Sunday, June 08, 2008

Withlacoochee River

In the confrontation between the stream and the rock,
the stream always wins - not through strength,
but through persistence.
~Anonymous

DH and I recently hiked the trails at Suwannee River State Park (photos on Photo Miscellanea) and while there saw several paddlers on the river. It occurred to us that we had not paddled there lately. So on Saturday we loaded up the kayaks and headed out. I have never seen any wildlife aside from turtles on the Suwannee or Withlacoochee rivers (they join at the park) and so I took a lens well suited for scenery and less so for moving wildlife. Seemed like an okay idea at the time.

When you leave the boat ramp at the park you are on the Suwannee River, which is tea-colored from all the tannins. We prefer the clear green Withlacoochee, which runs into the Suwannee close by, just south of the ramp. So we headed off in that direction.



When we came to the confluence of the two rivers we turned right onto the Withlacoochee. The Suwannee continues on under the bridges.



There was a fair amount of current in most areas. This river has a very pretty shoreline that varies from side to side--when one side has limestone rocks, the other usually has sand. Extremely picturesque.


I didn't get a lot of photos going upstream, since putting down the paddle would result in a rapid downstream drift. We did, however, make a brief stop. It was very hot out since it was after noon. This water is not as cold as the Wacissa or Wakulla and so it did not make much difference being close to it. I felt the urge for a swim. Since it was Saturday, it seemed likely that the spot where Abby and I lounged in the water last summer (ready to go back when you are, Abby! Bring the fam!) would be crowded. So we found a nice shallow sandy area for a swim stop. I took the camera (the waterproof one, which I also had with me) out into the river to photograph the boat (the Manitou went on this trip).



That was refreshing. We continued on. We came to some almost-rapids flowing swiftly over rocks and sand in a very shallow area. By the time we realized this presented more of a challenge than we were looking for, we were in the middle of it so we struggled to keep a straight course till we got through them. It was exhausting. We stopped when we came to calm water and discussed the problem going through that area on the way back. In some places the very large broad rocks were close enough to the surface to topple a fast-moving boat. Seemed like a good opportunity for a little water hike (it was time for another swim, anyway). We walked through the rapids and rested when we were below them. DH said there was a great blue heron on the rocks across the river. I seriously doubted this; I have never seen one on this river and have been paddling it for years.

I guess there's a first time for everything. And this was when I regretted having a slow lens with me. The heron was fishing, caught a fish and took it to the top of the rock to eat it, looked for more fish, and then spotted us and flew away. Here are the less-than-ideal photos I got of the bird:



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We then got in our boats and started our downstream drift.

Going downstream was pure pleasure. It's just so pretty there! The rocks are interesting.


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The trees that overhang the water seem to be rooted right in the limestone.



I had company on the bow of the boat for much of the downstream drift.



We stopped in a rocky inlet to have a snack and chat. I took a photo after we left.



And then we were back where the rivers meet. This is a shallow area where you can walk across the Withlacoochee, and there were boats and people in the water on both sides. This dog was having a great time chasing a tennis ball that a little girl was throwing for it.



A fun day. We have decided that on the next trip we will paddle as far as the almost-rapids and stop there for a swim and then turn around without attempting to go farther upstream. Seems like a plan.

I'll be back when I get out again. Stand by.

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