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We put in at the public ramp on the east side of the Highway 98 bridge-nothing fancy, but a nice gentle slope. We had read that the current in this river is relatively gentle, so we determined to do a round-trip rather than dealing with the logistics of shuttling. So we headed north from the put-in, planning to paddle up to the next bridge, have our lunch, then turn around.
The river is indeed clear and clean, being fed by what I was told is the 7th largest spring in the U.S. However, much of what looks like a sandy bottom is obscured by copious water vegetation, some native but much of it apparently non-native. So that may become a problem before long, but at present, the native vegetation seems abundant and healthy. As noted in the other reports, turtles abound, sunning themselves often in tiers of two or three on logs along the banks. Some slid into the water at our approach, but many are apparently old hands and have lived long enough without being molested by humans that you could just imagine them yawning as we passed—“Ho hum, there goes another kayaker, what else is new.”
Water birds are everywhere on this river. We saw many double-crested cormorants, herons, some egrets, and even one bald eagle—the prize of the day! One comical cormorant plucked a strand of Spanish moss off a tree branch then spent several minutes trying to shake it off his beak—I have no idea what that was all about.
Unfortunately, we saw no manatees, nor did any of the other paddlers we asked—and we asked everyone. It may be too early for them to be plentiful, or maybe it was too late in the day. We didn’t get onto the river until around 10:00, since we drove over from Pensacola (about a 3-hour drive). But we did see two small-to-medium-sized gators, resting in the sunny shallows near the banks. I know a lot of Florida paddlers are used to paddling near gators, but it’s still a new sensation for me, and it was quite exciting.
As planned, when we reached the next bridge—about 1:45 after putting in—we had our lunch, then headed back. The trip down was not quite twice as fast as the trip up, but it was a quick and pretty easy, requiring mainly steering and a little bit of paddling into the wind. Overall, it was a pleasant, gentle trip on the kind of wonderful non-humid sunny day of which we get very few in Florida.
Afterwards, we decided to check out the legendary Posey’s Oyster Bar for beverages and shellfish. To get there, take 98 East to 363, turn south and follow 363 to the end. You’ll run right into Posey’s—literally, if you don’t apply your brakes. Sadly, the food didn’t quite live up to its reputation, but it’s a great spot for a post-paddle libation, with a nice deck overlooking the St. Marks River (which meets the Wakulla River not far from Posey’s).
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