Seven Sisters Islands Report
(St. Johns River (Palatka))


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Report By:  gbailey    Date: 11/27/2010 
Rating:Trip Rating     Photos: See 12 photos     Map & Directions: View


St. Johns River - 45 miles south of Jacksonville, FL

My Report:

There was a chill in the air as we met in a parking lot just south of Green Cove Springs. A cold front had passed through just a few hours ago, but the sun was supposed to shine all day. So we were optimistic, yet chilled.

We followed the twists and turns of Lundy road until it ran directly into the St. Johns River. We could see a few wavelets on the river's surface and we debated the need for paddling jackets. The water was still relatively warm and the air a bit cool, but there was no consensus so we hit the water with a variety of layering on exhibit, 7 single kayaks along with one tandem (Wayne and Susan's new boat).
It wasn't long before some realized the paddling jackets weren't required, with light winds and a bright sun in our eyes. We paddled west along the river with a few Saturday pleasure boats, pontoon and houseboats slowly passing us by. It seemed like a beautiful day to be on the water, everyone enjoying one of the last warm weekends before we begin to see stronger cold fronts move through and lower the water temps. We paused just past Murphy's island and sat in a large lily pad to take some group photos. The winds were very light and variable as we sat under a bright, blue-bird sky. After an hour or so we made another turn and then could see the train bridge that crosses the St. Johns River, a trunnion bascule, or Strauss-type lift span, similar to the one in downtown Jacksonville. It stays in the up position until an approaching train calls ahead to wake the bridge tender. This rail line runs through the Buffalo Bluff community, which we would be passing by on our route. The collection of islands, some small and some not so small, that populate the river in this area, are named the Seven Sisters Islands. And sure enough, using a Google Earth photo it is quite easy to do the count (and they all have names too!).
We meandered through the cuts between many of the islands and then decided to head further south to find a place to exit the water for lunch. Paddling for another 30 minutes or so we saw our destination, a waterfront park owned by the Rodeheaver Boys Ranch. With a pavilion, old wooden pier nestled under a stand of river cypress trees, and lots of green grass to stretch out on, it was a perfect place to rest after 8 miles and a 2.5 hour paddle.
Sitting on the grass we could now feel the slight wind we had to our back the last 2 miles, and now we waited for the afternoon lull to occur (or else a wind shift in the reverse direction). After a half hour of rest and nourishment (leftover turkey anyone?) everyone was ready to start the return trip, as now the current / tide seemed to be favoring us a bit in the north-bound direction. As we began to paddle back into a light breeze, Andy, Dave and I decided to cross the river and investigate a ship wreck. It appeared to be a "barge" wreck, with its remains in a decaying condition protruding 4-5 feet above the water's surface. It looked kind of spooky, with small trees and shrubs having rooted in the rotting wood structure - looked kind of fishy too, with lots of swirls left behind as we spooked the local fins from their sun-basking.
Looking ahead, the group was making good progress and leaving us behind so we increased our forward speed to catch them. Not far from the southern most island we looked overhead to see again a pair of bald eagles. We had seen three eagles on the way down and were probably seeing the same ones again.
We casually paddled between most of the Seven Sisters Islands, taking in the beautiful fall colors of the trees and the flowering vegetation in the water. With the afternoon and early evening sun to our back, the contrasting colors were quite a sight. Lots of green leaves still present, but most of the cypress needles were now orange, red and falling in clumps along the green lawns. Many of the maples leaves were glowing red and collecting in the waters below. And to add the final touch, long sweeping sheets of southern spanish moss hung from every branch it seemed (see the photos attached).
Heading back north and passing underneath the train trestle again, the wind had completely died. Flat calm. As we neared the Palatka Yacht Club's signature vessel, the final "painting" lay before us - the brilliant reflecting colors of the river's canopy of trees that arched over our takeout point. Quite a lasting impression.

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Location Data:

Distance (miles): 8
Fees/Costs $: 0


Photos from St. Johns River (Palatka):    (Click image to view full size)

Group shot No Comm
Group shot
Wayne's tandem No Comm
Wayne's tandem

& Susan

Seven Sisters No Comm
Seven Sisters

Steve in his reflective boat

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Seven Sisters

Greg is stymied by a wall of flowers

Seven Sisters No Comm
Seven Sisters

The Seven Sisters Islands

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Seven Sisters
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Seven Sisters
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Seven Sisters
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Seven Sisters
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Seven Sisters
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Seven Sisters
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Seven Sisters
 


Post Date: 12/10/2010

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