|Report By: || Unknown|| Date: 6/26/2011|| |
See 30 photos
|| Map & Directions: View|
|Two weeks ago I kayaked in Wisconsin, last week, Sanibel, next week, the Keys. Where to go this weekend? I decided to get a State Forest Permit and kayak Blackwater Creek and the Wekiva River. Nothing like locking a gate behind you to launch the kayak.|
I love to paddle unspoiled, and un-crowded, places. Few places are less crowded, and less spoiled than Blackwater Creek in the Seminole State Forest and the Lower Wekiva River.
What makes these waters so special? For one, they are Wild and Scenic. In capital letters as it is a Federal designation. The four miles of Blackwater Creek from the Seminole State Forest to the Wekiva River are designated as “Wild”.
``(iii) Black water creek, Florida.--The 17.9 miles of Black Water Creek from its confluence with the Wekiva River to the outflow from Lake Norris, to be administered by the Secretary in the following classifications: ``(I) From the confluence with the Wekiva River to approximately .25 mile downstream of the Seminole State Forest road crossing, approximately 4.0 miles, as a wild river.
So is the majority of the section of the Wekiva River that I paddled this weekend.
``(i) Wekiva river, florida.--The 14.9 miles of the Wekiva River, from its confluence with the St. Johns River to Wekiwa Springs, to be administered by the Secretary of the Interior in the following classifications: ``(I) From the confluence with the St. Johns River to the southern boundary of the Lower Wekiva River State Preserve, approximately 4.4 miles, as a wild river.
For another, a permit is required to drive into the Seminole State Forest. That keeps the crowds down. Only hand powered craft are allowed to launch. The rare power boat may try to come up the Creek. I saw two this weekend. Which was more than usual. There are no rental concessions on Blackwater Creek. The closest is at Wekiva Falls, on the Wekiva River, about six miles up the Wekiva from Blackwater Creek. That means no gunnel banging, music blaring, Busch beer imbibing, renters. Blackwater Creek is challenging. Narrow, downed trees can remain for weeks. You never know if you can make it very far. Each visit is a new adventure. Before this weekend, I was told the Creek was blocked in two places.
But if you do make it all the way to the Wekiva River, you may see some of the most spectacular wildlife Florida has to offer. Alligators, deer, bear and manatee. I saw all this weekend. Unfortunately, the bear was dead.
Enough background, here’s the report.
Saturday morning I arrived at the Seminole State Forest, two cars at the pay station. One with a kayak. Great, a crowd. One was someone I know, who despite having her kayak, was there for a bike ride. The other guy must have been there to fish Bear Pond, he pulled into the parking lot just past the pay station. The cyclist unlocked the gate and drove through, I followed, stopped to lock the gate behind us. Drove in a drizzle to the launch site. Which stopped by the time I got in the water at 8:15.
I began the downstream paddle. Blackwater Creek has a lot of alligators. As it is a less paddled place, they tend to flee an first sight/scent. I was still able to get a few photos.
Blackwater Creek flows through a thick cypress forest. Birds can be hard to spot, and it is late June. so many birds have left for cooler climes. That said, I saw blue herons, anhingas, great blue herons, woodpeckers, ibis and limpkins.
And the unpleasant sight of a dead bear. I wonder what happened. Seems a recent demise. No flies, and even when I got downwind, not smelling to bad. Was it crossing the Creek, got stuck in a strainer (fallen trees/branches) and drowned? Or had it died further up the Creek, and the body floated to this spot? It was about 10-15 minutes up Creek from the high spot on the left side. Where I saw a bear at Christmas. Between the dead bear and the high spot, I saw the only people I'd see on Blackwater Creek. Two guys in a Jon boat. "Must be clear to the Wekiva"
It was, thanks to a Good Samaritan who had cut away downed trees. Nothing brightens a kayaks day like fresh saw marks.
Got to the Wekiva River at 10:50. I went down River. Saw two manatees at the spot where two channels merge with the main River. On the right side. I got a couple good views, snouts, fluke, rollover, but no photos.
A woman said it was the first manatee she had ever seen. Must be from out of state. Although the boat she was in had Florida registration. I gave her a pass on touching it. I did my first time.
More gators and birds as I went to the St, Johns River. Great egret, yellow and black crowned night herons, osprey. A bald eagle often perches in a tree on the St. Johns, just past the confluence with the Wekiva. Only a vulture today. I turned around.
There were no more than 5 boats on the Wekiva. All power. All, if they were moving, going slow. One crew, who I saw both coming and going, asked if I had seen the manatees. They had sat and watched them while they, the humans, had lunch. By the time I got to the spot, the manatees had left. Or just held their breath until I left.
Back on Blackwater Creek, the dead bear had drifted off one snag, onto another. It was not very large and a tinge of doubt entered my mind. Was it a bear? Or merely a pig, or dog? I took another look. Long claws. A bear, all right.
I wonder if the guys in the jon boat had run over the log the bear had been on, causing it to drift to the other side of the Creek. They were fishing, a ways up Creek. I did not ask.
Shortly after that, it began to rain. Fortunately, no lightning. But it did dampen my plans to go for a bike ride after I landed at 3:30.
Sunday, I planned to do a car/bike shuttle from the State Forest to Katies Landing. But, when I co-worker said she wanted to kayak with me, we shuttled the conventional way. Two cars.
So, we arrived at the Forest, left Steph's car at the Bear Pond lot (no sense on both of us driving the 2 miles to the put in on the washboard Sand Road), unlocked the gate, drove in, locked it behind us, headed to the launch. Arrived, unloaded the kayaks, drove back, unlock, gate, lock. Got Steph's car, we both drove to Katie's Landing, 5 miles launch to launch. Left my car, back to the Seminole State Forest.
In the Creek at 10 past 10. I heard baby gators chirping, did not see them, but near a Florida Trail campsite, where I often see an alligator, was, I assume, mama.
Saw lots of new alligators. And, for the first time in months, a deer. It was to fast, I was to slow for a photo.
Same birds as Saturday. Plus a snake and butterfly. My partner was going slow, taking closeups of plant life. That allowed me to get a different view of Creek life.
We did not see the dear bear I saw on Saturday. I did send an email to the office I get the Seminole State Forest use permit. I think the guys in the Jon boat took it. Get skunked fishing, bring home bear meat.
I received a response to the email Monday. Fish and Wildlife was going to check out the bear. I told them it was gone. Maybe it drifted to a place we could not see it, but I think between the two of us, one would have seen, or after a day, smelled it.
We stopped at the high ground for a break. As we ate, the biggest boat I have ever seen on the Creek approached. Its a small Creek, so a 15 foot bass boat with a 30 horse is huge. "Where does this go" "Lake Norris" "Can we get there" "No" "Does it go to a place called Seminole Springs" "No, Lake Norris". They turned around. There is a Seminole Springs near the Seminole State Forest. A small spring, on private property. It feeds Seminole Creek, which flows into the Wekiva River. I have never heard of anyone paddling Seminole Creek. Must be tiny.
We entered the Wekiva River at 1:45. Saturday, I went left, downriver to the St Johns River. Today, we turned right and paddled upriver to Katie's Landing.
More bird and gator life. Two big gators. The ones in the Wekiva are used to people. Blackwater gators are not. In fact, Wekiva gators are so used to people some one got a lasso around this one's neck. I had not noticed it. My companion did after seeing the photos we took. I wonder if it got away from a licensed trapper, or just rednecks after one to many Natty Lights.
We same no other paddlers. Just power boats. 6, 7. All slowed when passing us.
Birds seen include limpkin, osprey, anhinga, great egret, blue, great blue, tri colored and black crowned night heron. Lots of turtles, no manatees this trip.
Landed at 4 pm. My permit is good through the 4th. To bad I have family to visit and kayaking to do in Key West this holiday weekend. Life is full of difficult decisions.
For the Dave's Yak Tales version of the weekend, see Saturday Sunday
|Location Type: ||River|
|Boat Type: ||Kayak|
|Fees/Costs $: ||2|
Photos from Seminole State Forest: (Click image to view full size)
Post Date: 6/28/2011
Notice: Reported conditions may change and there may be errors in this text. Green Wave Forum and author(s) of individual reports shall not be held liable for any omissions and inaccuracies contained herein. Readers are cautioned to supplement reports with other sources of information when planning a trip.