Wekiva River Trip Report


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Ted and Joanne Wendel | VCKC
Published Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Date: February 3, 2004

Location:  Wekiva River (Put-In at Wekiva Marina and Take-Out at Katies' Landing)

Number of Paddlers:  32

Boats: 16 Canoes

Reference Used:  Paddlers Guide to the Sunshine State, Sandy Huff

Travel Time From Hacienda Hills:  Approx  1 1/2 hour

Trip Length: 10 miles.  Put in water at approx 1030 and arrived at take-out approx 4 hours later.

Boat Rentals

The State Park's concessionaire rents sufficient number of canoes for our club but, at this time, no kayaks.  Their normal fee that includes a timed pick-up at Katies' Landing was $40 but they were willing to reduce it for our numbers to $35 each boat of 2, plus each person entering the State Park would have to pay a $3 entrance fee (unless they had an annual pass).  They also charge $5 per person who had their own boat for shuttling plus the park entrance fee.  We selected Florida Pack & Paddle (Betty and her son Bruce Beckwith), their price for Put-In at Wekiva Marina and inclusive of fees and taxes was $26.50, they offered limited assistance with shuttling.  More on this to follow below.

Air Temperature and Weather Conditions

Day began with overcast skies and temps in the upper 50s.  Those conditions held through the first half of the trip when the sun broke through and the temps climbed to 70 degrees.  The air was dry with a moderate breeze that became a bit stronger in more open waters which, at times, became a head-wind that, at that point (near the end) required a stronger paddle to overcome.

Water and Terrain

I don't know about anyone else, but I expected Rosie and Charlie (for the African Queen fans out there) to come tooting around some of the bends in the river.  Water conditions at the start and through out the majority of the run was easy.   Some said that if they didn't look at the grass in the water, they wouldn't have thought there was a current.  That mild current held throughout all but the wider (and later) part of the river.  There were very little submerged obstacles to deal with and no overhangs.  Despite this being the longest paddle, at 10 miles, that my wife and I have done with the club, most completed it within the time it took to do other runs.  This could be attributable to the absence of obstacles and other navigational needs.   One canoe tipped at the beginning of the run and those paddlers decided to head back to the Put-In  (The reason for that tipping is not known and could be attributable to a bad move within the canoe and/or a lack of experience).  

I believe that some rivers have spirits that will ask if you have the energy and skills to be on them.  The spirits of Wekiva spoke to me and whispered that I should relax and paddle with easy strokes to enjoy what it would offer.  My wife and I listened and greatly enjoyed what we saw.  The passing scenery was, at times, hypnotizing as we took in the near mirror reflection off the water of the trees and logs we eased by.  This gave truth to a statement about the river made by Sandy Huff as being a mysterious run

The river was wide enough to allow sight of the sky at all times and we paddled past miles of the river without seeing signs of the civilization that lay just out of sight.  Our senses became lost in the river and it wasn't until the last leg that boat docks and riverside homes came into view.  This wilderness gave the feelings of isolation from the civilized world that lay just beyond its borders.  At our lunch-stop we had to remind some in our group just how close we were to the hustle and bustle of life.  This personality of the  river changed as we paddled nearer our destination and became wider with distinct passage ways through the grassy areas.  It also became shallower, with mere inches between the keel of the canoes and the riverbed.  The breeze/winds shifted and paddling became more of an effort.

There were many islands in this river.  I was told by the park concessionaire that one island at the midpoint had  (some) picnic tables on it and would, therefore, be a good lunch stop.  Our group of paddlers must have taken a different route, as we didn't see it but, we were told, other groups did but did not see  tables.  Our group pulled in at an island that offered limited pull-ins for boats and we had to pull some canoes out of the water to accompany everyone but that was not too difficult. Our group spotted an artisan spring gushing water out just above the surface of the water at one small island.  Thanks to Hank Casey, who had a GPS and was in our group, we knew the distance traveled.   The last leg (about 1 mile) seemed longer because of the water and wind conditions.  Katies' Landing was on the right side of the river and visible if you knew what to look for.  Until recently, Katies' Land had more visible identification from the river but someone took all that down.  So, like many things, things change and we must be aware and accept that possibility.

Wildlife Sightings

The bird life was the best we have seen and some were thrilled by a flight of large white (Ibis) birds that flew in formation just feet above our heads at one point.   My wife and I saw the largest turtle we had ever seen basking on a log, it looked the size of a VW Beetle (small exaggeration).   Some noted a mother bird feeding its young in a nest by the river.  We also heard a big thrashing type noise coming from the water, it had to have been made by a large animal such as a bear or deer, hopefully not duking it out with a gator.  According to Chuck and Bev Anderson, resident experts on birding, this is due to the migration of birds in February and they identified: White Ibis, Great and Little Blue Herons, Immature White Ibis, Great White Egrets, Black Vultures, Anhingas and Osprys.  No one that I spoke to saw any alligators.  Hank Casey commented that he saw some spots that might be great for bass fishing.    

Difficulty Rating

On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being most difficult) I would rate this trip was a 2, primarily for it's length.  

Enjoyment Rating

I agree with Sandy Huff's statement that this river was her favorite river in the state  for being easy to paddle and gorgeous.

Issues to Resolve for Future Trips:

Accountablity of paddlers before, during and after the trip.  This is especially important as the number on the river increases.  Tom and Christy Shaw made a great call by splitting us into groups at the Put-In but, despite that, there were, at times, problems with knowing who was and where they were within our group (esp those at the end of our line).    Suggestions were raised about paddlers volunteering to do sweeps to identify those lagging behind.  This has been tried in the past but all the variables of a river such as Wekiva with all the channels makes for difficulty in knowing where all the paddlers are but it certainly need to be discussed.  Also, the issue of slower and possibly less experienced paddlers both adds to this problem as well as to the enjoyment and concerns of all.

Directions

Comments were raised regarding conflicting information on the written directions and the map handed to everyone.  In planning this trip, I worked with 3 different maps, on-line directions, and directions offered by others to include Sandy Huff's book.  One thing became very evident, the names of roads have changed and were not the same as shown on published maps.  One solution is to have volunteers make a (excuse an Army term) Terrain Walk of the planned trip to record directions (mileage and road/street names).   It might be advisable based on the river to paddle it to “lay-out” its course before hand.

Logistics of Shuttling

Someone mentioned that the livery should have a bus to transport the paddlers to and from locations.   Some liveries offer this service and include that cost in their fees but, depending on the size of their vehicle, may not be able to transport all paddlers at the same time, also they may have designated times that conflict with our schedule.  This could also be affected by their responsibility to transport other paddlers who bring their own boats or paddlers not connected with our group.  I spoke with Betty and Bruce Beckwith, and their business is not large enough to support that expense.  We are their largest consistent group and we want to go to different rivers, some of which offer challenges in transportation.   We do not always use Florida Pack and Paddle but tend to use them more often because of their proven affordability, reliability, and willingness to accommodate our needs.

Recorders 

Ted and Joanne Wendel

Last update Thursday, April 10, 2008



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