Here's a nice little video about the Ichetucknee, though I have never, ever heard it called "The Itch." The woman in the video mentions that manatees can be found in the river, but that is very rare these days due to low water levels, as well as the shoals where the Ichetucknee joins the Santa Fe River. Other wildlife are very prevalent, including river otters, various types of water fowl, and deer.
I love to paddle this little waterway in the late fall and winter, when the tubers are gone and the river is devoid of all humans except a handful of other kayakers. My favorite thing to do is put in at the bottom take-out point, paddle up river for a nice workout, and then float back down. This can be done in as short a time as two hours or less, or can be extended for several. Its amazing how many different things you notice by traveling in opposite directions. The river traverses through numerous environments, including grass marshes, hardwood forests, and areas of carved limestone.
This is a most interesting and enjoyable report, Htmb, not to mention very beautiful.
You really have some fabulous photos here and I appreciate the closeups of the vegetation. I love the picture of the cardinal vine growing up through the little daisy-like flowers. I never spent any time in your part of Florida, but did spend a year in N. Fort Myers. I was very happy to find that there are several books on the vegetation of the state, certainly more than I've seen for other states. The gulf side of the state, at least around Ft. Myers, was overrun with causuarina and Brazilian pepper trees inexeorably crowding out the native trees and shrubs.
Thanks for taking us along in the kayak -- gorgeous!
Early last evening on the way to the gym I came across the two smaller deer, along with a larger female. I can only assume these two are her fawns and I just didn't see the mother when I took photos at the park.
There are park-like areas with widespread offices across the very busy street from the park where I had the original siting and I can only hope the three deer came under the road through a passageway, rather than crossed the busy four-lane street. They were also just yards from an even busier six-lane avenue. It still amazes me to see deer right in the heart of the city.
Newnans lake is located on the eastern edge of Gainesville and encompasses 7,200 acres in a designated conservation area. The lake is popular among local fishermen. It is not a swimming lake for many reasons, though the lake is frequently used for training by area rowing teams.
During a drought a few years ago the remains of over one hundred decaying canoes were found buried in lake muck by a local Advanced Placement Environmental Science high school teacher and his students. The canoes were made of pine and cypress with the oldest dated at over 5,000 years old. The following brief YouTube clip contains some excellent pictures, along with comments by Eastside High School students, their teacher, and the scientists who studied the canoes.
Newnans is surrounded by cypress trees and is a fairly shallow lake with only a five foot average depth. While we were facing another drought at the beginning of this past summer, the area then experienced the highest level of rain ever recorded and lake levels are now beginning to rise.
A cell phone tower can be seen in the far distance of this next photo, and at least two gators can be spotted in the foreground. This lake is full of gators and it is not a place where I'd feel comfortable kayaking........ though I might still consider it.
While there are alligators in many of the waterways of North Central Florida, when walking through rural areas, particularly in the warmer months, it is more important to watch the ground for snakes. There are four types of poisonous snakes native to the state of Florida, and this approximately 5 foot long Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is the largest of the group.
I came across him sunning on a lightly-trafficked road on the way back into the city. You can see that he becomes harder to spot as he moves into the grass.
I even had a hard time finding him to photograph through my long lens, which is why this photo is off-center.
In 1898, the City of Gainesville began piping water from an artesian spring on the southeastern edge of town to provide water to residents and businesses. In 1905, the abundant supply of freshly piped water was one of the reasons for the Gainesville location of the University of Florida.
The artesian spring "Boulware Springs" still remains, but since the completion of a water treatment plant in 1948, the spring water has been diverted to Paynes Prairie to the south, where it enriches the habitat of many types of flora and fauna and eventually drains back into the Floridan Aquifer.
The Boulware Springs Water Works building is next to the brick lined water reservoir for the springs. Water moves through a series of channels and then down Boulware Run, a waterway that flows towards the northern end of the prairie. At one time, over 300,000 gallons of water per day were estimated to flow out of the springs.
There is a parking lot next to the Water Works building for those wishing to ride on the Hawthorne Trail, a bike trail that follows part of the rim of the prairie before going east to the small city of Hawthorne.
Post by bixaorellana on Sept 22, 2012 23:11:13 GMT
Oh, I think this may be my favorite part so far of a consistently interesting and pretty thread! The water hyacinth & spanish moss picture provoked a major pang of nostalgia. I'm so much enjoying the history you provide throughout. So many great pictures. I particularly like the 2nd snake one & the one of the big turtle.
Thank you both for your enthusiasm and encouragement.
I was several feet away from the snake and in my car most of the time (really standing by my car with the door open). He started to curl up and rattle his tail when I tried to ease my car a little closer, but as soon as I stopped and rolled up my window he straightened out and slithered into the grass. I know rattlesnakes can spring forward a good distance and I didn't want to have any problems with this brute so I gave him lots of space.
If you are referring to the large, homely turtle, that's a Florida Softshell (Apalone Ferox). It has binocular vision because it's eyes are positioned to the front of its head. It also has webbed feet and some turtles have been reported to be very aggressive. A bite from one would certainly be pretty painful.
I found the turtles to be absolutely fascinating and have been trying to remember all the facts I learned a few years ago from an expert. Not many come to mind unfortunately. I took lots of pictures because I couldn't keep my camera still enough. There was a rail there to rest it on, but I still needed to angle the lens down in an awkward way. It was also bright and sunny, so i couldn't see all that well on my camera screen.
As long as I was still the turtles stayed on their perches. I think it's interesting how they freeze and stare. The little camouflaged guy sticking his head out of the water is also the same little turtle in the first picture. He wasnt sure what to make of me.
Bixa, I liked the even closer photo of the rattlesnake, except that I wasn't able to include his head in the picture. This is another one of those times when a viewfinder on the camera would have come in handy. Other than that, the camera was just super. Thank goodness for zoom lenses!
A real woman would have just marched over there, grabbed that bad boy by the back of his neck, hoisted him up, & stuck that lens right into his fangy face.
Yes, I do like the one with the beautiful detail of the body very much. I just commented on the other one because it's so nifty with the wiggly snake, the bright parallel lines, & the limited palate.
Turtles are fascinating. I wonder why the Florida Softshell evolved the soft shell.
We came down the Tennessee River in a boat from way up by the Kentucky border. Parts of it look like the very beginning of creation, as though no humans had ever set foot there. We were bathing in the river and the turtles were quite snoopy, coming right up to peer at us.
It's amazing how a little bit of moss here and there, along with a few cypress trees, can evoke old memories. I do agree there are a lot of similarities between the terrains of North Central Florida and southern Mississippi.
I hope you find your Crystal River photos to post, k. That would be wonderful. Did you get any shots of manatees?
Wes Skiles was a resident of North Central Florida and also a world renowned underwater film maker. He died in a tragic diving accident in 2010, while on assignment for National Geographic magazine. To honor his memory the local Public Television station aired the following episode of Skiles' award winning underwater documentary "Water's Journey." In this fascinating film you can travel through the water-filled underground limestone caverns of North Florida as scientists follow the Floridan aquifer for ten miles.
Post by bixaorellana on Sept 28, 2012 14:43:23 GMT
This is absolutely fascinating, Htmb. I was really happy to see that you posted another episode. I've only watched a tiny bit of the first one, as I have to wait until nighttime for my crappy connection to be good enough to stream the video. But the bit I saw -- really beautiful and compelling. I didn't know that about the springs of Florida. I did know that the Yucatan Peninsula has underground rivers in limestone, but not about Florida.
The only thing is that this lovely video brought back a horrible memory. I went to 2nd grade in Albany, Georgia & that year some divers were lost in an underground cave. Our teacher described in dreadful detail their last moments. To seven-year-olds!
Oh, bixa. I hope that teacher was severely disciplined. What a horrible thing to do to children.
Unfortunately, people have died in the caves here, too. Cave diving is certainly not for untrained individuals to attempt.
The YouTube video I posted is one I watched a few years ago when it was first released, and I still find myself feeling very claustrophobic while watching some of the amazing footage of divers swimming between layers of limestone rock.
The second link is not to a video, though there are others posted on-line, but rather to a short informational page related to the video.
Lake Santa Fe, located in eastern Alachua County, is a very large, spring fed lake and the headwaters of the Santa Fe River. The river flows through swamps located on the north side of the lake and travels 72 miles before merging with the Suwanee River, and eventually emptying into the Gulf of Mexico.
Lake Santa Fe is a gorgeous lake; clean, clear and deep. It is a favorite recreational area for many, but will be a topic for another day. The upper part of the Sante Fe flows through swamps and piney woods, and travels over a clay base of earth. It flows westward before reaching a dry, sandy area with limestone caverns and here it very dramatically disappears underground before resurfacing three miles down stream. The area coming out of the lake is known as the upper Santa Fe, while the area To the west of where the river reappears as it rises out of the ground at is called the lower Santa Fe.
The map posted below details all of the lower river and a portion of the upper area.
The squiggly portion on the upper right side of the map represents the upper river, which goes underground at "River Sink." Skipping forward the equivalent of three miles one can see where the river reappears at "River Rise." To my knowledge, much of the river between Lake Santa Fe and River Sink is not navigable.
This morning I set out to explore parts of the lower Santa Fe, as well as my favorite little river, the Ichetucknee. If you will look again at the map, you can see a little arrow to the left (west) of River Rise with the words "You are here." This was my first stop of the day, at a litte park next to the highway 27 bridge. It mainly consisted of a boat ramp and a little parking lot, where I found a few fishermen and observed some paddlers out for a leisurely float down river.
The little park is just upstream from the former location of a railway bridge built near the end of the 19th century.
Researching areas that might be good places to launch my kayak in the near future, I drove away from the river, eventually reuniting down river eleven miles later at the HWY 47 bridge park. Note the fence on the bridge to keep dare-devils from taking a plunge.
Here the river is broader and I could see more of a vista looking down stream.
Looking up stream I can detect a little fall color in the leaves.
Along the edge of the river there is limestone in many places.
These young men didn't appear to be very concerned about the wake they were sending towards the family groups fishing along the river.
There were walking trails through the woods behind me,
but I had yet another launch area to explore back upstream a bit.
I doubled back up river towards a place I'd heard of, but had never been. The roads are very good out in this area and the terrain is mostly pine trees, pasture, and farm land.
Turning down a side road, I traveled another couple of miles before coming to...
What a pretty little park! A very nice section of the river, with very easy access to the water for kayaks. Legend has it the Rum Island Spring area got its name from local moonshining and bootlegging operations in the early 1900's.
As beautiful as all of this is, I can't help but imagine what the first Europeans must have thought when they were exploring for the first time -- "what an unlivable horrible hell hole of swamps, dangerous reptiles, mosquitos, ghastly humid heat and impenetrable vegetation!" They really needed that Fountain of Youth fantasy to keep plodding ahead.
Obviously they also found areas of superb agricultural land and (seemingly) unlimited fish and game, but it took quite a bit or work before they could fully appreciate all of that. Even as a child driving with my family through bayou country on rickety old wooden bridges and with vegetation chewing at the sides of the road, I always wondered how anybody could actually have the determination to build a road through a swamp.
I knew there was something familiar about those cypress knees. Thanks, Mossie!
Tod, I appreciate your kind comment. It's very much appreciated.
Explorers from several centuries ago would think they had died and gone to heaven on a day like the one I had yesterday, Kerouac. No need for the elixer from the Fountain of Youth. The temperature went no higher than 78F/26C all day, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and no alligators or snakes to be seen. It was an absolutely gorgeous day and very typical for early November in North Central Florida. Though I wore jeans and long socks in case there were still any ticks about in the wooded areas, I really wished I could have worn my shorts with bathing suit underneath. It was just a perfect day.
I tend to think what it must have been like for the Native Americans, rather than the first European explorers. Imagine what his beautiful, unspoiled place must have been like before the changes brought from across the sea. I plan to get to the Native Americans and the first Europeans later in this report, as this whole area was greatly impacted by (mainly) Spanish explorers.