My friend, Beverly, and I spent this past weekend kayaking and camping around O'Leno State Park. This is located near Gainesville, FL and provides for easy access to the Sante Fe River and its springs and tributaries.
We took the little camper which is very comfy and has all the comforts of home, well except tv, Although Bev brought the dish she was disappointed when no signal was available (too many trees)
We spent a chilly night on Friday but were warm with a space heater. I felt sorry for the people who were tent camping as it got down to 37 degrees that night! Saturday morning Beverly made pancakes and bacon to feed some of the other kayakers who were on this same trip as they came by to warm up.
I layered on shirts and jackets as we headed out to the river as the morning temps were still only in the 40's. The trip began by putting the kayaks in at a boat ramp near the top of the Sante Fe river. There were approximately 20 people in our group so this was no small endeavor. Beverly took her dog Tex, a long hair doxie/papillion mix (you can see him in the photo above). He is a good kayaker!
The plan was to paddle down the river for approximately 13.5 miles. This was my first time out this year and I think that was a little more than I would have liked, but along we went. Here is a map of our route:
The Sante Fe River is really beautiful but the water level was low due to lack of recent rain. I got stuck on rocks a few times along the way. We saw hundreds of turtles sunning themselves on logs.
There are many spring which feed into the river. We paddled up into a few of them to check them out. At Lily Springs, we were warned of a local oddity, "Naked Ed".
With such a large kayak group, I found it difficult to keep up with the pack and ended up at the back along with a few others. The paddling was strenuous and my arms certainly noticed the work out.
We did stop for lunch along the river bank before venturing further and visiting Blue Spring.
As you can see, the water is an amazing clear, blue. The spring bubbles out of the ground near the dive platform shown above. It was a bit difficult paddling against the flow up into the spring, but worth the effort to see this beautiful water! Blue Springs Park is a popular attraction and even on this early March day was fairly well attended by swimmers. The water in the springs stays at about 72 degrees year round which attracts manatees who come in from the colder waters off the coast to stay warm. We had recently had a warm spell and so no manatees were around.
Leaving Blue Spring was much easier as we floated down the current back to the river.
On the next leg of the trip we encountered some small rapids. I easily traversed the first set, but got stuck on some rocks near the second and set and in getting off the rocks managed to get turned around in my kayak and ended up being swept backwards into the rapids. Luckily it was a small set of water and I was quickly sent through. I was also glad no one was around to see me do that!
We ended the day around 3:00 and were happy to get off the water and back to camp and hot showers. It had been a long day and we were both tired. We ate dinner and were in bed around 8.
On Sunday, we headed out again, this time to kayak the Ichetucknee Springs. This was a more leisurely trip, only a little over 3 miles. The group was taking a longer route (10 miles) but we decided to take the shorter leg of the trip. The Ichetucknee is another beautiful spring winding through a low land area bordered by cedar trees, palms and some lovely spider lily: