Ocklawaha River Rays to Gore Trip Report

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Ted | VCKC
Published Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Date: July 26, 2005

Number of Paddlers: Estimated at 50 (Rentals: 15 Canoes and 3 Single Kayaks) and an assortment of private boats.

Travel Time from Mulberry Recreation Center: was as stated in the Destination Report

Trip Length: 10 miles (plus or minus) Time duration not posted because of efforts involved in rescuing a submerged boat.

Boat Rentals:

Florida Pack and Paddle (Bruce Beckwith) provided canoes and kayaks as per our destination report. Bruce had 5 new Kevlar Canoes that looked sleek and members who paddled them said were more maneuverable than his stock boats.
Weather Conditions: It was a near perfect summer day. Temps, at time of Put-In were in the mid 80's and rose to mid 90's by noon. However, humidity was very low, the sky was blue with no clouds and there was a nice breeze through most of the trip.

The River and Terrain:

Water levels were much higher than normal throughout our trip; the current was moderately strong, estimated at over 2MPH. We continue to see and experience the destruction caused by last season's hurricanes and the amount of deadfall on the river was visible throughout our trip. The river cuts through the Ocala National Forest and, therefore, the wilderness of Florida surrounded us with no signs of civilization.

Wildlife Sightings:

Very little signs of wildlife which surprised me.

Group Enjoyment and Difficulty Rating:

The Ocklawaha is basically a lovely and not overly wide river that cuts through the Ocala National Forest offering paddlers an uninterrupted view of its wilderness. Tall trees border the river and offer almost continuous shade from the day's sun. The river's current is mild but constant which makes paddling an easier event. I think the morning hours are the best time to be on this river as you may be lucky enough to catch the early rays of the sun glistering through the morning mist.

However, the river is still scared from last season's hurricanes and our recent and frequent rains raised the water level by (my guess) a couple of feet. We encountered frequent deadfalls that, at times, offered challenging obstacles to navigate through, under and around, and all too common experience on area rives since the storms. Downed tress can result in what is termed “Strainers” and they can be deadly obstacles. Strainers are any obstacles in the water that, while it allows water to pass through or under, can trap a boat or paddler against the force of the water passing through and can pull them under with deadly results.

On our trip, this happened to one canoe when it capsized just before the Strainer. The paddlers were rescued without harm by nearby club members but the capsized boat was trapped in the strainer and was submerged. It took some efforts by a number of rescuers to free that boat and tow it to the Take-Out. Fortunately all that was lost besides a little pride was a paddle. Capsizing happens in our sport, but what frustrated some of us was that one of the capsized paddlers removed her PFD just moments before the flip.

PURPOSE IS TO SAVE YOUR LIFE! Last year's storms have increased the challenges of area rivers; the frequency of capsizings during our trips has increased.

Despite this incident and the challenges of the river, I received only positive feedback from other club members about their day on The Ock. Speaking for my canoe partner and myself, we looked forward to the cold drink (a very tall beer) and lunch afterwards and we were not disappointed.

Lunch at Island Seafood Eatery was as good as it gets and the company of our fellow paddlers was exceptional - we shared good conversations and many laughs.

Next month, we will be back on The Ock for the trip from Gores Landing to Eureka and I would expect similar river conditions. That destination report will be posted to our website within the next couple of weeks.

Paddle Safely, Ted

Last update Thursday, April 10, 2008

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