Trip Review: Juniper Springs and Creek 05/16/10

Hey Paddlers and Campers,

Wanted to tell you all about the latest and Greatest paddle I just did! About a week and a half ago as some may know Kevin, Peggy, Jeff , Dean(Beaner) ,Tim & Debbie, Keith (KayakKevs brother) his wife Anita and Reed & his wife; well ALL of Us, went up to Oklawaha River for the Marion County Aquaholics Poker Run. Jeff just did a previous posting on the trip. Anyway we had a great time on Saturday as Jeff already said.

This post is about the paddle Tim, Debbie, and myself decided to do on Sunday. Since we were already in Ocala for the Poker Run, we could not pass up the opportunity to get another days paddling in since there are 3 rivers right there, all within 30 minutes of each other! Most people in our group have already done either the Oklawaha River¬†or Silver River at one time or another. The third river or “creek” as it is known is the Juniper Creek.

I personally had never been there and to my surprise Tim & Debbie just¬†paddled the “creek” within the last 2 months I would say. They raved about it and said that it would soon become my favorite. You see it is a rarity that someone shows Jeff or myself a new place to paddle, as we have been leading trips in the¬†state of Florida for around 8-9 years. The Ocala area has always been one of our favorite haunts over the years. For¬†one reason or another we had never gone the extra 26 miles to drive out and paddle Juniper Creek!! WHAT A SHAME.

So on with the review: Tim, Debbie, and I arrived at the Juniper Springs Recreation Area via S.R. 40, out of Ocala around 10:00 a.m.. There is a $5 charge per vehicle, and to my surprise when I got up to the ranger to pay my dues- WALA ! Tim had covered both his & my vehicle!! Thanks Buddy! We drove to the Canoe/Kayak launch and unloaded our yaks and gear.

As soon as we had our stuff unloaded, Debbie and I left in both vehicles headed back out of the park and to S.R. 40. Once on  S.R. 40 we continued east to S.R. 19 and to the takeout point (about 10 miles away) and dropped off my SUV so we could shuttle the yaks back without having to pay the park staff to do it Рit is like $6 per person & $6 per canoe/kayak- pretty reasonable. We took the tough economy option.

Debbie and I then hussled back to meet up with Tim at Juniper Rec. area. Tim had already gotten the yaks to the water, about 1/4 mile down a boardwalk with the help of Yak Carts the park has there at the launch.

The¬†3 of¬† us then headed down the¬†initial spring run for about 1 mile which is less than a foot deep and crystal clear.¬† The creek soon enters Juniper Prairie Wilderness and starts to get deeper and a little wider, still remains clear and beautiful. This is about as faraway from¬†Urban Sprawl as you can get!! There¬†were many obstacles (fallen trees)¬†and a fairly brisk current¬†that made for alot of fun with all 3 of us having to be pulled off of or waited upon while we got ourselves “UNSTUCK”! This is an excellent place to work on bow &¬†stern¬†rudders, as well as “j” leans to turn the kayaks with the help of current.

The “creek” for the most part is shaded for the first 5 miles by oak, palms, palmettos, ferns, and cypress. There are also many twists and turns making it even more challenging for even the most experienced paddler. We stopped at an old dock piling area where most local paddlers stop for lunch and did just that, had lunch.

During our lunch, Tim spotted a deer that was so close we could have ran and grabbed him/her- well maybe not grabbed him/her but the deer was close and we got to watch him/her for a few minutes while we enjoyed our lunch and in turn the deer enjoyed its lunch too. It was during this time we also got to see a Swallow-Tailed Kite flying overhead! AWESOME.

We finished the last 2 miles of paddling to the takeout at Juniper Wayside on S.R. 19 by going through the Savannah/Floodplain where the¬†scenery¬†changes to¬†marshes with cattails¬†¬†and many¬†wading birds (Limpkins, Herons, Egrets, Ducks, & Coots )this is also the area that holds many LARGE alligators- we never saw one? Oh well- next time. Once at the takeout spot we quickly loaded the kayaks on the roof of my SUV and headed back to the recreation area to get both vehicles packed up and ready for our 3 hr. interstate trip back to civilization. Once loaded , Debbie sat in the comfort of the car air conditioning and Tim & I went down to the Juniper Spring for a quick rinse in the 72 degree water before heading home— AAHHHH!!!!

To Tim & Debbie, my deer dear paddling friends!! MAHALO (Thank You) for INTRODUCING ME TO MY FAVORITE RIVER!!   (for now) hahaha!!

– Sea Turtle Sean

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