The next morning dawned clear but chilly. That night we had neighbors, and they must have been from Florida. They clearly felt that the 40 degree temperatures were extreme. There was no movement from their tents Saturday morning. I guess they weren't planning on getting out until the day warmed up. It stayed chilly all day, despite sunny skies.
We broke camp and made the 2 hour drive north to Ichetucknee Springs State Park. We stopped at a campground outside of the park and arranged a shuttle first. For $10, they followed Christy to the take-out and brought her back. This way, our car would be waiting for us when we returned. I liked this arrangement a lot better, after Friday's fiasco.
By noon we were ready to put in. The park was virtually deserted despite a beautiful day. We started at Head Spring, which is marshy and very different from the other springs we had visited. The water was absolutely clear. We could see the white sandy bottom of the river, even where the water was deep. Fish were everywhere, and some were immense. Most impressive were the Longnose Gar, which appeared almost prehistoric.
We paddled downstream, or I should say I paddled downstream, as Christy was taking the day off. The trip was only 4 miles, so I told her to take it easy or it would be over too soon. We passed by Blue Hole Spring, which was closed off to protect the delicate environment. Several other springs and areas were closed off along the way. Despite this, there were still a few that were accessible. One highlight of the trip was Devil's Eye Spring, which we paddled up into. It was a round spring, with a blue "eye" in the center. That section was probably 20' deep, and clear all the way to the bottom.
The scenery along the Ichetucknee River is fabulous. Early on we passed through a wooded section with lots of Live Oaks and Spanish Moss. Then we entered an open grassy area with numerous springs and wetlands. The last couple of miles took us through a dark cypress forest. Wildlife was outstanding. Along with the usual varieties of fish and birds, we spotted a family of raccoons and a deer. Turtles were especially numerous, and some were massive. At one point, a huge fish jumped out of the water just ahead of us. It resulted in a splash that made me think we had accidentally paddled into Sea World.
The biggest challenge of the trip was recovering a bottle from the bottom of the river. Christy spotted it, but the water was deeper than it appeared. It took her some serious digging with the paddle to be able to reach it. That bottle was the only trash we saw on the trip, and it had been down there a long time. No food or drink is allowed on the river, which seems a little extreme, but apparently it's effective in reducing trash.
The trip ended all too soon. We had only seen one kayaker the entire time. We hated to leave, but Ichetucknee Springs did provide a fine ending to our trip. We headed for home, but we did stop in Savannah for some seafood. Dinner was great, but I was disappointed that the menu didn't include Longnose Gar.
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