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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ichetuknee River

Mom Wood Duck and Ducklings

Today, Saturday April 30th, we did paddle the waters of the Ichetuknee River in North Florida. Wildlife wise not the best paddle but in terms of scenery it is not bad at all. Wikipedia says that nine named springs provide the water for this crystal clear river. We saw a few of them in this paddle, snorkelled two of them, and enjoyed the river. For more information about the river click on this link: Ichetuknee River

Put In
Put in\ Take Out: The put in for this one was the Ichetuknee State Park. The Iche is very popular since lots of people enjoy its water by tubing. The state park has entry and exit points and provide a transportation but that is only from the Friday before Memorial Day to Labor Day. We went to the south entrance where a nice lady gave us options to put in. She suggested us to put in at the tubing take out area, if we wish to do so, and paddle upstream. Told us how to get there: Drive out of the park, turn right on US 27, pass the power station, and check for the entrance on the right. There is a small unpaved road that will take you close to the water. You drop your yak/canoe there and go back to the parking area. It is not bad. We did that and had the yak in the water, ready to go, by 9:50AM. For this trip, as for most of our trips, this was our take out too.

Ichetuknee River

Red Bellied Woodpecker
It is the second week that I kayak tubing river, last week was the Rainbow River. Was not sure what to expect for this paddle but did not want to come to the Iche later in May. My parental's responsibilities brought me to Newberry , 40 minutes away from the Ichetuknee State Park, so this was our chance to finally paddle a place that was in the Must Go Soon list. We were the only ones at the put in at that time so wifey took her time to shoot some pics. Once we started our paddling up river we started to enjoy the view and the  sounds of the forest.  A couple were on the water snorkeling the clear of the river, which reminded me that I had my snorkeling gear with me. Shortly after we paddled by Coffee Springs, which you cannot access because it is the habitat of a rare snail., we started to see people coming down in tubes. "Not a good sign" I told my wife. I was thinking of what I saw last week at the Rainbow River, that was packed of tubers. (Here is a link to a map of the river with the route we followed on our way up the Ichetuknee River map).


Pileated Woodpecker
As mentioned at the beginning, this was not the best paddle if we talk about wildlife. Other than song birds and turtles there were not too much to shoot pics at. So my wife decided to take pics to show the activities you can do on the Iche and the scenery. After we passed the Midpoint Dock there were no tubers and the river opens a bit. Up to that point we were under the cover of the trees. Now in the open I thought the chances to see wading birds were going to be better. A Red Shouldered Hawk crossed in front of us and also a Pileated Woodpecker gave my wife a chance to some pics. It looked promising but that was pretty much it. Other than that we did not see much more. Great Egrets, a cormorant, a little blue heron, wood ducks, cardinals, song birds, and a beaver. Did not have chance for pics for the beaver but it was cool to see one for the first time. Time to the Did You Know That?

Did You Know That? Wood Ducks are considered one of the most beautiful  ducks in the world. It is considered a perching duck with shaped clawed feet, also webbed for swimming. At the turn of the century the wood duck was near extinction. Today its population it is deemed safe thanks to new rigorous laws.

Wood Ducks

Ichetuknee Spring
We made it all the way up where we left our yak in the dock and walked to the Ichetuknee Spring. At that time I thought it was Blue Hole, until I came back and checked my references. Not a problem. We had to go back to Newberry to pick up our son and did not have time to go to both springs. I did have plans on snorkeling Devil's Eye Springs, which we saw on our way up. After I snorkelled the spring we ate some lunch  and got ready to our paddle back to the take out. A young couple did launch before us and once they left we waited a few more minutes to go.

Devil's Eye Spring
This time wifey did not paddle. She enjoyed the return trip like the Queen she is(10 extra bonus points for me for saying this). We arrived at Devil's Eye where the young couple that left before us where coming out. "There is a spring back there too" told us the man with some sort of excitement in his voice and a smile too. When we saw the spring we understood why. It is impressive. I wanted to jump on it but my wife asked me to find a place to beach the yak. There was a spot but it was occupied by two yaks whose owners, a man and a lady, were coming back from the forest. So we paddled to a log on the water, asked my wife to hold into it and jumped to the water. The Devil's Eye is impressive...scary. You look inside of it and all you can see is darkness. Maybe that is the reason for the name.

Great Egret

After that we, well I, paddled down the Iche stopping only to try to shoot a pic at some wood ducks. At the Midpoint Dock wifey asked if I wanted to snorkel the river. I did not have a strong desire to do that but she talked me into it. So to the water again I went. Did not come out of the water until we passed Coffee Springs. On our way down river we had to dodge several tubers. At this time the river was packed of them, which makes the water cloudy. That is how it was in the river. The visibility was not as good as I thought it was going to be. Had the chance to take some pics of a fish here and there. One thing that impressed me it the looks of the submerged trees. It looks like a scene of a movie when the tree comes back to life. They look like a fallen warrior on the battle field. Like I know how that looks. Guess the word I am looking for is mystic.

Here some pics of activities people do in the Ichetuknee:


Fool around


Did I mention fool around? I did a lot of that...and snorkeling too

We made it to the take out shortly after 3:00PM. Hundreds of tubes were waiting to be transported back to wherever the renter's base of operations is. Here is my summary on this trip. I am not coming back unless it is too cool to be at the water. The water by itself will always be around 72F so if you want to take a dip bring warm clothes you can use after. But when the weather it so nice, like yesterday, it is not good for kayaking or canoeing. When you have to dodge so many tubers the fun goes away a little. Also, when so many people are in the water, it becomes cloudy and that also takes some away. It was a good experience but I know it can be better. We will be back late in the fall to see how different is it.

Here are more pics of what we saw:

Blue Bird


Pileated Woodpecker
Red Bellied Woodpecker
Great Egret
Fishes at Ichetuknee Spring
Ichetuknee Spring
Click here to see more pics from this trip: Ichetuknee River slide show

Thanks for reading and see you next week.

View of our kayak

Friday, April 29, 2011

Haulover Canal

Dolphin at Haulover Canal

The most recent time we visited Haulover Canal it was mentioned that we were going to be back in two weeks and that meant today. Back to Haulover Canal to see the last launch of  Space Shuttle Endeavour. We arrived early, got a parking spot near the put in, and were ready for this special moment. Guess what...You probably already know that it was scrubbed. Strike two for us. Second time it happens in two tries. No space problem. Plenty to do at this place. The wind? That was a bit of a problem.

Put In\Take Out: Check our previous post from April 15th for this and also for information about Haulover Canal. We put in in the exact same place, which is also the take out. We arrived at 9:40AM and were at the water at 9:45AM.

There were more than one outfitter with kayaks for rent along the unpaved road at Haulover Canal. But there was nobody on the water. As soon as we put in we decided to skip the usual Mullet Head Island trip. The reason was the strong wind coming from the north east. The wind was blowing at 15 knots( that is 17 miles per hour...give and take) and there was no way in the blue, in this case gray cloudy sky, that we were going to face that on the open waters of the Indian River. So we decided to stay close to the shore, where we got some protection from the wind. A few minutes after we started my wife spotted a dolphin and we spent a few minutes trying to get a decent pic. It was a tough thing to do with the wind blowing the way it was. Trying to keep a yak steady under these conditions was a challenge. There were not too many wading birds to see but lots of pelicans. An osprey flew, or better said, glided over us taking advantage of the strong wind. It was like watching it dance in slow motion, without moving the wings.

Brown Pelican

Manatee at Bair's Cove
After the dolphin got tired of us we moved into the canal, well...not exactly like that. We used an alternate canal a bit to the south because the current was coming very strong from the east. Once in the canal we paddled as soon as we could to Bair's Cove, a manatee gathering spot. Several manatees shared this location   today. Two weeks ago some were busy preserving the species. Today was the same thing. Do they do something else than that? I do not know. We stayed away from the passionate couple and their splashes. Believe me...You do not want to be in the middle of that mess. A few manatees came checking but none of them stayed to get to know us. We have had manatees hugging our kayak on previous trips. Not this time maybe because we kept moving all the time due, again, the strong wind. Have you seen a pinball? That is how we looked. I paddled to the middle of the cove and in no time would be against the new pier or the rocks. It gets annoying after the tenth time so we moved away from Bair's Cove.

Manatee upside down

Snowy Egret
It was close to noon at the time we started paddling out of the manatee area. The current on the canal was coming from the east, Mosquito Lagoon, and it was hard. At the bridge area it was tough. The flow is stronger between the columns of the bridge. My wife asked for a break after passing the bridge area so we stopped near the Manatee Observation deck, which is on the north east side of it. About four manatees were entertaining the people observing from the deck. Do not want to brag but wifey and I had the better seats in town. I can only guess but if I have to observe a manatee from a deck it will not be the same feeling. This kayaking thing has changed the way I think and see nature. Have gained respect and have learned to appreciate the wildlife that is around us. You must be thinking that I am full of it...Do not you? But I am not.

Back to the paddle, we looked for an area in the south side of the canal to beach the kayak and watch the launch. Last year we did that at the very east point of the canal but since then I have heard that it is not allowed to do that. My photographer decided that it was time to find out so we beached the yak and came to the ground as a Coast Guard patrol boat came from the lagoon. They waved us and kept going without a problem so looks like you can do that. Another Coast Guard boat was at the side where you can see the launch towers and its occupants did the same so we had to be OK. Now, no boat was allowed to pass south of the entrance of the canal.
Coast Guard Patrol Boat

Launch Towers. The one to the right is where the Endeavour is
We had lunch, tried to get some pics of a couple of Scrub Jays that came to visit and also from the launch towers at the distance. Nobody else was in the area with us at the time. It was passed 1PM when another couple showed up. Were having lunch when realized that my bottle of water was still in the yak. Nothing like a sandwich in your throat to make you think about water. As I went to where we left the yak to get my bottle the lady from the other couple let a CRAP!!!!! escape. That caught my attention since she was loud. I was close to them and she said that the launch was scrubbed due a power issue on an auxiliary unit. She has some kind of application and NASA sends updates to her phone via text messages. I have to get me one of those!!!! They explained to me that it was the second time that it happens to them. No kidding. I waited until wifey finished her sandwich and told her the bad news. She was upset and asked me to call my son to confirm. My son did corroborate the information and just like that we started packing to return home.

Red-Breasted Merganser

Great Egret
Our paddle back to the put in was easy. With the current and the wind in our backs wifey did not paddle and I had it easy. We stopped at Bair's Cove for more manatee pics but left quickly after Haulover Canal navy of kayaks came into the cove. At the put in there was no room to come out since several kayaks were covering the take out area. One of the outfitters had good business today. We decided to wait for the fleet to leave for us to come out. The wait was nice because we spotted a dolphin and spent the next 10 or 15 minutes watching it while it hunt. We have seen that more than once and are never tired of it; It is very cool. The fleet left( wifey counted 22 kayaks) and we finally were able to beach the yak. The yak was on top of the minivan by 2:30PM. We wanted to go to the Scrub Jay Trail but found that it is close on launch days. The officers were very nice and explained that to us.

There was no launch and did not see the big bird we came to see. But if after you look at the pics you say that it was a bad day, we will have to agree to disagree on that one. Here are more pics of what we saw:

Brown Pelican and Dolphin

Laughing Gull
Scrub Jay
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret

Little Blue Heron





Brown Pelicans

Brown Pelican

Ruddy Turnstone

Snowy Egret

Pelican and a Little Blue Heron



The fleet and the dolphin


Cutting edge

Now that we are with the dolphins it is time for Did You Know That?

Did You Know That?: Dolphins have to be concious to breath. That means that they cannot go into full sleep because then they would suffocate. How did the dolphins solve this problem? Really "easy". They let only one half of their brain sleep at a time. Someone with more time on his/her hand than I have did a study on dolphins and performed an EEG and found that dolphins spent 8 hours a day sleeping this way. Their behavior while they are sleeping will vary depending on individual preferences. Some will swim slowly and surface every now and then for a breath. Others will rest at the surface with their breathing hole exposed. Others will rest at the bottom of a shallow water area and will come up just to breath and then back to the bottom. Did you know that? I had no idea but some people I know seemed like they tried this and never woke up.

So that is it for this Views From Our Kayak. Click on this link to view more pics of this and past trips to Haulover Canal: Haulover Canal Slide show

Thanks for reading. See you soon.