Sunday, February 17, 2008

Canoeing The Santa Fe River Canoe Trail

Well, I didn't get to Emeralda Marsh yesterday.
We flipflopped and at the last minute decided to canoe part of the Santa Fe River Canoe Trail. The really important thing here was not where we were going, but that we were all together for a change, Kate, Emma, Junior, Mrs. FC, and me.

Only a year ago, we would have been together as a routine, but now with 2 girls in college and living on their own, it's tougher to gather.
But on this day, we were all on the same page and in the same book.
We (I) loaded the 2 canoes, our battered 16 ' long wedding present canoe and a newer 13 foot Rogue River canoe, on to the bubba trailer and headed for High Springs. Outside of High Springs, we unloaded the canoes at the US-27 boat ramp on the Santa Fe and then Katie and I shuttled the JEEP and trailer down to the "get out" boat ramp next to the SR-47 bridge over the Santa Fe.

Katie (aka Captain Bligh) kept order in her canoe and encouraged smooth paddling by brandishing her stick.

The scenery on the Santa Fe is exquisite ... mostly. Much of the river bank is protected conservation lands and numerous springs gush into the river along the way. These aren't little trickle springs like up north, these are big clear flows of water that pump millions of gallons into the Santa Fe each day.

They get a post of their own this week.

So do the millions of turtles that sunned on every rock,log, and bump in the river.

The one truly negative eyesore along the river was the commercial campground known as Ginnie Springs. It used to be a nice family place, but when we cruised by it on this trip it looked and sounded like a cross between a refugee camp and a rock concert gone bad. The river in front was loaded with drunks in tubes, loud music was blasting from competing boom boxes, and campsite after campsite had open liquor bottles on display on camp tables.

We cruised by one raft of drunk tubers just in front of the campground and I heard this blankeyed girl lying in a tube say, " Wowww, look how fast they're going!"

I told Mrs. FC that I suppose if you're 3 sheets to the wind lying on your back in a stationary floating tube, it probably did appear that we were blasting past.

I was glad to get past them and back to the peaceful river.

As the trip progressed, Katie was forced occasionally to take out her stick and maintain order in her vessel.
It's not easy being in charge.

The entire designated Santa Fe River canoe trail is 26 miles long, but we were launching at 1:00 pm, so our goal was just the portion between the two bridges mentioned above. I think it worked out to about 8 river miles.
Junior thought it was more like 50 miles, but I assured him it just felt that way because of his erratic zigzagging across the river. The fact that he had skipped supper (Valentines dance) and had a tiny breakfast may have affected his view also. He was hungry the minute we put the canoes in the water.

At Poe Springs, (a YMCA facility) we stopped and let the knuckleheads walk up the spring run to swim a bit. Katie commandeered transportation back to the canoes after their chilly swim.
Near Poe a tiny spring was gushing a boil of water up on to the surface of the river. It was so cool!
I have pics of it and another spring to post later this week.
Gotta love Karst Topography.

The scenery was beautiful, especially with red maples seeding out and farkleberry blooming in the floodplain swamps.
We never had to portage over any of the gravelly, rocky bars in the river even though water levels are fairly low right now.
We even had one set of decent, but very safe rapids to ride over. They are up ahead of Junior's canoe in the picture above.

The big sisters with their baby brother.

The end result after 4 hours of canoeing: tired, hungry, happy, silly, wonderful kids. When we got out at the SR-47 boat ramp, they could not get changed into dry, restaurant appropriate clothes quickly enough. One minute they were wet and bedraggled ... the next they were in dry clothes and rarin' to go.

Personally, I could have kept going down to the Gulf of Florida, but I was outvoted.

We stopped in Alachua at the Conestoga Restaurant (GO THERE!) and chowed down.

All in all, a pretty decent day with my babies.


pablo said...

We have a lot of excellent float streams in Missouri, and I think you'd be surprised at the size of some of the springs that feed them. (One issues an average of 256 million gallons of water a day!)

Does that Mad River canoe of yours have a keel? Is it fiberglass? Those tend to be better for Ozark streams since they can generally glide right over the riffles. No good for flat water canoeing though cuz without the keel it's harder to keep them going in a straight line.

Excellent post. Also, nice to see people in shorts (and shirtless in one case) on a day when it is snowing in Kansas City.

robin andrea said...

That is a quintessential family outing. Look at those faces! Those are happy kids, fc. A wonderful way to spend time together.

Scott aka Florida Native Musings said...

Sounds like a Great Ride FC. If you get a chance check out the Chipola River Guide on the same site as the Sante Fe. You would enjoy it I am Sure, and JR. would love "Look and Tremble" rapids outsite of Altha.

Yours in the Bond

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your family outing and wonderful scenery with us. Vicarious warm weather is a treat this time of year.

Deb said...

Wow, that looks like such a fun family day! And it makes me long for late April/early May, when the maples will be budding out and the serviceberries blooming in the woods here.

Stogie said...

may i post this on my blog? peace

thegatorgal said...

I love the Santa Fe river- it looks like you had a great day! Good choice in eateries. Conestoga's is wonderful, so is the seafood restaurant across the street.

Floridacracker said...

I knew you had excellent streams, but I had no idea you were so rich in first magnitude springs! Excellent!
Thanks for expanding my Floridacentric view!
Both canoes are keeless, but I have no trouble paddling in a straight line ... Junior just needs more paddle time.
To be fair, I would never choose the short squat Rogue River canoe over my battered, long slender Mohawk.
It flies.

It was a day that glowed from beginning to end ... or was that just me?

I'd love to canoe the Chipola ... and every other stream in this state!

Glad you were warmed by this post!
Patience, spring will get there!
Here, I wish winter would linger longer.

Just an excellent day. Today was beautiful too, but windy, so we chose the best day.
So good to have my whole clutch around for the weekend!

I respect you for asking, but I'd like my writing to stay here and not be reblogged.
Peace to you too.

Thanks for that tip about the seafood restaurant!
I had not been on the Santa Fe for an embarrassingly long time so it was just as fun for me as it was for the newbies.

Linda said...

I've been a lurker on your excellent blog but have to comment on your float trip. We also find canoeing a wonderful family activity--on pablo's Missouri rivers. I made a copy of your post and put it in my Florida vacation folder. Thank you for sharing pictures of your beautiful family.

Floridacracker said...

Thank you for the kind words. Those Missouri Rivers sound pretty wonderful. I had to go googling after Pablo's comment.
I hope you make it to the Santa Fe someday!

tsiya said...

Lot's of great memories from that river, thanks for sharing.

Floridacracker said...

You're welcome!

kathy a. said...

what a glorious trip! we haven't done a family outing in a very long time. i'm still adjusting to both kids moving on last year -- son to his own place, daughter to college.

but son lives nearby and daughter will be home for spring break. we can figure something out, with a little planning.

Floridacracker said...

Kathy A,
Definitely takes planning of schedules at this stage in the game.
They are so busy!