjoyed coming to drink this water after a hard days work, as did Hernando De Soto, in 1539, after a hard day of storming the village and kidnapping the chief and his daughter.
 
In the 1600's, Franciscan priests from the mission San Martin, which sat alongside the river a short distance below the head spring, baptized Timucuan converts in these waters. In 1704, this same water was used by Georgian soldiers to wash the blood from their hands after raiding and burning San Martin. Seventy years later, we can safely assume that Daniel Boone filled his canteen with Ichetucknee spring water as he traveled the ancient trail that passed near the headspring on his search for a Florida homestead.
 
But, that was the past. All we know of the future is that a small band of nature lovers is going to paddle down these same clear waters this weekend. Wanna be one of them?
 
 
Difficulty
 
Ichetucknee is an easy river to paddle with a light current that does most of the work for you.  It's a bit tight in the first 15 minutes, so beginners might bump into the bank a few times as they get the hang of it. But it's all in good fun. Besides, going backwards once in a while allows you to see parts of the river the rest of us usually miss! ;o)
 
Here's a link to a page that includes a Youtube video of paddling Ichetucknee. (Thanks to Coleen Degroff for sharing this):   http://haileplantationrealestate.com/gainesville-life/another-great-thing-about-living-in-gainesville/
 
Our website description:
http://www.adventureoutpost.net/Tours4aNew.htm#Ichetucknee
 
 
 
- Thursday, 12/26.  10:00 A.M:   CRYSTAL RIVER Manatee Paddle .
 
Discovery
 
On this tour we take a 3 - 3.5 hour paddle around King's Bay, stopping along the way at some of the 30+ springs which are the manatees favorite hang-outs. The cost for this one is $39 per person ($50 for non- "wanna go" members) or $25 if you bring your own boat ($35 for non-members).
 
 
Description
 
Kings Bay, the headwaters of Crystal river, is the winter home of over 500 manatees, making it one of the most important refuges for these amazing, endangered mammals. But there's more here than just manatees!  This is a fun area to explore, with about 30 artesian springs and lots of wildlife - especially water birds.
 
Manatee does a roll
Many Indian sites are found along the edge of King's Bay and Crystal River, including an amazing complex of temple mounds (Crystal River State Archaeological Site) overlooking the north side of the bay. This site was continually occupied for nearly 1600 years!  The natives abandoned this site sometime around the early 1400's - a relatively short time before Europeans arrived. This is probably the longest occupied site in Florida. NOTE - the Crystal River Archaeological Site is several miles downstream from the area's we explore on this tour. If you were to paddle down that way, you could see a couple of the mounds from the river, but you're not allowed to enter the park from the river. So, if you'd like to see these mounds, it's best to drive to the Crystal River State Archaeological Site after our paddle. It's well worth the $3 per vehicle entry fee.
 
 
Highlights
 
Paddling among manatees is an experience that every animal lover should have. It's hard to believe that such large, wild animals could be so gentle and tolerant of humans. Sometimes they'll even roll over and rub their belly on the bottom of your boat.
 
As we make our way between several of the manatees favorite spring hang-outs, we're treated to the company of hundreds of water birds - pelicans, cormorants, herons (frequently night-herons) gulls, bald eagles and such. We occasionally see Canada geese and, on about half of our trips, we see white pelicans. The only downside to this trip is that civilization is pressing hard against the shoreline around much of the bay - especially in the areas most frequented by the manatees.
 
Please note - We don't swim with manatees on our trips. Even though some manatees seem to enjoy human guests in their water, many of them definitely don't. Some are shy of humans and quickly move away to avoid us. Since we know the manatees come here to survive the winter (they freeze to death if they can't find warm water such as flows from these springs) it would be selfish of us to jump in and scare the shy ones away from their warm water refuge. Even away from the spring vents, making manatees move around any more than necessary makes them use valuable energy. There are many other concerns as well, including their need for rest (they sleep day and night) and their need to conserve valuable energy by not having to move around more than necessary. (I'm not prone to preach, so I won't do so here. Please ask if you'd like more details). Thank you for supporting our position by staying out of the water when manatees are present (whether it's on our trips or any other time). I am truly grateful - and so (I believe) are the manatees!
 
 
Difficulty
 
This is an easy paddle but, on windy days, paddling on the open bay can be challenging. You can get more information about this and most of our other trips at http://www.adventureoutpost.net
 
 

- Friday, December 27:  CROSS CREEK SUNSET PADDLE
 
Our recent sunset paddles at Cross Creek have been fantastic - bald eagles, flowers and lots of water birds. This trip takes place about 1/2 hour south of Gainesville. We'll be meeting at 10:00 AM. The fee is $39 for "wanna go" members, ($50 for others), or $25 with your own boat ($35 for non-members).
 
 
Approaching the bridge
Description
 
Cross Creek is a charming little thread of water connecting two of north Florida's most beautiful and storied lakes, Orange and Lochloosa. On it's brief, mile-long run, the slow flowing creek meanders lazily under a nearly complete canopy of oak, maple and moss-draped  cypress. On the downstream end, Orange Lake is a vast, open expanse, famous for it's "floating islands." In the past, it was a world-famous bass lake, but water levels and water quality issues in recent decades have reduced the fish populations greatly. Levels have come up, but there's still a long way to go.
 
On the north end of the creek, Lochloosa Lake has fared a little better. The shoreline close to the creek inlet is much more accessible than that of Orange Lake, where wide marshes keep us nearly a quarter of a mile from the treeline. There are plenty of marshes on Lochloosa also, but in many places, you can paddle right up to the sandy, cypress lined shore. The lakes shore is an fantastic unbroken forest of cypress and granddaddy oaks, maples ashes and others, with the only houses seen (after leaving the Creek) being in the far distance.
 
Lochloosa Lake approaching Cross Creek
 
I like to do this as a "sunset paddle," not only to enjoy the many roosting and nesting birds that fill the trees at the end of the day, but also because of the beautiful, wide open vistas that make the perfect backdrop for the area's beautiful sunsets. Marjorie Rawlings knew them well. "The sun at the horizon came into its full glory and the west was copper, then blood-red, blazing into an orgy of salmon and red and brass and a soft bluish yellow the color of ripe guavas. Northeast and south faded instantly to gray, timid at having usurped the flame of the sunset. Then suddenly the west dimmed, as though a bonfire charred and dimmed. There was only a bar of copper. All the sky, to every point of the compass, became a soft blue and the clouds were white powder, so that in the end it was tenderness that triumphed. I went home to sound, cool sleep." (MKR, Cross Creek. p. 289).
 
Sunset on Orange Lake
 
Even on those days when the Big Girl (Mama Nature) offers a more dramatic end to the day, we still come away feeling far richer for the experience. On summer afternoon, the day could end more like another afternoon Rawlings described - "The air is so still that even the restless Spanish moss hangs motionless. Although the sun is hidden the atmosphere is stifling. Then an impalpable breath stirs. The tallest palms in the east grove bend their heads, the moss in the hammock lifts as though a silent hand moved through a gray beard. There is a sibilant sound in the pecan trees, the grayness thickens, and rain marches visibly across palms and orange trees and comes in at the gate. Sometimes it is a gentle shower, sometimes a rushing flood. After it has passed, the air is as fresh and clean as April and the night will be cool for sleeping. The sun strikes through the wetness, there is likely to be a rainbow, and the palms are rosy in the evening light." (MKR, Cross Creek. p. 285)
 
Regardless of how it goes - clear, cloudy or wet - the only thing that could end a day better, would be to go home after the trip, curl up in bed with a Rawling's book (sunsets are best served with the book "Cross Creek") and let her magical descriptions of the places and wildlife you've just experienced lull you to sleep.
 
 
Glossy ibis
Wildlife
 
There's hardly a more scenic setting in north Florida to enjoy Bald eagles, osprey, several species of duck, egrets, herons and, of course those two amazing fish catchers, cormorants and anhingas. Watch the shoreline carefully and you might be lucky enough to spot a reptile or two - maybe an alligator, snake or turtle. On summer evenings, we're usually treated to a deafening chorus of frogs - a "boys choir" of males hailing from several species, as we pass an active breeding site.
 
 
History
 
Prehistoric Indians found this an ideal area to live, and left plenty of evidence to attest to this fact. Near the north shore of Orange Lake, one of the State's oldest burial mound complexes is found near an interesting village site surrounded by earthworks.
 
By the time Europeans began their exploration of Florida, the main village of the powerful Potano tribe was situated a short distance from the ancient earthworks. Life changed for the Potanos in 1539, when Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto led his expedition through this area. The chroniclers of his expedition mentioned Potano but fortunately the soldiers didn't stay long enough to create the kind mischief which highlighted much of their journey. In the mid 1500's, the Potanos withstood several raids from French and then Spanish soldiers, fighting alongside some of the Potanos Indian enemies. Eventually the Potanos were forced to relocate their village to the San Felasco hammock, north west of Gainesville.
 
Several decades later, another band of Indians moved onto the abandoned Orange Lake site. The area was now at the southern fringes of an expanding system of Christian missions being established by Spanish monks. It's believed there was a mission briefly established here at this village, but it didn't last long.
 
During the late 1800's, several small steam boats conducted business on these waters - mostly carrying lumber, oranges and produce. The most active "port" seems to have been at the small community of Lochloosa on that lakes eastern shore.
 
By far the most colorful chapter in Cross Creeks past began with the arrival, in 1928, of the famous author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. For nearly 25 years, until her death in 1953 of cerebral hemorrhage, she captured the essence of rural life in this area. Her writings brought Rawlings worldwide acclaim (and a Pulitzer Prize in 1939 for The Yearling) and inspired people around the world to dust off their atlases and search for this tiny hamlet. Today, her enchanting words still cast their magic, inspiring thousands of people every year to visit her home, now a quiet and appropriately "off-the-beaten-path" State Park with scheduled tours. (For park info, call 352-466-3672).
 
For more information on this trip go to: http://www.adventureoutpost.net/ToursA-N.htm#Cross%20Creek
 
 
- Saturday, 12/28.  10:00 A.M:   CRYSTAL RIVER Manatee Paddle .
 
A shared moment
On this tour we take a 3 - 3.5 hour paddle around King's Bay, stopping along the way at some of the 30+ springs which are the manatees favorite hang-outs. The cost for this one is $39 per person ($50 for non- "wanna go" members) or $25 if you bring your own boat ($35 for non-members).
 
 
Description
 
Kings Bay, the headwaters of Crystal river, is the winter home of over 500 manatees, making it one of the most important refuges for these amazing, endangered mammals. But there's more here than just manatees!  This is a fun area to explore, with about 30 artesian springs and lots of wildlife - especially water birds.
 
Many Indian sites are found along the edge of King's Bay and Crystal River, including an amazing complex of temple mounds (Crystal River State Archaeological Site) overlooking the north side of the bay. This site was continually occupied for nearly 1600 years!  The natives abandoned this site sometime around the early 1400's - a relatively short time before Europeans arrived. This is probably the longest occupied site in Florida. NOTE - the Crystal River Archaeological Site is several miles downstream from the area's we explore on this tour. If you were to paddle down that way, you could see a couple of the mounds from the river, but you're not allowed to enter the park from the river. So, if you'd like to see these mounds, it's best to drive to the Crystal River State Archaeological Site after our paddle. It's well worth the $3 per vehicle entry fee.
 
 
Highlights
 
Paddling among manatees is an experience that every animal lover should have. It's hard to believe that such large, wild animals could be so gentle and tolerant of humans. Sometimes they'll even roll over and rub their belly on the bottom of your boat.
 
As we make our way between several of the manatees favorite spring hang-outs, we're treated to the company of hundreds of water birds - pelicans, cormorants, herons (frequently night-herons) gulls, bald eagles and such. We occasionally see Canada geese and, on about half of our trips, we see white pelicans. The only downside to this trip is that civilization is pressing hard against the shoreline around much of the bay - especially in the areas most frequented by the manatees.
 
Please note - We don't swim with manatees on our trips. Even though some manatees seem to enjoy human guests in their water, many of them definitely don't. Some are shy of humans and quickly move away to avoid us. Since we know the manatees come here to survive the winter (they freeze to death if they can't find warm water such as flows from these springs) it would be selfish of us to jump in and scare the shy ones away from their warm water refuge. Even away from the spring vents, making manatees move around any more than necessary makes them use valuable energy. There are many other concerns as well, including their need for rest (they sleep day and night) and their need to conserve valuable energy by not having to move around more than necessary. (I'm not prone to preach, so I won't do so here. Please ask if you'd like more details). Thank you for supporting our position by staying out of the water when manatees are present (whether it's on our trips or any other time). I am truly grateful - and so (I believe) are the manatees!
 
 
Difficulty
 
This is an easy paddle but, on windy days, paddling on the open bay can be challenging. You can get more information about this and most of our other trips at http://www.adventureoutpost.net
 
- Sunday, December 29  (9:00 AM)ICHETUCKNEE (short version - 2 hours)
 
  
Serenity
  
We'll be meeting at 9:00 AM at the Ichetucknee River, about 45 minute drive north from Gainesville. The fee is $35 for "wanna go" members ($45 for non-members) or $25 with your own boat ($35 for non-members). * NOTE: There is an additional $5.00 per person park entrance fee.
 
The meeting site at the river is about 30 - 40 minutes from Gainesville. We'll be on the water for about 2 hours. It's all downstream. ** RESERVATIONS REQUIRED!
 
 
Description
 
Ichetucknee is one of the stars of Florida's "Springs Heartland."  When you see it you'll understand why. While its crystal clarity and lush growth of submerged vegetation is typical of Florida's 900+ artesian springs, the fact that it maintains this clarity for its entire six-mile run to the Santa Fe (compliments of nine named springs and a number of unnamed ones), is exceptional.
 
Ask a hydrologist and he'll tell you Ichetucknee's story begins long before its emergence from its namesake spring in a namesake park. He'll tell you about its springshed--the underground equivallent of those above-ground watersheds so nicely diagramed in our grade-school texts that show rain water running down hills and valleys into rivers. If he's feeling brave, he might begin at the beginning, describing a time when Florida was under a shallow sea and animal remains settled on the bottom. This accumulated and compacted for millins of years to form a layer of limestone 1,000 - 2,000 feet thick in places. He'll tell you about the vast network of hollow channels that formed in this rock and now carry underground streams and reservoirs of water called the Floridan Aquifer. It is water from this aquifer that makes up the bulk of water gushing from the springs of Ichetucknee. 
 
 
By this point, our impassioned hydrologist will likely be alone--maybe with one or two sympathetic companions. If you happen to be one of them and foolishly feign a remnant of interest, he's likely to continue with a description of some creeks in Lake City that disappear into sink holes and join the underground channels of the aquifer as they course towards their eventual reemergence at the Ichetucknee springs. He'll watch your eyes as he makes this last statement to make sure you understand the implications. "Everything that washes into those creeks goes into the aquifer--our drinking water!" he'll say. "And some of it will emerge at these springs, where it will pass through the gills, wash the leaves and quench the thirst of every living thing it passes between here and the Gulf of Mexico." These springs aren't the beginning or the end of Ichetucknee's story, they are the middle--a brief interlude while the Big Girl does a set change.
 
As it gushes from the head springs to begin its six mile journey  toward  Santa
 
Fe river, Ichetucknee begins as a narrow stream threading between 15 foot high walls of limestone. Sculpted by quick flowing water for thousands of years, the rock formations along this stretch are a wonderful contrast to the scenery we typically see on other Florida rivers. Soon, the high banks move further apart and become obscured by a fantastic variety of aquatic plant life and trees. Another mile and several springs bring us into a nice cypress forest which lines the river for the rest of the way.
By the end of the six mile run (a couple of miles beyond where we'll end this trip), the Ichetucknee's springs have combined to form a substantial river which adds nearly 233 million gallons of water to the Santa Fe river every day.
 
 
Wildlife
 
On its relatively short run of six miles, Ichetucknee passes through a surprising diversity of habitats. In the first quarter mile, it wends narrowly under a high canopy of bald cypress, ash, red maples, hickory and basswood. The lower shroud of redbud, Virginia willow, swamp dogwood and salt bush is crowded, in many places by a tangle of climbing hemp, ground nut and dodder vines. Phoebes, vireos and prothonotary warblers love this area, when they are here. 
 
Fifteen minutes into the trip, we enter a broad wild rice marsh, where a nice mix of submerged and emergent vegetation supports a birders dreamscape of ibis, cormorants, anhingas, wood ducks, wood storks, great egrets and limpkins. Some summers we spot an occasional roseate spoonbill. When the river is running at above average levels, manatees ascend the river and are usually spotted in this marsh section.
 
An hour into the trip, you'll enter a more mature, high-canopied river forest of bald cypress, ash, red maples, tupelo, water oaks and hickory. Pileated woodpeckers, as well as a few smaller members of the woodpecker clan, like this area. Watch for barred owls, red-shouldered hawks, prothonotary and parula warblers and listen for yellow-billed cuckoos, tanagers, and red-eyed vireos.
 
River otters are commonly seen in all sections of the river. Equally common, though less commonly seen, are beavers. After being trapped out of Florida in the 19th and early 20th centuries, beavers have re-expanded their range. The southern extent of their range is now the Suwannee and Santa Fe River basins (of which Ichetucknee is a part). The fact that they were here before the trappers arrived is confirmed in the river's name. "Ichetucknee" is a Seminole name meaning, "place of the beavers."
 
 
For many paddlers, the highlight of paddling Ichetucknee are its turtles. Suwannee cooters, yellow bellied turtles and others crowd nearly every large log along the river. Watch the river bottom for dark, fist-sized loggerhead musk turtles. Conversely, alligators are scarce. We haven't seen a gator on one of our Ichetucknee tours in over two years.
 
 
History
 
Over the past 12,000 years, these waters have quenched the thirst of an amazing cast of characters beginning with the Paleo-Indians who left traces of their passing in the river bed and surrounding countryside. For hundreds of years Timucua Indians from the nearby village of Aquacaleyquen enjoyed coming to drink this water after a hard days work, as did Hernando De Soto, in 1539, after a hard day of storming the village and kidnapping the chief and his daughter.
 
In the 1600's, Franciscan priests from the mission San Martin, which sat alongside the river a short distance below the head spring, baptized Timucuan converts in these waters. In 1704, this same water was used by Georgian soldiers to wash the blood from their hands after raiding and burning San Martin. Seventy years later, we can safely assume that Daniel Boone filled his canteen with Ichetucknee spring water as he traveled the ancient trail that passed near the headspring on his search for a Florida homestead.
 
But, that was the past. All we know of the future is that a small band of nature lovers is going to paddle down these same clear waters this weekend. Wanna be one of them?
 
 
Difficulty
 
Ichetucknee is an easy river to paddle with a light current that does most of the work for you.  It's a bit tight in the first 15 minutes, so beginners might bump into the bank a few times as they get the hang of it. But it's all in good fun. Besides, going backwards once in a while allows you to see parts of the river the rest of us usually miss! ;o)
 
Here's a link to a page that includes a Youtube video of paddling Ichetucknee. (Thanks to Coleen Degroff for sharing this):   http://haileplantationrealestate.com/gainesville-life/another-great-thing-about-living-in-gainesville/
 
Our website description:
http://www.adventureoutpost.net/Tours4aNew.htm#Ichetucknee
 
 
- Monday, 12/30.  10:00 A.M:   CRYSTAL RIVER Manatee Paddle .
On this tour we take a 3 - 3.5 hour paddle around King's Bay, stopping along the way at some of the 30+ springs which are the manatees favorite hang-outs. The cost for this one is $39 per person ($50 for non- "wanna go" members) or $25 if you bring your own boat ($35 for non-members).
 
 
Description
 
(See entry above for Thursday, 12/26)
 
 
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
Now let's bring the year in right with a paddle!
 
- Wednesday, 1/01/2014:  SILVER RIVER

 
This river is about 1 hour south of Gainesville. We'll be meeting there at 10:00 A.M. The cost is $39 for "wanna go" members ($50 for non-members). With your own boat it's $25 for members ($35 for non-members). NOTE - There is also an additional $5 park fee.
 
 
Description
 
On this is an up-and-back paddle, we launch from a ramp near the lower end of Silver River and paddle upstream toward the large headspring. Along the way, we'll stop for a lunch and stretch break on the river bank (no facilities of any kind). After lunch, we'll continue our upstream paddle to the head spring. From there, we'll turn around and ride (and paddle ;o) the current back to the bottom of the river--taking out at the same site from which we launched.
 
Our exploration begins near the mouth of Silver river, close to where it flows into the Ocklawaha River. As we make our way up stream in the 30 - 40 ft wide channel, we are treated to an unbroken panorama of cypress, ash, gum, red maple and an assortment of other trees and plants associated with the Ocklawaha river basin, of which this is an important part. There are always plenty of water birds, especially near the head spring. Turtles, gators and and other reptiles always keep things interesting, as do my personal favorites, the river otters. The quiet paddler with a searching eye will usually spot one of these stealthy hunters on about 3/4 of our trips.
 
The most popular animals on Silver River are the Rhesus monkeys  (actually macaques - see below). Even though exotic species are never welcome in natural habitats, its hard not to enjoy watching these interesting, amusing Asian/African primates. It's not their fault they wound up in the forests of central Florida. But be very careful and never approach them. They can be aggressive and have a wicked bite.   
 
At the uppermost (most distal) point of our up-and-back route, we arrive at the river source, the Silver Springs group. The main vent--Mammoth Spring--is one of the largest springs (in average flow rate) in the world. This area is within the private Silver Springs theme park. The main river channel within the park is a public waterway, with free access to all. Even so, please be very respectful of the tour boats by staying off to the side when they pass. We want all visitors--paddlers and tour boat passengers alike--to have a positive experience when they explore Florida's beautiful waterways. It looks bad for everyone when there is friction between boat operators.
 
Perhaps the main feature that sets Silver River apart from other waterways is it's water. Crystal clear and relatively deep (averaging about 6 - 8 feet, with a few much deeper holes), few waterways rival this one for sheer beauty of its water.
 
Likewise, few waterways can match the diversity and numbers of species that you find on Silver. Put down your paddle and float with the current  (save this for the downstream part of the trip!) and you'll soon find crowds of small fish (mostly of the sunfish clan) drifting along in the shade of your boat. Feel free to bring swim-wear and snorkeling gear if you think you might be inclined to jump in and meet the river inhabitants face to mask.
 
  
Highlights
 
The most popular animals on this trip, and the most unusual for any of our trips, are the monkeys. Earlier in this century a number of Rhesus monkeys escaped into the wild from Silver Springs Park. The most prevalent story is that they escaped from sets of the old Tarzan movies which were filmed near the springs. But, in reality, their presence can be credited to (blamed on?) Col. Tooey, a concessionaire at Silver Springs park in the 1930's. To add some tropical flavour to his "jungle cruise," he released some of the monkeys on a small island in the middle of the river. He didn't realize they could swim. Today, they are well established in the bottomland forest along the Silver and a bit of the Ocklawaha Rivers.   
 
If you do see any (I'd say about 4 out of 5 paddlers will spot at least one), be sure to keep a safe distance - and DON'T FEED them. They are fun to watch, but they can be aggressive and will bite if you get too close.
 
 
Difficulty
 
The first half of this trip is 2.5 - 3 hour upstream paddle against a moderate current. It can become exhausting for some people but you need only go as far as you able. You can turn back at any time and let the current help you on the relatively easy paddle back to the boat ramp. If you plan on doing the entire river, expect to be on the water from 5 - 7 hours, depending on how fast you paddle and how much poking around you do looking at the natural wonders--large and small--that line every inch of the run. (Note: we encourage slow poking. Such beauty should be savored!)
 
More information about this trip can be found at: http://www.adventureoutpost.net/ToursO-Z.htm#Silver%20river
 
 
 
 
 
 ** FOR ALL TRIPS **
 
 
RESERVATIONS REQUIRED for all trips! You can make a reservation any time before 5 PM the afternoon before the trip. HOWEVER, there's no guarantee that - a.) you will be able to contact us, b.) that there will still be spaces available, c.) we have not already left the store with the boats. The earlier you call, the more likely you are to secure a spot.
 
- All reservations must be secured with prepayment, using cash, check or credit card (by phone is OK). -
 
CANCELLATIONS: You can cancel up to 24 hours before the trip and get a full refund. After that, your payment is forfeited.
 
 
Wanna Go?
 
- If so, please Call us at Adventure Outpost (386) 454-0611 and we'll get your payment information and give you trip specifics.
 
- If you're not sure, write or call with any questions and we'll be glad to answer them.
 
- If not, do nothing. By not responding we'll know you want to pass on this trip. You won't hear from us again until your next trip notice.
 
Thanks,
 
Lars Andersen
 
Adventure Outpost  LLC
30 NW 1st Ave
High Springs, FL 32643
 
 
http://riverguidesjournal.blogspot.com/

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