Saturday, June 30, 2007

Waccasassa Canoe Adventure

Above, the short straight logging canal section of the Waccasassa.
Yesterday, I had a decision to make. All of my clan were far and away, no one needed me, and I was free.
Freedom is a funny thing. It opens up a whole world of possibilities and creates the dilemma of what to do ... something responsible like staining the new door to Jr's room, or something fun ... and rare, like a solo adventure.
Hey, that sounds good.
Definitely a solo adventure kind of day.
I could go serious fishing. This is the fishing I do by myself as opposed to the "they're not biting, can we swim, I'm hot, these gnats are biting me, can we ride around some, can we go to the sandbar ..." type of fishing when I go with my little darlings.
I could choose to do some serious critter photography which is always a solo venture.
Or ...
I could go explore the Waccasassa River while it's super low from the long drought we are enduring. There's some decent fossils in that river and the low water could get me into places I can't usually get to.
Plus I recently patched up wedding present canoe and I was curious to see if the old girl would still float.
I jotted down a float plan and left it on the kitchen table:
"Gone canoeing. Don't try and find me."
Fifteen minutes later I was on the Waccasassa.

Two minutes later, I hit my first portage. There would be more of these ... many, many more.

Right after the first portage, an otter popped up next to me and paused for a breath and a picture.

Already the trip was worth it.

From the shoreline shadows the limpkin suggested I keep going.
"There's more for you" he whispered.
So, I paddled on.

Always take limpkin advice. Just ahead, a shallow stretch looked like a B-52 had unloaded on it. The bowl shaped depressions are bream beds. Bluegills and shellcrackers fan out these nests, lay eggs in them and then defend them against all tresspassers ... well, maybe not against the otter, but almost any other trespasser.

The beds went on for 20 yards or so and covered the entire bottom. It was easy to see the bream and largemouth bass cruising by in the clear water. The main source for the Waccasassa River is Blue Springs near the town of Bronson. In a drought like this one, it's supplying most of the water in the river so the clarity is excellent.

I was barely paddling, just drifting with the current and munching a piece of Publix fried chicken. In this first part of the trip, I was passing through a short section of the river that was straightened out back in the cypress logging days early in the last century. In an narrow bend in the river that's usually several feet deeper there were some old square timbers and a few pilings from an old logging rail trestle. The water was only knee deep due to the low river conditions, so I checked for gators, then hopped out to poke around.

Suddenly, I knew why the limpkin had urged me on.

It was this cypress log resting on the bottom.
Only, this may not be just a log.
It might be a dugout canoe.
It's common in Florida for ancient dugouts to appear during severe droughts like the one we are having. A few years ago, hundreds of dugouts were discovered in the exposed lake bottom of Newnan's lake in Gainesville.
Florida's first human inhabitants used cypress logs for their dugouts and buried in a river or lake bottom, cypress dugouts can last for thousands of years. Some drought exposed dugouts turn out to be four or five thousand years old.
Pretty incredible stuff.

The symmetry of this log and it's hollow area really make me think it's a dugout.
The interior was filled with sand and freshwater mussels. I fanned a little of the mud out of one section to get a better sense of it's shape.
It's a sweet U-shape that seems to continue down the length of the log.
The gunwales (pronounced "gunnels"... you lubbers) are rounded and a uniform distance apart.
It's straight, it's the right size ...

Before I left it, I filled in the fanned out section with protective river mud and took many more shots from all angles so I can send them off for an expert opinion on this curiosity.
Then I paddled on.

Ahead, the river narrowed even more as the clear water entered a dark tunnel of foliage. I followed of course.
The river wasn't done with me yet ...

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rcwbiologist said... that a hollowed out cypress in the water in the first few shots? I know they tend to get heart rot from coring them at Woods Bay.

pablo said...

You get to find all the great stuff!

Thanx for taking me on this trip with you.

Floridacracker said...

You got here in the few moments between posting just the photos and saving the post as a draft while I added text.
A zillion chores today kept me from posting til late.

Floridacracker said...

Dang Pablo, You are fast! I barely got this thing posted and boom, there you are!

LauraHinNJ said...

Beautiful photos, FC!

Those bream beds are cool - never saw anything like that.

I was taught that the American Indians here used tulip trees for their canoes 'cause they're so staight.

Deb said...

Wow...any one of the things you encountered would have made the day. But this trip sounds like pure magic!

kathy a said...

wow wow wow.

Anonymous said...

Good choice of how to spend the day - just seeing the otter up close like that would have been enough for me, but you got all the other goodies too! Be sure and let us know what you learn about the possible dugout.

roger said...

now i have canoe envy.

old joke......i can row a boat. canoe?

rcwbiologist said...

Thanks for the trip. What a great day that sounds like it was.

ImagineMel said...

YAY! I thought it was a canoe too. I do know something about where I live!! :)

robin andrea said...

It would be so cool if that turns out to be a canoe. What a find. Nice critters on the journey, too. We had an enounter with a river otter the other day. So, of course, I googled river otter for info, and was so surprised to see that they are part of the weasel family.

Floridacracker said...

Thanks! If Tulip trees grew here, they probably would have used them too. We are at their southern extreme.

"... this trip sounds like pure magic!"
Don't you mean Pure Florida?

Kathy A,
There was definitely a "wow" factor on this trip.

I agree, the otter was enough! There were actually even more otters later, but I didn't get a photo. At least 3 different ones on this day.

i bet you've got a million of them.
i think the canoe may be the all round perfect boat.

Hey you're welcome. I love sharing it.

Way to go!
There was enough litter to justify taking two boys I know for some community service canoe/litter pickup. Should be a fun way to earn a few hours for their future scholarships.

Floridacracker said...

Big wet weasels, that's them.
They always make me smile ... except last summer when they ate all my catfish.
This summer the pond is dry, so I can smile about otters again.

Hurricane Teen said...

agh, I can't tell you how many times I've had otters pop up right next to me, just to have them submerge when I get the camera out. That log/dugout canoe sure looks interesting! I love old things like that and the railroad trestle and the railroad spikes. I might have to make my way over there sometime with my dad to take a trip.

Floridacracker said...

The camera has to already be out and in your hand with otters.
If you and your Dad head over, let me know and I'll give you specific tips about canoeing this river.

Scott said...

FC. Very Cool. I have seen one of these too up on the Chipola 10 miles south of Marianna when I was a boy. My friends Dad pointed it out after a very dry spring when we were out tubing. You have the most wonderfuly pic's and stories on your blog. I share them with people all over the country and they always are envious of where we live, our culture and our sprit down here in Sunny Fla....what a Great State we hail from.

Yours in the Bond.

ArtfulSub said...

Another brilliant blog posting. Let us know what the "experts" think of the possible ancient canoe.


Floridacracker said...

Thanks Scott, and thanks for sharing Pure Florida. This is truly an amazing place ... still.
Happy birthday too.

Thank you. I'm going somewhere tomorrow where I might get an answer or at least an educated opinion on the possible canoe.

Laura said...

I found this very interesting to read about, as I've never heard of the ancient dugouts such as this type. Very cool! I'll have to do some google research on it.
I would love to see otters playing in the river, that would be a huge treat!

Floridacracker said...

Google Newnan's Lake Dugouts ...

mark gill said...

a wonderful blog for this old florida boy!! tell me more about the nature coast....