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Canoeing in Florida with Lars (Cross Creek (Sat), Waccasassa/Wekiva (Sun)

Hello "wanna go" crew,
I have a feeling this window of opportunity to paddle Cross Creek might not be open long. While water levels have rebounded a bit after our record summer rains, they are still on the low side. With the dry season now upon us, its possible the Creek will be undoable again by spring. For now, however, conditions are great. And when you factor in the chance to watch recently-returned migratory bald eagles (some stay here through the summer) revving up for the winter breeding and nesting season, you get a sense of why we've been paddling out there a lot lately. Saturday's (11/02) Cross Creek trip is a Santa Fe Community College class, but Wanna Go members (that's you, if you got this note directly from me) are welcome to sign on.
On Sunday, 11/03, we'll be doing an early fall foliage tour on Waccasassa/Wekiva Rivers (near Cedar Key). Mid-November through mid-late December are our best months for fall foliage along Florida's waterways. So I suspect we will see some color on the early changing red maples, tupelos, bald cypress and other all-stars of the season on this trip. 
Here are the details:
Saturday, Nov. 2:  CROSS CREEK 
This trip takes place about 1/2 hour south of Gainesville. 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).
Approaching the bridge
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
Glossy ibis
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.
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
- Sunday, Nov. 3:  WACCASASSA/WEKIVA
On this trip we'll be exploring a couple of the finest waterways on the Gulf coast, the Waccasassa and Wekiva Rivers. Launch time is 10:00 A.M.. The meeting place is about an hour from Gainesville. This is a round-trip paddle, ending at the same spot from which we launch. We're usually on the water for about 4 - 5 hours.
The cost is $39 for "wanna go" members ($50 for others). With your own boat, it's $25 for "wanna go" members ($35 for non-members).
Trip description
At first glance, there's nothing to tell the casual paddler that Waccasassa River is born of the beautiful Levy Blue spring near Bronson. The tannin stained water speaks more of the Devil's Hammock swamp, through which it passes, than the artesian fountain at its head. Blue Spring is a popular watering hole that draws scores of locals on warm summer weekends.
The Wekiva, too, is spring-fed. Like it's sister river, the refreshing waters at it's source can be enjoyed for a price, but not for recreation - for consumption. A Japanese, bottled-water company bought the spring about 20 years ago and is now happily selling us water from our own aquifer.
The first leg of our trip will be up the Waccasassa. Starting out in the lower basin, we find ourselves in a swampy, river forest of cypress, red maples, and bay with lots of aquatic and understory plants in the water and along the river bank. As we make our way into the upper reaches of the Waccasassa, we enter a higher and drier forest of hickory, oak, elm, Florida buckeye trees and pine. Here, the high, closed canopy and occasional flooding makes for minimal undergrowth and good visibility for wildlife viewing.
This trip offers plenty of good photo opportunities with lots of flowers and a few giant, old cypress trees, whose large cavities and "defects" made them "unworthy" of the loggers ax.
After lunch we paddle back downstream to the mouth of the Wekiva. From there, anyone who is tired or has time limitations can head back to the boat ramp about 15 minutes away. The rest of us will head up the Wekiva and explore to our hearts content.
This section is relatively easy, although there are several low branches that require ducking and some shallow, submerged branches which might require scooching over. Remember, every duck and scooch is another barrier between us and the civilization (including motor boats) we are leaving behind. The hardest paddling on t his trip is upstream in the Wekiva - but the current here is minimal. Nothing like the Silver.
The variety of habitats, all very scenic, keeps this trip from ever becoming monotonous. Just when you've had a chance to fully appreciate your surroundings, they change. Every season has something to offer in the Waccasassa area. This time o f year, the Swallow-tailed kites are still around and lots of flowering plants are beginning to attract the butterflies which, in the fall, are thick. 

For more information, including some of the area's history, go to: http://www.adventureoutpost.net/ToursO-Z.htm#Waccasassa
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.
Lars Andersen
Adventure Outpost
18238 NW Hwy 441
High Springs, FL 32643
* No trees were destroyed in the sending of this contaminant free message, though a significant number of electrons may have been inconvenienced.

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