Hello "wanna go" lunatics,
We're coming up on a full moon which means different things to different paddlers in Florida. For those of you who enjoy watching interesting critters doing interesting things, the July full moon offers an excellent chance to observe horseshoe crabs engaged in their spring/summer mating routine. This Saturday's (7/20) Cedar Keys paddle was specifically timed to coincide with a high tide that should be good for seeing this maritime passion play that has been performed in these waters for hundreds of millions of years (over 400 million to be exact). Don't even try to wrap your head around that number! For those of you who are more nocturnally-inclined, it means this will be the best weekend of the month for an evening paddle. For you, we have scheduled a moonlight paddle on Santa Fe River this Saturday (7/20) evening. This will be an unguided trip, though we will have someone on the river to do sweep and make sure everyone is doing okay. Our route will be from Hwy 27 ramp to Rum Island County Park.
As for the other two paddle trips on this week's lineup, any attempt to find some connection to this week's full-moon theme would be a lame and transparent attempt to milk the theme for all its worth; it would be the kind of shameless promotional endeavor that destroys ones credibility and.......oh yeah, did I mention that more crimes are committed around the time of the full moon and therefore you should spend as much time as possible away from civilization; ideally in places like Ocklawaha River, where we'll be paddling Sunday (7/21) and Prairie Creek where we'll be Tuesday (7/23)? Also, wildlife is more energized around the full moon than at other times of the month, so that is the best time to explore quiet, shady rivers; places like Ocklawaha, where we'll be paddling Sunday and Prairie Creek where we'll be Tuesday). Also, have I ever mentioned that there has never been a werewolf sighting on either Ocklawaha, where we'll be paddling Sunday or on Prairie Creek where we'll be Tuesday? .........Anyway, what was I saying?
Here's this lineup for this weeks full moon-related paddle trips.
- Saturday, 7/20/13: CEDAR KEY
The meeting place for this trip is about 1 hour W of Gainesville. We'll be meeting 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 and $35 for non-members.
Unlike other coastal regions, where civilization crowds shoulder-to-shoulder along the shore, like lemmings amassing for their the mythical plunge into the sea, nature still rules along Florida's Big Bend area - a.k.a. the central Gulf coast. It’s a low, wet country where the "shore line" defies definition, ever-changing, shrinking and expanding, with the ebb and flow of tides.
Driving west toward Cedar Key, you hardly notice the slow drop in elevation - only about a foot per mile as you approach the coast. Leaving the pine flat-woods and sandy, scrub ridges, you notice the roadside ditch has become wetter and is filled with a beautiful assortment of wetland plants. You'll also notice that the pine forest has given way to hardwood swamp, loaded with bays and red maples.
Nearing the Gulf, a gust of warm air, heavily perfumed with sea-salt, tells you you're getting close. Another bend in the road and you're treated to one of the rarest of Florida offerings - a wide-open vista. The forest ends unnoticed as your gaze is drawn away to vast expanses of salt marsh, scattered islands and open water stretching to the horizon.
The hundreds of little islands that line this watery coast, range in size from barren, half acre sand-spits to bonafide, mile-wide islands. For the curious explorer who's not in a hurry, the complex, species-rich communities that crowd these islands never get boring. And, if you lose track of time and suddenly find that you've run out of daylight (I'm speaking from experience here), that's not so bad either. As dusk settles and the the only sound you hear is the breeze, you look out to see the silhouettes of palms, wind-gnarled oaks, pines and mangroves cast against a smoldering sun. It's the stuff of dreams - a place where all the world is right.
In 1867, naturalist John Muir described Cedar Key as being "surrounded by scores of other keys, many of them looking like a clump of palms, arranged like a tasteful bouquet, and placed in the sea to be kept fresh. Others have quite a sprinkling of oaks and junipers, beautifully united with vines. Still others consist of shells, with a few grasses and mangroves circled with a rim of rushes." Wildlife watching is great in this area - especially for birders.
Pelicans (brown and white), osprey, cormorants, gulls, oystercatchers, skimmers and a dizzying menagerie of plovers and waders will keep your binoculars hoisted. We often see bottle-nosed dolphins on this trip, as well as rays and other fish.
In addition to its richness of wildlife, the Cedar Key area has many archaeological sites. When the earliest Floridians arrived nearly 12,000 years ago, their lives revolved around following the roaming herds of huge Ice Age mammals, such as mammoths and mastodons. But as warming temperatures brought an end to the Ice Age, so too went the so-called "megafauna", and the Indians were forced to change their eating habits and life-style.
About 2,000 - 3,000 B.C., seafood began to dominate the diet and permanent villages were established on the higher ridges near the Gulf coast. Central to their diet, were shellfish, proof of which is seen in the many large shell middens, or mounds, where generations of villagers tossed their table scraps - mostly oyster and mussel shells. These middens are found on the nearby mainland and on many of these islands, including some which we will explore on this trip.
During the Second Seminole War (1835 - '42) Seahorse Key, near Cedar Key, was the location of a military hospital and a detention center where Indians were kept before being shipped west to the Indian Territories. After Florida became a State, the U.S government built a lighthouse on the island. Later, during the Civil War, it was used by the Union Army as a military prison.
On nearby Atsena Otie island, the army built a supply depot during the Second Seminole War. Over a century later, in the wake of the Civil War, a large mill was built on the island, where much of the area's vast stands of cedar trees were buzzed into pencils and shipped to distant ports. The town's population grew to nearly 300 before the mill was shut down and a hurricane destroyed most of the homes. On days when our journey brings us to this little island, we enjoy a short hike to the old grave yard where we find the graves of some notable characters including a pirates family, politicians and mill workers. On other days we head for different islands where we explore an old home site, abandoned early in the 1900's, where we learn about many of the local wild plants and how they were used by the Indians and settlers.
In addition to being a haven for all sorts of water birds and interesting sea life, this trip's open waters and the chance to do a bit of beach combing are a nice change of pace from our inland excursions.
This is usually a relatively easy paddle on open water with little wave action as we cross between several barrier islands. However, if it's a breezy day, it can be moderately strenuous with a light chop. If it gets to be more than a light chop, we won't go out.
If you want more information, including some of the areas history, go to - http://www.adventureoutpost.net/ToursA-N.htm#Cedar
- Saturday (evening), 7/20: MOONLIGHT PADDLE (Santa Fe River, Hwy 27 to Rum Island)
We'll be meeting at 8:00 PM to get everyone situated with boats, etc, and will then launch around 8:30. This trip costs $29 per person for "wanna go" members ($35 for non-members). There are no discounts on this one for bringing your own boat.
This will be a 1.5 - 2 hour paddle under the stars, down the Santa Fe River. After meeting at Adventure Outpost to sign everyone in, we'll drive down to our launch site at the Hwy 27 boat ramp. From there,we'll paddle downstream for 1.5 hours to Rum Island County Park.
The main attraction at Rum Island County park is Rum Island Spring. While it's not a very big spring, it still makes for a fine swim under the moon and stars.
Unlike our day trips, where scenery, botanizing and animal watching are the main focus, moonlight paddles are more about relaxation--there's nothing quite like watching the stars and the moon good company. But, don't rule out animal observation altogether.
Focusing your attention on the sky, you might glimpse a bat or a swift working hard to free the world of mosquitoes and other air born munchables.
Occasionally, a pair of barred owls will call out to each other, sometimes from a quarter mile away. With any luck, you'll hear their conversation degenerate from a civil exchange of hoots and hooty-hoo's to a raucous bout of cackling that sounds (I'll say it again) like a Chihuahua with a duck stuck in it's throat.
During evening hours there is as much, if not more, wildlife moving around than in the day. With the help of your flashlight, you might see a family of raccoons, rooting armadillos or an occasional deer feeding at the riverside. Fishing spiders perch at the water’s edge, dangling a leg in the water waiting to detect an approaching fish on which to jump. Listen and you'll hear owls, frogs, crickets or the eerie call of a limpkin.
We often see a beaver or two on these moonlight trips. Northern visitors, who are often giddy at the thought of visiting Orlando's famous, big-eared, lederhosen-clad mouse, aren't so impressed with our beavers. Apparently, they are still holding their own in northern regions and are considered a nuisance for their tree-gnawing ways. But here in Florida, where beavers were wiped out by fur trappers in the 1800's, we celebrate their return. They're always quick to announce their presence with a loud tail-slap on the water surface as they dive out of sight. While this stunt is intended to startle potential predators, it's pretty effective on paddlers as well.
Please note - This is not a "guided" excursion (too dark to see the wildlife), but we will have someone on the river bringing up the rear, just to make sure everyone's coming along okay.
Note #2 - We don't guarantee there will be moonlight! While this is called a "moonlight paddle" and we schedule it to coincide (nearly) with the full moon, there are often clouds obscuring the moon. In fairness to other participants (and us, your humble outfitters), please don't sign up for this one if you're likely to cancel because of imperfect conditions. Even with reduced visibility, you can see better than you might think and an evening paddle is still a great way to experience the river. Don't worry, we won't go out in genuine 'bad weather' such as rain or freezing temps.
Easy, but I don't recommend night paddling for your first paddling experience.
- Sunday, 7/21/13: OCKLAWAHA RIVER #2 (Gore's Landing to Eureka)
This one is about 1 hour southeast of Gainesville. We'll be meeting at 10:00 A.M. The fee for this trip is $39 for "wanna go" members ($50 for non-members). It's $29 with your own boat ($40 for non-members).
This trip begins with a brief, fifteen minute float down Silver River to it's confluence with the Ocklawaha. Here, as Silver River's swift, clear water blends with the warm, tannin stained waters of the Ocklawaha, the significance of the huge spring run to the greater Ocklawaha system is apparent. The change is abrupt. On hot summer days, you can hang your hands off each side of your boat and feel water that's almost too warm for a comfortable swim on one side and too cold on the other.
From here, the combined flow of Silver and Ocklawaha continues its northerly courses at about 2 - 3 mph. The spring water adds a bit of clarity, but there's still plenty of brown tannins in the mix. This scenic stretch of the Ocklawaha is flanked on both sides by a dense river swamp of tupelo, cypress, ash, maples, and sabal palms. Occasionally, the low, shaded bottomland rises abruptly to form high, sloping bluffs, some topping out at about 60 ft. After 2 - 2.5 hours paddling, we'll stop for lunch at one of the bluffs. From there, another couple of hours will bring us to our take-out spot at Gore's Landing.
Perhaps the earliest historic accounts of swimming in these waters are not of a person, but of a dog. When the explorer Hernando De Soto came here in 1539, this region was the domain of Acuera Indians. While searching the area for Indian food stores to plunder, the Spaniards came to the Ocklawaha. On the opposite bank they saw Acuera warriors, who made it clear the soldiers weren't welcome. De Soto didn't take the hint. Unable to cross the river under a persistent hail of arrows, he decided to sic his dog on the Indians. By the time he reached the far bank, the huge mastiff was reportedly riddled with nearly 50 arrows. He crawled out of the river and died at the Indians feet. This time De Soto got the message and rode off to meet his fate on the shores of another southern river (but that's another story).
A century later, the Acuera were still firmly entrenched and actively shunned the outside world. One chief went so far as to put a bounty on the head of any Spaniard who came into his domain. This tactic worked so well that no one even knew this tribe existed until one of their warriors, accused of murder, was captured in the woods near the La Chua ranch and revealed the tribes existence in court.
In 1814, American patriots also chose this remote area to avoid detection when they built fort Mitchell in the heart of Spanish Florida. The plan was to claim Florida as their own and then hand it over to the U.S. government. Unfortunately for the "patriots", U.S. leaders wanted nothing to do with the scheme. Before long, the Seminoles found the fort, killed a number of the men and sent the rest packing. Later in the same century, local secessionists secretly trained at the abandoned fort site, in preparation for coming Civil War. After the war, it was the Ku Klux Clan who used the isolated site for their ceremonies.
By the time Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings started spending time here in the 1930's, moonshining was the mainstay of the local Scrub economy. The high demand brought on by prohibition coupled with the need for seclusion to operate the illegal stills, made moonshining the perfect occupation for the Forest folk. Today, there are still many families living in remote corners of the Scrub, and most have plenty of first-hand tales of 'shinin'.
The Ocklawaha river forest, dominated by cypress, tupelo, ash, red maples and sabal palms, is home to a wide variety of plant and animal species. One critter who doesn't inhabit these swamps are humans. Too low and prone to flood for permanent settlement, the only people found here are those, like us, who are just passing through. The only time we see signs of civilization is when the river flows close to the high bluffs on the swamp's east side.
This is easy flowing water with few (if any) obstacles. And it's all downstream. Novices will not have a problem. The main consideration is your endurance. For some, 3.5 - 4.5 hours of paddling (depending on your speed) can be tiring. As many of you already know, we encourage paddlers to take their time to enjoy the experience.
For the description, go to:http://www.adventureoutpost.net/ToursO-Z.htm#Ockla2
- Tuesday, 7/23: PRAIRIE CREEK
We'll be meeting at 10:00 A.M. The fee is $39 for "wanna go" members, ($50 for others), or $25 with your own boat ($35 for non-members).
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.
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. As of a couple of years ago, there was apparently a panther (probably an escaped pet??) that roams these woods. Known as the "Micanopy Cat," it was seen by a number of people including a park ranger at Paynes Prairie State Park. You might also see some bear sign. There's been at least one bear in the area whose tracks I've seen several times in recent years.
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 Newnans 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.
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.
** 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.
- 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.
18238 NW Hwy 441
High Springs, FL 32643
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