FL - Econlockhatchee Water Trail - 2012/02/07 - 21.2 miles



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The Econlockhatchee is a tributary of the St. Johns River south of Lake Mary. It is a blackwater river with white sand beaches, palmetto palms and a few cypress. The lower river flows through cleared land with grazing cattle.







I planned an overnight round trip paddle on this river starting at C.S. Lee ramp and paddling up the Econlockhatchee river. That plan didn't last the very first moment I arrived at the put in. There was no overnight parking at this ramp, as I learned, is the case at most of the developed ramps in the central counties of Florida. I needed a new plan. So I headed to the other end of the Econlockhatchee near Oviedo looking for a put in where I could leave my car in comparative safety. I didn't find anything in Oviedo, as the parks there on the river did not have either convenient launching OR overnight parking. At the bridge where Snow Hill Rd. crosses the river I found a place with a mud beach and enough space to park off the side of the road. It would do.



There was a one knot of current headed down the channel which at this spot was more creek than river sized. The water was deeply stained by the tannins of the cypress that the water had flowed past getting to this halfway point in its course to the St. Johns river. I carried my kayak down the steep bank to the water, not wanting to take a chance getting the car stuck on the loose gravel of the improved embankment. Checking for alligators before approaching the waters edge, I loaded the kayak with my dry bags from the car. They seemed to take up less than the usual space but I didn't think about it too much.

I started down the river which had numerous loops in which each had a nice white sand beach on every inside bend. The day was cloudy but there was a reddish tint coloring the white sand bottom, typical of many northern Florida rivers. As I finished paddling the first quarter mile, I realized that I had forgotten to pack my tent which was the explanation for the easy pack that I had had. I decided not to go back for it and return to the car tonight instead of camping out.





At an abandoned hunting camp I stopped to look around on the bank. Spanish moss was draped over the long low limbs of the live oaks and sparse cypress trees pressed up their roots along the sandy banks. The ground was unusual in that it was not covered by palmetto palms as in most central Florida areas.




With an overcast sky making a silver stream of the placid waters, there were few birds working the shoreline. I had not seen a single alligator yet, although I realized that they were probably still hunting in the water which was warmer than the morning air temperatures.




I continued down stream to loop after loop in the river. Kingfishers and blue heron kept relocating farther down the bank as I came upon them and I saw two small alligators on the banks.




Around noon the sun came out as I exited from the trees and into an open area. The air stunk. I soon discovered the reason - cattle.




The area had been cleared to make an open pasture with just a few trees here and there for shade. I stopped on a little beach and looked over the pasture. The grass was covered by dried hyacinths that had flooded and spread over the entire field. Headed back to my kayak, an air boat started up about a quarter mile down river. The huge racket flushed a large flock of wood storks that circled overhead before settling in on a new location. A pair of sandhill cranes came over a few minutes later.




I continued on down river, passing the day use platform at Culpepper Bend that must have been the air boats location when it fired up. I paddled past to the confluence of the river with the much larger St. Johns river. I could see the bridge where C.S. Lee ramp is located less than a half mile down stream. I decided I needed to turn around and start up river to the car as I had only five hours before dark and I didn't want to have to paddle real hard against the current.




The skies remained clear and I had a nice trip back up stream arriving about an hour before dark. I was loaded up and on the road to the next days paddle location just as the sun touched the horizon. I set up camp at Hatbill ramp ready for the mornings paddle as a full moon rose through the clouds.

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EVEN THE BEST BOATERS CAN FIND THEMSELVES IN SERIOUS TROUBLE ON THE MILDEST OF DAYS ON THE WATER. PARTICIPATION IN THIS SPORT IS A STRENUOUS ACTIVITY. CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN BEFORE UNDERTAKING ANY SUCH ACTIVITY. PLEASE BE AWARE THAT EACH BOATER TAKES FULL RESPONSIBILITY FOR HIS OR HER OWN SAFETY, AND IS TOTALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR ASSESSING THE DANGER LEVEL AND ACCEPTING THE CONSEQUENCES OF PARTICIPATING IN THIS SPORT.


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