Thursday, April 11, 2013

Paddling the crystal clear Ichetucknee River

April 9, 2013
Jasper, Florida
Florida Gateway RV Resort

As good luck would have it, we learned about the great kayaking on the Ichetucknee River when reading a recent post by Sherry in the Direction of Our Dreams blog. I didn't realize it was close to where we were staying until we started looking for places to kayak in this area. Sherry’s detailed description of the park and rave reviews of their paddle convinced us this was a river we wanted to experience. Ichetucknee Springs State Park was about an hour’s drive from our campground in Jasper, south on I-75 and then southwest toward Ft. White. We headed out about 10 a.m. (early for us) on another beautiful day with temps in the low 80s and a clear blue sky with billowy clouds. Like Sherry and David, our plan was to launch at the southern end of the park and paddle upriver to the end, about 3.5 miles, then enjoy the float back to the launching point.

When we arrived, we were practically the only ones there and then a whole caravan of vehicles loaded with kayaks pulled in behind us. We felt a little disappointed to see that we would be sharing the river with about two dozen other kayakers, but we also realized this was a good sign in terms of the quality of this river. At least the crowd wasn't dozens of teenagers tubing as Sherry had warned might be the case.

We launched before the others but decided to let them all go ahead of us. It turned out they were a large group of active seniors from Cincinnati who had driven down to camp and kayak together. They were all very respectful of the river and we had some nice conversations with them as they passed by.

This whole stretch of the river is managed by the state park and is a popular destination for tubing Memorial Day through Labor Day when they run a tram to transport the tubers from various pick up points on the river. The water is amazingly clear because of the springs making it also a popular place for diving and snorkeling.  After the dark tannic waters of the Suwannee the day before, the waters of the Ichetucknee seemed quite pristine.

The current going upstream was running about three knots, pretty easy to paddle (or we also have the option of pedaling) upstream but a good workout nevertheless. It took us about two and half hours to reach the head spring and only a little more than an hour to float back down.

As someone who likes to fish, I was impressed by the numerous large shadows of fish that I could see below the surface. Several were jumping out of the water all the way along our journey. I wasn't sure what kind of fish they were until one of the other kayakers told me they were mullet.  Makes sense. If these were good eating fish, the river would be overtaken by fishing boats.

It’s always fun to be on the look out for turtles when going down, or in this case up, the river. We saw many along the way but this one log with nine turtles on or near it took the record. Whenever I would try to get closer for a photo, you could usually hear a splash as they plunked down into the water to hide.

About two-thirds of the way upriver, Vic spotted these manatees munching down on the river grasses.  I was surprised to see them so far inland from the Gulf this time of year, but we were pleased to be in their company. They are such gentle and amazing creatures. 

We also saw some manatees right under our kayaks as we were floating downriver. This group of three included a baby, but we passed over them before I could get a better photo.

I am always on the lookout for birds when we are kayaking. I heard a very noisy one that sounded like someone laughing only to discover it was a pileated woodpecker, but my photos of him were shrouded by the spanish moss. 

This beautiful osprey made several passes high among the trees above us and then finally settled in a branch that gave me a clear shot of him. This tree happened to be near a stretch of the river where the mullet were jumping all over the place.  He found a pretty good fishing perch.


We also saw two great egrets, a few anhingas, one great blue heron, some wood ducks, and one unidentified underwater species on our journey along the river.

About a half hour before we reached our take out point, the battery on my camera died. I keep saying I am going to carry a spare, but haven’t yet purchased one.  At least I didn't see anything else that I would regret missing with my camera. The best images, however, will always be the movies in our mind of this lovely day paddling the Ichetucknee.


  1. I am just SO happy that you got to kayak the Ichtucknee and had such a great day. More manatee than we saw. It took me much longer to go back down than it would have if I hadn't just hung around and hung around the manatee. Terrific pictures!! Thanks so much for this second paddle of a beautiful river.

  2. That looks like a lot of fun. I am pretty sure I would not want to snorkel in the river:(

  3. What a beautiful day and river! So cool that you saw several manatee. I always love seeing all the turtles lined up on a log. Wonderful photos! So glad you shared.

  4. Beautiful river and great photos...the turtles are so cute sunning on the log.

    Thanks for sharing your day!

  5. I'm glad you got to paddle there. It's a favorite of many people, however for some reason it's not one of our favorite Florida spring rivers.

    1. Which are your favorites? I seem to remember you liking the Crystal River area?


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