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