Once again, it was a foggy morning. The plan was to paddle nine miles of the Ocklawaha River which runs right next to Wilderness RV Park.
We waited a little while and then shuttled the Jeep to Gore's Landing, our take-out point ($5 parking fee). The timing was perfect. As soon as we got back to the RV park and got the Sea Eagle to the launch, the skies cleared.
We were on the water by about 10:45 and paddled through the duckweed to the main river (which flows north here).
The Ocklawaha is a 74-mile river that eventually empties into the St. John's River near Palatka. We've been on that end of it, and we were looking forward to paddling this nine-mile wilderness section.
We weren't expecting it to be as clear as the Silver River, but it certainly was.
We saw two other paddlers at the very beginning and then one motorboat toward the end. There was a solid seven miles of just us and the river. No houses, no docks, no people. Unbelievable. :)
Within the first quarter mile, we encountered a family of otters. Amazingly, we floated down river with them for a good half hour or so as they fed.
For the first time ever, we were able to get some really good otter shots.
There were four of them slinking in and out of the lillies. Then they would poke their heads up and munch on whatever freshwater food they just caught.
We got to watch them interact on shore for a few minutes. Then the largest one stopped on a log and snorted at us as if to say "The show's over, time for you to move on".
After our time with the otters, we could've paddled back to the put-in, called it a day and been perfectly happy. That was so cool. :)
But we had a Jeep to retrieve, so we kept going. Now, the water was only flowing at about 1 mph, so we couldn't just float the entire stretch however tempting that might have been. We had to do some paddling.
We didn't see quite as many birds as on the Silver River the day before, but the usual suspects were there. Here is a Green Heron.
And there were lots of little gators and big turtles.
Linda loves it when the turtles spread out to make sure all their parts are exposed to the sun, so I had to get one good shot of that.
The turtles and alligators on this part of the river were very skittish. Gators would slip into the water as we approached and the turtles would plop in with a big splash from their log perches. Every once in awhile, we would startle a larger gator, and it would make a quick rush into the water. The huge splash would scare us and everything else around it. :)
Mostly, we just enjoyed the quiet and admired the beautiful water on this perfect day.
You can see some of the fish in this photo.
At one point, I started singing "Heaven, I'm in heaven, ....". :)
We saw this Great Egret catch a fish.
Flowers were blooming along the edge of the river.
Songbirds serenaded us the whole trip. The high-pitched screams of several Red-shouldered Hawks filled the air above us.
We saw Pileated Woodpeckers and heard the "Who Cooks For You?" call of Barred Owls. The Belted Kingfishers chittered as they flew from one tree downriver to another tree and repeated that pattern over and over when we floated into their "space".
After a few miles, Linda assumed her favorite position and took a brief nap.
Eventually, we came upon a larger alligator that stayed on his log longer than most.
Then we found this tiny baby gator that stayed dry while its larger brothers and sisters hit the water.
Linda woke up and paddled for a while. But as we neared our take-out, she was back lounging and tracking our progress with the GPS. :)
After nine miles and about five hours of bliss on the water, we pulled into Gore's Landing.
We dried off the boat, cleaned it up, deflated it, and rolled it up to go in its storage bag.
This section of the Ocklawaha is now near the top of my favorite paddling rivers list. It is beautiful, uncrowded, and unspoiled. The slow current, the clear water, and the wildlife make it so soothing.
If you want, you can continue another eight miles to the next take-out (that's a very popular trip). There are primitive campsites along the most of the river, and you can even park a small RV at Gore's Landing. But, if you are parked at Wilderness RV Resort, doing the Silver River one day and the Ocklawaha another is certainly a winning combination, and I'm soooo glad we did both. :)
We were back at our campsite around 4:30. Then we had to get showers and get ready for dinner.
Chuck & Melissa invited us over for burgers on the grill, so we needed to hustle.
We arrived right about 6:00. While Melissa did some grilling, ....
I played a couple of cornhole games with Chuck, Don (Chuck's uncle) and Anna.
Anna was the "ringer" of the group ... at least on this night. I'm gonna have to practice before going up against those Tennessee folks again. :)
As it started to get dark, we gathered up for dinner.
We had a wonderful meal outside ... until the mosquitoes started attacking. Then we headed inside where we chatted, had a little dessert, and then said our goodbyes.
What a great day and a great way to end a leap-year February. :)
We're planning on leaving in the morning, but I'm not sure where we are going. Guess we'll see what happens. :)
For the best pricing on Sea Eagle Inflatable Boats (perfect for RVers), be sure to visit our friends Tim & Crystal at InflatableBoats4Less.com. They'll help with boat and accessory selection for your needs. And be sure to tell them Howard & Linda at RV-Dreams sent you. :)