There’s an incredibly beautiful natural resource in the North Florida area (ssshhhhh!), which I haven’t blogged about because we rarely get there — it’s farther than the Santa Fe River, and it’s a bit of a hassle (explained below). I’m talking about Itchetucknee Springs, a clear spring run of about 3 miles that outflows into the Itchetucknee River and then into the Santa Fe River.
But Pam and I bit the bullet on Sunday and took two kayaks there. We’ve recently purchased a little folding, two-wheel cart, which is pretty much a necessity to carry the boats about a half mile through the woods from the parking area (Itchetucknee State Park) to the river at Dampier’s Landing. This allows us to go kayaking while using only one vehicle (otherwise we’d have to park a second car at Dampier’s Landing or the bottom).
So we unloaded, put both kayaks (one on top of the other, strapped together) on the cart, and headed to the river. Then quickly took a wrong turn toward “Midpoint,” and ended up bouncing along a very rutted path that would have eventually (maybe a mile) got us down to the river. But the rutted path was bouncing the boats off and we weren’t seeing the river, so we headed the other way, and ended up on the very smooth, paved path, with a wooden walkway part of the way, to Dampier’s Landing — the direction we should have gone in the first place.
But we made it to the water, and it was beautiful — clear, cool, many turtles, some herons, a few people in boats or tubes here and there but not a big crowd. Well, it was Easter Sunday, so maybe that kept the crowd down — also, the rangers will only let 600 people on the river daily at the top, anyway, in order to save the spring run from excessive wear.
We paddled about a mile upstream, and then turned back down a little short of the top, and the people in front of us yelled that they’d spotted a manatee. Super, amazing, as you can see.
We sat and looked at him\her for about 10 or 15 minutes, during which time he surfaced to breathe once but otherwise stayed still as I even drifted over him. First time I’ve seen a manatee in the Itchetucknee River, and I’ve never seen one from 4-5 feet away, immobile, for 15 minutes. And thanks to the other paddlers who alerted us, since Pam and I might have just thought he was a rock, a shadow, or a deeper place in the foliage.
Remember — ssshhh! Tell only your good friends about the beautiful Itchetucknee River. Everyone else who comes to Florida should just stay on the Interstates and go to Disney. Nothing but man-eating alligators here in North Central Florida, and sinkholes that’ll swallow your house.