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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

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