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Aripeka Report


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Report By:  ed    Date: 7/6/2008 
Rating:Trip Rating     Photos: See 14 photos     Map & Directions: View


This was my first trip to Aripeka, a small fishing hamlet located north of Hudson, FL. The put-in that I found is at Norfleet's Fish Camp and General Store. The people are friendly, the water calm and paddling, well, interesting. Want to know more?

My Report:

I awoke bright and early for today's trip to Aripeka. Not only was I excited to get on the water but I also wanted to get in a few miles before being run over by some summertime afternoon storm. As it turned out, I made it by 10 minutes, which is not a huge margin after 9 miles of paddling.


I originally heard about Aripeka a couple of months ago from a fellow paddler. He told me his two favorite places in Pasco / Hernando counties are Jenkins Creek and Aripeka. I hadn't paddled either at that point and finally made it to Aripeka today.

First order of business was to find a put-in and the one I found was Norfleet's Fish Camp, located on Palm Island just as CR 595 crosses Hammock Creek. Drive to Aripeka. It's kind of hard to miss - Norfleet's is the only general store in the tiny town. A boat ramp is located behind the store. Launch fee is $2. The sign on Norfleet's says "5.9 MILES FROM HEAVEN. ARIPEKA." Trouble was, I didn't know if heaven was north, south, east, west or maybe up or down...

Hitting the water from Norfleet's first thing I noticed was how quiet it was. Hardly any noise at all. I paddled around Palm Island (under the bridge, turn right, turn right again) to get a sense of the area.

Next stop... open water. Or at least, how about some water? If you paddle Aripeka, a word of warning - it is shallow. Like really shallow. I followed the channel markers out to open water, but on either side of the channel it was barely one to two feet deep. Once I cleared the last of the homes I spotted an island to the north (Indian Key) and to the south I could just barely see what appeared to be some white buildings.

For the record, those white buildings happen to be 9 miles away, the Sea Ranch Condos at Hudson Beach. Not knowing they were 9 miles distance, I thought let's check it out and headed south.

At the three mile mark I started wondering what was special about paddling Aripeka, so special that someone tells you this is their favorite paddling place. It was thin mangroves to the south and saltmarsh to the north. Aripeka seems to delineate the two. The water was barely one foot deep in places and I had to paddle 400 to 600 yards offshore to get any water under the boat. Nothing like mud flats.

Determined to find the special something about Aripeka, I continued heading south, staying well out into the gulf. Another mile south and it finally hit me. There was the answer about why Aripeka is special. Nothing. No sound other than nature. No people. No DisneyWorld tourists nor Jetskis. Just me, a few fish, a few birds and thankfully one friendly dolphin. (Thought he was a shark heading my way at first).

With clouds forming in what was perfectly good blue sky I decided to turn around at a place called Horse Island. It's easy to miss the island, but there is a small lagoon in the center. That is if you don't mind paddling the 3 inches of water to get there.

With thunder and a lightning flashes behind me, I sped along toward the put-in at Aripeka. Managed to arrive with 10 minutes to spare before getting hit with a brief, but strong rainstorm.

I'd like to try paddling out of Aripeka again. I only went 4.5 miles, not the 5.9 required for heaven (per Norfleet's sign). After getting home and looking at a chart, I realized I was within a half mile of the Devil's Rock Yard, so obviously, heaven must be north. Wanna go exploring?

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Location Data:

Difficulty: Moderate
Location Type: Saltwater
Boat Type: Kayak
Distance (miles): 9
Fees/Costs $: $2 ramp fee


Photos from Aripeka:    (Click image to view full size)

Aripeka Bridge No Comm
Aripeka Bridge

Looking west toward the gulf from Palm Island, where Norfleet's Fish Camp (and the put-in) is located.

Hammock Creek No Comm
Hammock Creek

The channel heading out from Hammock Creek.

Aripeka Mud Flats No Comm
Aripeka Mud Flats

The water in this section of the Nature Coast is shallow.

Aripeka Mangroves No Comm
Aripeka Mangroves

Aripeka seems to be the dividing line between mangroves and saltmarsh.

Shell No Comm
Shell

As MoonlightDesigns would say, this little guy was just waiting to have his picture taken!

Heading South No Comm
Heading South

How far away is that point and what's behind it???

Aripeka Blue No Comm
Aripeka Blue

I think they should name a shade of blue "Aripeka". Somehow it would be appropriate.

Into the Gulf No Comm
Into the Gulf

Here's looking west into the gulf. At this point I'm about 1/2 mile offshore to keep some water under the boat.

Dolphin Shark Dolphi No Comm
Dolphin Shark Dolphi

And out of the blue comes this dolphin. Passes within 20 feet of my boat and totally ignores me.

Horse Island No Comm
Horse Island

Just got past Horse Island heading south and the sky is not looking too good. Time to turn around.

Sea Ranch Hudson No Comm
Sea Ranch Hudson

Here was my destination - didn't know it at the time but they were still 2 to 3 miles away at Hudson Beach.

Heading to Aripeka No Comm
Heading to Aripeka

Heading back with a storm chasing me the whole way.

Almost there... No Comm
Almost there...

A home near Aripeka. My landmark to turn in and follow the channel markers.

Aripeka Rains No Comm
Aripeka Rains

And then the rains come. About 10 minutes after getting in the car and heading home.



Special Interests and Comments:

Special InterestsNearby paddling areas: Head north on CR 595 to where it meets with CR 597. Follow 597 to Jenkins Creek and Rogers Park on the Weeki Wachee. Bayport and Pineland are also good areas to paddle.



Post Date: 7/6/2008

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