Friday, January 12, 2007

Silver River

I had a very interesting trip the first time I kayaked the Silver River in Ocala, Florida. The trip was made in my old inflatable kayak, which made for a less than enjoyable ride on the river's swift current.

The last time I made this trip, however, was in September in my nice Pelican Apex II kayak. The combination of the extraordiarily beautiful scenery and the swift current made for one of the easiest and most enjoyable kayak trips I have ever taken.

My parents and I woke up early in the morning to embark on the two-hour drive to Silver River State Park outside of the city of Ocala. This is one of my favorite drives to take because it goes straight through the rolling farm country in the center part of the state. It is always nice to remind myself that most of Florida is still rural, a fact that even a Floridaphile like me forgets sometimes.

As usual, we were the first ones to arrive at the park that morning, and, as usual, my dad needed to stop at the bathroom. While my care of his business, I wandered over to the little "cracker village" that they have set up in the woods behind the bathroom building.

And they say Florida doesn't have culture!!
The village they had set up was nice, and it consisted of little houses, a blacksmith shop, and I believe even a schoolhouse. But it just struck me as weird, though...whenever I think of Florida Crackers, I do not think of villages. Maybe I'm mistaken......but back to the story.

We parked at the head of the "River Trail," a dirt path that leads through the woods down to the river. We carried our kayak a half-mile to the river, walked back a half-mile, retrieved our gear and said goodbye to my mom, and walked back down to the river with our arms loaded down with assorted kayak accessories. So before we even set foot in a kayak, we had walked one-and-a-half miles, already more exercise than most people get in a full day.

The weather was absolutely perfect for paddling, temperatures in the mid 60s and clear blue skies. We could not have asked for a better day in a Florida September.

Because this is a spring run (a HUGE one at that), the water is crystal clear and very swift (for a Florida river, at least.) We shoved the kayak into the water, and as I climbed in I got the strange feeling that I was floating in mid-air. The water is so clear (and with no reflections because we were in the shade,) that you actually get the sensation you are floating in the air when you first set off. This is a very strange feeling that can last for a while after shoving off. Welcome to Silver River and Silver Springs, Florida.


This boy (girl?) is a Cormorant. You'll find these guys dive into the water chasing after fish, and then pop up a few moments later to breathe. They're fun to watch. There were 4 others on the branch that this guy was resting on, and one of them promptly tried to shoot excrement at us while we snapped pictures. We took the warning and headed on downstream.

Beautiful clear-blue water. The riverbottom in the shallow areas sparkled as if little pieces of silver were scattered about...I would assume that this is what the river is named for.

The reptile action on the river was pretty good. We saw a few turtles resting on logs like this and could see many swimming underwater. We also heard a gator splash into the water at one point on the river. I love the way turtles rest on their bellies and hold their feet straight out like this.

I want to say this is a kind of Water Hyacinth flower, but I am not sure. I am terrible at classifying plants. But the flower is not the main attraction here, it's the rather intersting-looking spider on the stem. I did not notice it until I uploaded the photos on the computer.

This is my favorite picture from the entire trip. The water all the way out to about 50 feet from the bank was perfectly clear and only inches deep. There's just a lot of beauty in this picture. I will leave you to comprehend it.


John Cowart said...

Not all Crackers care greatly for our environment; When I was a boy my grandfather told me about his adventures sinking kegs of gun powder in Silver Spring to dynamite fish!
This must have been about 1900.

Now that the spring is a state park, they hardly ever let you fish that way any more.

MinorcanMeteorolgist said...

Well, Mr. Cowart, my ancestors did some environmental destruction, too, back in their day. But I assume your grandfather did that to get food for his family. I respect him greatly for that...of course, that seems it would be a pretty expensive way to do it :-D If you need to do something bad for the environment in order to keep your family, alive, THEN DO IT! I just get tired of all these greedy people who rip every tree off the land to build some huge mansion or a "development." They aren't doing it to stay alive, they're doing it for luxury and greed. That's what I hate.

Paintsmh said...

Wow. Such lovely photos. Now if they would all load completly. Oh well. Guess you can't have everything. And shouldn't a certain teenager be in school?

Lucy D. Jones said...

Good point about the cracker village. This is a problem with interpretation and preservation of old buildings -- when they get moved they lose their original context, but on the plus side, they still exist. It's somewhat like development encroaching on the natural range of a particular animals, forcing it to live in an artifically constrained environment.

MinorcanMeteorolgist said...

paint - I have 2 ear infections, a throat infection, and a sinus infection. 'Nuff said.

Lucy - Thanks for visiting! Yeah, it is a shame to have to take them out of their "habitat." They just seemed to really play up the "cracker village" thing...Up till then I had never even heard of a "cracker village." I think the two words contradict each other. Oh well. Thanks for the comment!

Paintsmh said...

tPoor kid. Feel better. I still have whooping cough, so I sort of know how you feel. Fortunately I am on the'downhill slide' so to speak, or at least I hope I am. :)

R.Powers said...

When I was your age,my pal Kevin and I put a canoe in at the SR-40 boatramp near Ocala and canoed from the Silver, down the Oklawaha, across Rodman Lake (during an amazing lightning storm) and to the dam where we ended our adventure completely drenched and out of dry food. We had intended to portage over the dam and continue to Welaka, but the thunderstorm postponed that leg of the journey til later.
Great shots, your hyacinth is pickeral weed I believe.
Thanks for a great journey!!

MinorcanMeteorolgist said...

We took out at SR40...But that's a rather long trip, especially in a thunderstorm.
I'm surprised I didn't think of pickerel weed...thank you very much.

SophieMae said...

Gorgeous pics! I was thinking about floating down the Ichetucknee till I saw a program (PBS) about it. Bank to bank floaters!

The cracker house... if I ever get the chance to build, that's what it'll be.

My favourite book for ID'ing FL plants is The Guide to Florida Wildflowers by Walter Kingsley Taylor. After I wore out the library's copy, I finally bought my own. 8-]

MinorcanMeteorolgist said...

Yeah, the Ichetucknee does not appeal to me for that very reason...but I hear it's not too bad if you go on a weekday.

That's the kind of house I want too! Very similar.

Thanks for the reference. I will go look for it...I really need it!

R.Powers said...

Oh don't miss the "tucknee
Sophie. Pick an off day, get there early and you will be rewarded with a wonderful float.
Skip the weekends.

SophieMae said...

Thanks, y'all! It'll be a challenge to make it over there on a weekday, but I'm sure gonna try.