Saturday, April 15, 2006

Florida -- Wakulla River

The Wakulla is * clearly * a spring-fed river. Clear, blue, and beautiful! Peggy said it’s one of her favorite places to paddle, so I figured it would be a winner. We went first to the state park at the spring. There is a swimming area and a platform that looks down into the spring. Talk about blue!

They say it goes 300 feet down into an elaborate aquatic cave. Private boats aren’t allowed in this part of the river “a good thing”, one guide book says, “because the place is overrun with alligators.”

Dale and Tyler took put me in the river a few miles down under the HW 365 bridge, then they headed 4 miles farther down to HW 98 to meet me an hour and a half later.

The current is light and I found the water to be amazingly clear. I talked to one man in a canoe and he said its browner/greener than he’s ever seen it – on past trips it was clear as drinking water. Well nonetheless, I was impressed. It sure wasn’t Mississippi water. I could see the bottom at 10 feet; beyond that it was a little hard to tell if it was vegetation, rocks, or manatees on the bottom.

I spent the first half mile wondering if I would be able to tell a manatee if there was one below me. A mile later I spotted two on the right side of the river, and they were unmistakable in shape and size. I think I saw them on a trip to Florida when I was 11. Don’t remember seeing them when I lived in Ft Walton Beach in ‘89-‘91. I wouldn’t have guessed they would be so unconcerned about my presence. I stayed close to 10 minutes and drifted pretty close to them. Here they are munching side by side. Is that cool or what?

I remembered to take a video with the digital camera, and got a nice 25 second shot of them sticking their noses up to breathe, moving around a bit, and as a rare additional treat, emitting a stream of bubbles from the opposite end. Boy was Tyler impressed when I showed him a video of a manatee fart! :- )

There are quite a few private docks on the river. I bet that land costs a bundle.

The turtles were bold; they must get tired of plopping in the water every time someone goes by. I saw a few birds but not as many as I thought I would. Either Peggy’s really good at spotting them, or they were just elsewhere that day. There were a lot of fish, and I’d say other than the manatees, the gar were the most impressive creatures. The gar were huge, 3 or 4 or even 5 feet long, cruising around the river in all different directions like cops on patrol. I could have got a picture of one if I tried hard enough, but there was so much else to look at. I found myself wondering if I would see more above the water if I wasn’t so intent on looking IN the water.

We headed straight home from there and it took 5 ½ hours. Good chance we’ll go back some day. I’m interested in seeing the lower part of the river when it gets into the tidal area. Overall it was a really great place to paddle. North Florida has a lot to offer and provided for a great family trip.

1 comment:

Peggy said...

I must have just missed you by a day or so! I went there today (Saturday) (will be blogged by tomorrow--it was a LONG day). I'm SO glad you saw manatees!

This water is usually more along the Merritt Mill Pond clarity level, don't know why it's a little murkier right now.

If you get back here again, you MUST get to the Wacissa River. Also crystal clear and guaranteed birds, including limpkins in summer.

I loved reading this report, as well as the one below it! I wish I had been there on the same day!