Ichetucknee River Trip Report


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Al Letch | VCKC
Published Tuesday, November 23, 2004

DATE: November 23, 2004

LOCATION: The Ichetucknee and Santa Fe Rivers from Ichetucknee Springs State Park to River Road take out at Route 129.

NUMBER OF PADDLERS: 32 (12 rented and seven private boats)

REFERENCE USED: Ted Wendel's Notes, Bob Schultz' Notes, Internet Research

TRAVEL TIME TO PUT IN: Participants left from Mulberry Grove Recreation Center in car pools about 7:30 AM. The average travel time to the Springs was 1 1/2 hours. Directions were good.

TRIP LENGTH: We paddled 6 miles on the Ichetucknee and 4 miles on the Santa Fe.

BOAT RENTALS AND PARK FEES:

Boats were provided by Adventure Outpost out of High Springs. Costs were $20.00 per person in double canoes or kayaks, $25.00 per person in single kayaks. All rates included tax and shuttle service at the end of the trip.
Private boat owners all availed themselves of the shuttle service, which was $15.00 for a single with kayak and $20.00 for a double with canoe.

There was a $5.00 per person fee to paddle on the heavily protected Ichetucknee River, including admission to the park and parking.

AIR TEMPERATURE AND WEATHER CONDITIONS:

Our morning started out being somewhat overcast, but the clouds thinned and dissipated as we arrived at the Springs.

The temperature was in the low 70's, rising into the upper 70's or 80 by take out time. It was perfect weather for a pleasant autumn paddle, although the wind did rise straight at us during the Santa Fe stretch!

THE RIVER AND TERRAIN:

Ichetucknee Springs is one of the most beautiful, famous and historical sites in Northern Florida. The crystal clear flow of the head spring is joined by a number of smaller springs to form a substantial flow to the Santa Fe River, adding several hundred million gallons of water daily.

The current was moderate, and made paddling easy throughout the length of the “Iche”.
Remnants of the hurricanes are still very apparent along the way, with signs of the historic high water mark evident 10-15 feet higher than current level on trees along the edge. The water became less clear as we traveled, due to run off waters still making their way into the main stream.

The trip started off passing through limestone “cliffs” on each side, then opening into a broader area for most of the rest of the way. There were numerous branches and downed trees of unknown vintage, but there were no problems with passage for the entire route.

River depths varied from a couple of feet to maybe 20 feet deep. There were no observed or reported “un-pre-meditated dumpings” by members into the 72 degree water…although Paul Lippert managed to get his pants wet somehow!
Two lunch areas were used by the group, one about half way down the “Iche” at a place marked by buoys. There were a picnic pavilion and rest rooms here. The second area was about a mile or two further, and appeared to be a private space, but no problems with our group enjoying a break.

A third pull out area was closed and being worked on by convicts under the watchful eyes of two Sheriff's Deputies. At another section, conservationists were doing some special measurements and had two lines stretched across the river. It was necessary for them to spread these apart so that we could pass through.

Entering the Santa Fe River, the clarity of the water disappeared, and became an inky brown, due in large measure to the extensive runoff still occurring. The river appeared to still be in a somewhat flooded state, with many docks and ramps under water. The height of the water line on the trees here was even higher, perhaps 15 feet or more, so we could only imagine the plight of the many riverside homes during the peak of flooding!
In spite of this, the Santa Fe is a broad and clear river, with no obstructions. We passed through areas of magnificent old cypress trees, but there were signs of humanity all along the banks of this popular waterway. We only saw one motorboat operating the entire way.

WILDLIFE SIGHTINGS:

Paddlers saw beautiful white and blue herons, buzzards, some bass, at least one 3' alligator gar and lots of turtles! The major sighting was a lone manatee which had journeyed up the Ichetucknee, thanks to the higher than normal water! Our member turned and followed the beast for a few hundred yards, but was unable to get a clear picture through the less than clear water.

DIFFICULTY RATING:

This was not a difficult paddle, but with the length of the trip and the headwind, we got a pretty good work out! As usual, the group finished up way ahead of estimated time, and the consensus seemed to be very positive about our trip to the Ichetucknee!

PREPARED BY:

Al Letch

Last update Thursday, April 10, 2008



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