Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Kayaking St. John's River & Blue Spring Run

Today I had the morning free while my wife was at a meeting for work. I loaded up the kayak, and headed 3.5 miles from home to Blue Spring State Park.  Actually, I used the free boat ramp (Starks Landing) located at the end of French Ave. (dirt road) just past the entrance to the park to avoid paying an entrance fee, and having to carry my kayak from the parking lot.

st. john's river boat ramp
Starks Landing is located at the end of the dirt road, past the entrance to Blue Spring State Park

I launched my kayak on the St. John's River, and headed south towards Blue Spring State park. About 3 minutes into my paddle I saw my first gator. A FAT one about 9 feet in length out in open water.  It quickly ducked under before I could get my camera out to take a picture.  As I continued south a Great Blue Heron flew across the river less than 20 feet in front of me. Once again, I was too slow with the camera to snap a picture.  I reached the entrance to Blue Springs Run to find a couple of turtles hanging out on the floating PVC barricades meant to keep motorboats out of the spring run.

Manatee Refuge
Sign at the entrance to Blue Springs Run from the St. John's River
 I kept paddling past the St. John's River Tour Boat dock, and headed to an area south of Blue Spring Run known as The Lagoon only to find it blocked with water lilies.  I probably could have navigated my way through, but after seeing the huge cottonmouth in the same type of plants at Wekiva Springs State Park on Saturday, I decided not too.  Instead, I turned around, and paddled up the Blue Spring Run. Where I found  this turtle sunning on a downed palm tree.

Turtle in Blue Spring Run

The water turned from brownish to crystal clear as I entered the spring run.  The water was full of catfish, and gar.  The gar would occasionally jump out of the water. I am told this is because they are gulping air due to the water in the spring run lacking enough dissolved oxygen.  Some of the gar were pretty big.  I bet Glenn & Mitchell from Swamp People would love to get their hands on a few of these big fish.

Gar in the crystal clear spring run
Someday I will learn how to use the different settings on this camera so all my pictures don't come out with a blue tint to them...

Underwater shot of some catfish
I paddled slowly up the spring run until I reached the swimming area. Canoeing & kayaking is not allowed in the swimming area between the hours of 11am - 5pm.  I will have to get an earlier start next time.

Time to turn around, and head back.  The weather report called for rain around 1pm, and I wanted to get home before then...  As I type this at 2:45pm, I am looking out my window at sunshine. Go Figure.... On my way back down the spring run some people up on the boardwalk told me of a "10 foot gator" up ahead.

Missed it. Once again too slow with the camera
I quietly paddled up to find the gator. It wasn't 10 feet, maybe 8 feet, but it was a good size gator.  He was staring me down as I took my camera out to take a picture. I turned it on, adjusted the setting, zoomed in, and ... he went under.  I missed the shot. I headed back out onto the St. John's River towards the boat ramp hoping I would come across another gator.  As I was scanning the banks I found a wild turkey, and quickly snapped a picture.

Florida wildlife
Wild turkey (a hen, not the whiskey)
I ended my trip back at the boat ramp.  I paddled less than 1.5 miles in a little over an hour, and saw 2 big gators, turtles, gar, catfish, birds (I'm still learning the names), and a wild turkey!  I will definitely be back here again soon.

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