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Posts Tagged ‘Ocklawaha River’

I arrived at the Ocklawaha Canoe Outpost and Resort in time to check into my cabin and unpack before jumping on the shuttle to the

A Soothing Paddle on the Ocklawaha…Aaahhhh

drop at Gores Landing. This would be my second paddle on the Ocklawaha and my first stay in the cabins. My adventurous spirit moved me to stay two nights along the river, rather than making a reservation at the closest Holiday Inn.  I took in my temporary “home”—a bit tight, but with enough room for 4 or 5 with the bunk beds—plus the loft.

Since my first visit nine years ago, the Outpost had been sold; the new owners were Lance and Theresa. At noon, Lance drove me—along with a party of eight—to the drop off. On the drive over, he gave us a bit of the river’s history, describing how in the late 19th and early 20th century, steamboats, filled with sightseers, traveled up and down the river to Silver Springs.  Sadly, the steamboats disappeared sometime after the arrival of the railroad.

We arrived at Gores Landing shortly before one o’clock, and Lance was kind enough to put me in first, ensuring a peaceful paddle ahead of the large party. The Gores Landing trip is 8 miles. I expected it to be about a four-hour paddle.  I paddled alone on the river until near the end when I passed two small motor boats—guys out fishing.

Theresa, at the Outpost, had warned me when I made reservations the week before that the river was in the midst of a draw down.  Apparently part of the river’s restoration plan proposed by the Department of Environmental Protection includes a phased draw down of the river to historic levels to flush the river and its banks of aquatic weeds and to help the floodplain re-vegetate. I expected the level to be lower than normal, but instead, it was higher due to recent rains, flowing into the trees and keeping the wading birds and wildlife deeper into the woods.

Floating on the Dark Waters

The Ocklawaha River was one of my very first river paddles—way back on July 14, 2010. I have always remembered it as one of my favorite rivers. At that time, the river was dressed in the bright greens of summer. This time, the river had dressed down in various shades of brown and gray for the winter holidays.

The overcast sky and high 60s temps made for the perfect paddling experience. I paddled north with the steady flow of the dark river, following its many twists and turns. I spied lots of gators—many of them juniors, only a month or so old. I sighted a few birds—ibis, herons. An owl called from deep in the woods. I searched for monkeys but spied none.

I paddled onto the Outpost boat ramp 3 hours and 45 minutes after my put in, feeling refreshed and relaxed. I had a lovely stay in my cabin the next two days, sitting next to a beautiful campfire each night and waking to the quiet. What a lovely way to end the year!

(Ocklawaha Canoe Outpost and Resort. 15260 NE 152nd Place, Fort McCoy, FL 32134 (352) 236-4606)

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Morning on the Ocklawaha River

What a fabulously serene paddle.  I spent over three hours on the Ocklawaha River, and I was the only person on the river the entire time.  I paddled eight miles, from Gores Landing to the Ocklawaha Outpost, a paddle Ohr and Carmicheal describe as a “twisty, naturally gorgeous side trip to the northeast.”   It was an easy paddle; I was paddling with the current and had a strange sense of floating downwards the entire trip.  The gradient on this river is 1.4—meaning it drops 1.4 feet per mile—just slightly higher than that of the Silver River which is 1.0. This river flows north, and it eventually flows into the St. Johns River which also flows north.  The water seemed high and spread into the trees on the banks.  It was a beautiful, mirror-like, flooded river.

So, it was just me and the river…and the critters around me.  I could hear the birds calling to each other in the trees.  Later, I discovered that some of those sounds may have been monkeys.  I saw five alligators along the way, but they didn’t care much about me.  It was easy to imagine that I was in a Tarzan movie or on the Jungle Queen; this was the wilderness.  I just floated and paddled with the current and listened to nature around me.  What a life! 

I saw only a few birds; perhaps because the water was so high they stayed deeper in the woods.  The trunks of the trees on the banks were weathered.  The vegetation was much like that on the Spring River including cow lilies, water hemlock and water hyacinths.

I spoke with two women on the Spring River the day before, and they referred to the Ocklawaha as “sweet tea” because of its dark color.  I would add “very strong” to that.  The water was caramel-colored, and I couldn’t see through it.  It was probably a good thing.  The young girl at Ocklawaha Outfitters said that the gar fish are typically four to six feet long.  Yikes! 

The Ocklawaha is another “must paddle again” river.  Mike O’Neal, the owner of the Outpost, suggested that next time I paddle , I should paddle from Ray Wayside Park on Highway 40 and end at Gore’s Landing (where I began today).  He said that besides being a lovely, scenic trip, the monkey sightings are frequent. 

By the way, the Ocklawaha Outpost was the friendliest outfitter so far.  It is family-owned;  the O’Neils have owned it for just over a year.  I met Mike and his daughter, Cassie.  Cassie showed me a couple of the cabins they rent—just in case I come back for the other run.  They were cute and very clean.  Malin, one of the employees who drove me to Gore’s Landing, told me all about the alligators and snakes in the river.  The Outpost rents sit inside kayaks—Loons, and this was the first time I had used this type of kayak.  Once I got use to it—and after hearing the alligator and snake stories from Malin—I felt much more secure!

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