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Friday, March 18, 2011

Silver River

Silver River manatee

If I have to rate this paddle it would be rated Triple M; Manificent, Marvelous, Memorable. It was going to be Triple X, for X-traordinary, X-cellent, and X-pectacular but for some reason thought that it was not a family friendly rate, so Triple M it is. 

An eventful trip to one of the most beautiful rivers in Florida. Mokeys, gators, and an unexpected host. If you already saw the opening picture you know what I am talking about....A manatee!!!!!!!

Put In/Take Out: Ray's Wayside. It is on Highway 40 inmediately after crossing the bridge over the Ocklawaha River, if you are traveling East to West. Turn to the left and you will find Ray's at your left. The cost is $5.00 per vehicle.
Silver River Flora
 We put in at Ray's Wayside at 10:30AM and started paddling along the canal leading from Ray's to the Silver River. A little late for my taste but at least we were there. The first wildlife form we saw was a Great Egret 10 minutes into the paddle and less than a minute after, a gator swam across the river right in front of us. Not too long after that a motor boat, the first one of many, came down. One of the occupants told us "There is a manatee like three hundred yards in front of you". I was looking forward to find it in the clear waters of the Silver River but was a little skeptic. I have read several reports on Silver River and do not remember someone saying that spotted a manatee here and, after all, we came here to see monkeys...and believe me...monkeys we saw.

Monkey Time
We spotted a monkey troop about 300 feet before the State Park canoe ramp. A motor boat was already there and a lady was throwing fruits to the monkeys, who were a little uneasy making sounds and fighting each other. My wife realized that we were in wrong spot and asked me to move from there. As she said that a monkey approached a boat,  90 ~ 100ft in front of us, very aggressively. The boat was in reverse and I had to give them some room but in the process came closer to bank. Managed to point the yak out up river but the angle we were took us close from where the boat was before and as I tried to paddle away from there a monkey came storming jumping from branch to branch. As it showed its teeth came really close to a thin branch that almost gave away because the monkey weight. It jumped to another one as was almost 8 to 9 feet from our yak, and very mad. My wife, somehow, managed to twist her body and jumped into the water not before throwing the camera into the yak. Just like that!!!!

Monkey at Silver River
In the water my wife, realizing what she just did said “get me out of the water”. She later told me that she started thinking about alligators. There I was, pulling wifey close to the yak with my left hand, and using my paddle to hold a crazy monkey back with my right hand. Now that I think about it, had to look funny, or at  least  weird. As the monkey turned around my paddle went to the side and now was able to use my two hands to help wifey to get back into the yak. Asked to stay calm and to let me pull her back and she did great. I shifted to the right side and with my left hand pulled her back in. Just in time because the monkey came back and she was able to grab the paddle and used it as a sword between us and the monkey. We moved away to the other side of the river where she calmed down. Then she did shoot pics at the monkeys and bragged about how she did save the camera. Crazy photographer! Gotta love her!!!!!


As we moved away from the monkeys a gentleman in a kayak said to us that in less than five minutes he saw a manatee first and now monkeys. Then someone in a group of three kayakers, coming also up river, yelled to one of his partners that there was a manatee to his right. Anticipating the manatee was coming up river I paddled fast towards the State Park ramp. The manatee swam under us and stopped near the ramp but it got crowded in a hurry. My wife asked a young man that jumped into the water from a boat to shoot a pic for us with our underwater camera. He did shoot a couple and we decided to move away from the area. As we paddled up river heard the characteristic “pffffffftttt” the manatees do when breathing. The poor animal decided to leave the crowded State Park ramp area too. It swam beside us for many minutes, to our delight, and my wife shoot some pics and a video. Pretty cool. The manatee stopped in a small pool at one of the river bends as we continued up river. The leader of three kayakers paddled by it, and by us, as one lady in another yak asked him to slow down. The guy looked like he was racing someone the three times we saw him.
Inmature Ibis
Wood Ducks
If you have never been in the head spring you do not know what you are missing. We can describe it to you and write one thousand adjectives and still will fall short on how beautiful it is. One thing we saw, and it scares the heck out of me, was someone tossing food to an alligator from the State Park tour boats. We saw the gator going after wathever was tossed to it and munching on it. In a little less than a year we have been paddling have never seen a gator feeding and it was impressive, even for a small one. The pic show the gator at in the process and also we have a video.  Gator feeding

We also saw a second troop of monkeys and people feeding them from a small motor boat.

Other than my wife’s diving stunt it was a heck of a day. Let me see: gators, cormorants, pie billed greebes, coots, moorhens, great egrets, limpkins, little blue, yellow crowned, black crowned herons, wood ducks, hawks, turtles, monkeys, and a manatee. Saw a great blue heron and a belted kingfisher but no pics which for the kingfisher is kind of normal but not for the great blue. What a place Silver River is.!!!!!
Feeding Gator
Here are more pics of this trip and also a link to see more pics from this and past trips. Silver River


  After two 4 nice and easy posts I am starting to have problems of all types with the blogger. Last week lost a finished post and this week it messed up the text format. My apologies for the technical difficulties. Have no clue what the problem is.

Anyways, hope you come back next week for another Views From Our Kayak.

Great Egret

Yellow Crowned Night Heron


Black Crowned Night Heron
Optical illusion - Moorhen & Gator


Red Shouldered Hawk caught a snake

Little Blue Heron

Inmature Little Blue Heron

Manatee at the bottom of the Silver River


Pie-Billed Greebe

Female Wood Duck
Turtles swimming near the Silver Springs


A video of the manatee....

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Hillsborough River

Today we kayaked at the Hillsborough River. It was our second trip to this beautiful place and, as in our first time, we came back home very satisfied with the experience. This is my second attemp to make and publish the post. It suddenly dissapeared when I was ready to publish it with all the pics and the modifications. Not fun. Anyways... Here we go again.

Roseate Spoonbill

Hillsborough River Scene

Put In/ Take Out: We put in at Trout Creek Park in Tampa. Hillsborough County has done a super job creating parks along the river, each one 4 miles apart from the other. The cost is $2.00. The next one up river is Morris Bridge Park and that was our turn around point. That was the route of our first trip  and I was really surprised my wife went for this one again. The paddling against the current was not of her liking. It was 12:30 when we put the yak in the river. Check this link for more information about the facilities along the Hillsborough River.

Hillsborough River gator

 The first section of the river is rich in wildlife. On our first trip here we were very satisfied with the view and this time was not different. There was plenty of wildlife to admire and to shoot pics at. Traffic on the river was not bad.  A couple of motor boats going very slow since it is a No Wake Zone. In this zone, between the put in and what is called the Nature’s Classroom we saw spoonbills, limpkins, ibis, great egrets, hawks, gators, vultures, and woodpeckers. The first time we paddled here saw a coyote and my photographer was hoping for it to happen again. You can only dream sometimes. It is free.
 The river was higher and a little bit slower than in our first time here. But that also gives the wading birds more room to look for food and we missed several chances of pics because the birds were too deep into the forest. It took an hour and 30 minutes for us to reach the end of the Nature’s Classroom but only because we took several pic stops. This section between the Nature’s Classroom and Morris Bridge Park is narrow most of the time. As I mentioned before, today the river was higher this time and it was a lot easier to paddle upstream, a huge difference from our first trip when my wife told me she was not paddling here never ever since it was low and fast. Never say never. The beauty of the river is worthy of the trip. Take my word on this one. Even when we did not have many pic chances we enjoyed the view. Had the chance to take pics of a midsize gator that looked like it was put there on purpose for the people to take pics of it. It was hard to miss it since Was right in front of us at one of the river bends.A pic friendly fellow. Looked at us like saying...Dude, take the pic and get lost. We did so.
Gator in the river bank


We arrived at Morris Bridge Park around 3:20, ate something and, at least I, stretched my legs and used the restrooms of the park. Mentioning this just to point that there are restrooms at every park along the river. Started our paddle back to Trout Creek at 3:45 and it was pretty smooth most of the time. We took a few pics here and there but nothing different from what we already had. One thing that was different on this trip was the amount of limpkins we saw. Several of them were in different sections of the river. We usually see one, two at the most, when we paddle in Central Florida, but that is not the case in the Hillsborough River. We arrived at the Nature’s Classroom area near 5:00 and then, again, took our sweet time shooting pics at the wildlife in this section. The first time we paddled here saw a coyote and were able to shoot pics. There was no coyote today but we saw something really cool. In a short span of the river we spotted 3 osprey nests. My wife’s was really excited. We have seen eagle’s, blue heron’, sandhill crane’s, and now osprey’s nest in our recent trips. At one of the nests Mr. and Mrs. Osprey were present. That kept us in the river more time than we expected.

Mr. & Mrs. Osprey at their nest

The yak was on top of our minivan at 6:10. I had time to clean it since there is a station with water to do that at Trout Creek Park. The only thing that I did not like is that we did not have time to explore Trout Creek, right in front of the park, and I have read reports of big gators that like to hang out there. Guess that it is the first thing we will do next time.
Here are more pics of what we saw at the Hillsborough River...

Classic Gator Pic



Great Blue Heron

Great Egret
Little Blue Heron
Pie-Billed Greebe

Black Crowned Night Heron

Madam Butterfly

Vultures at the Nature's Classroom


Roseate Spoonbill

Hillsborough River View

More pics from this and the prwvious one here...Hillsborough River Slideshow

That is all. See you soon!!!!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Lower Wekiva River

It has been a while since the last time we went kayaking two days in a row and we had no plans to do that today. I woke up, drove my daughter to school for a rehearsal and, back home my wife tells me she had a proposal. Oh I am so easy. She did not finished telling me "Let us go kayaking" when everything was ready. Anyways the yak was still in top of our minivan. So to Katie's Landing, 35 minutes from home, we went.

Put in/take out: Katie's Landing is located at Wekiva Park Drive at Sanford, FL. Take exit 101C of I-4 and go west. Wekiva Park Drive is just before the bridge over the Wekiva River. Turn right and you will find Katie's Landing a little more than a mile ahead to your left. It is an honor system. Put your $3.00 in an evelope from the pay station, deposit the envelope, and hang the receipt in your rear view mirror. Drive to the river, well, not to the river, but to the area near the river where you can drop your yak or canoe and go back to park in one of the designated spots. Did I leave something out? Ahh...Yes I did. Enjoy the river. Does not get any easier than this.

Red Bellied Woodpecker
We had the yak in the river at 10:00 AM and started paddling near the put in area. One thing I have to tell you is that if you loose track of time you can be just there for more than an hour. It has so much wildlife that it will blow your mind. Today we just spent 40 minutes there. We saw a sandhill crane nesting and my wife/photographer took several pics of it. We also saw ibis, several red shouldered hawks flying, red bellied woodpeckers, a blue heron, moorhen, a black crowned night heron, a strork, vultures, and anhingas. All these in just that small area. We have seen glossy ibis there but not today. We also saw an eagle on our previous trip but there was no eagle today, at least not there.

We continued our trip going north with the current. Passed two fishermen in yaks and saw a third kayaker going north too. Overheard one gentleman fishing from a canoe complaining to his partner that he did not like to fish there on Saturdays...Too many people in the river. We said hello and put some salt in the wound saying..."Too many people here today...huh?"  Anyways we continued and passed Wekiva Haven, where we had seen deers before but not today.

Big Gator
Do not get me wrong; it was not a bad day at all but there was a negative. Motor boats were by the dozen. I lost count how many passed us up and down river. Even with the boats we saw many gators, all possible sizes. There was a bend where my wife spotted one huge gator and when we got closer there was another one. If I am not wrong we saw two big gators on one of our previous trips. Maybe they are the same ones. Who knows. Well, both of them left in a hurry when sensed us, which scared my brave partner a bit. A few minutes later a motor boat went by us going north. Looking ahead I saw a big gator in the east bank. Wifey tried a long distance pic because we knew the boat was going to scare the gator and it did. Slid of the bank but stayed close to it in such a way you could see half of his body. Pretty impressive dude.

Huge Gator

Nesting Sandhill Crane
Started our paddling back to Katie's at 1:00 PM. Had one or two pics stops and made it back to the now take out at 3:15PM. It was tough today because the wind and the motor boats but the Wekiva River is always a good place to be. We always see many wildlife there and looking back we only missed pics of the black crowned heron and the red shouldered hawks. Have pics of everything else we saw. The pic of the nesting sandhill crane is so nice. Also have a special pic of something we saw on our way here. Want to know what it is? Take a look at the last pic of the story.

Here are more pics of what we saw and at the end rhere is a link for more pics of this and previous trips. Hope you like the pics.


Little Blue Heron


Snowy Egret

Little Blue Heron - Inmature


Balance Act

This November Dinner

Tri Colored Heron

Great Egret

Little Gator

Those horrible eyes!!!!!

Gator sunning in a log

Great Blue Heron

Belted Kingfisher




Bald Eagle seen on our way to Wekiva River
Here is the link for more pics: Lower Wekiva River Slideshow
See you soon...