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Many folks would describe this as an easy not moderate level of difficulty; something I would have agreed with till yesterdays trip. A cool front passed through bring with it a 15 MPH wind North wind (the river flows South), which combined with an extreme low tide for the month resulted in some of the lowest water levels I have ever seen.
Going up stream was a hard effort against both the wind and the current. In many places the water was so low that the eel grass was breaking the surface when normally there would be a foot of water between the eel grass and the surface. Along the bank there were mud flats that normally are not in view.
I normally go close to the banks where there are islands to look for wildlife and manatees, and there is usually sufficient water for this. On this trip this was not the case. I stopped at one of the many docks to speak with the owner about a hawk perched on a tree in an island in the river. He commented this was one of the lowest levels he had ever seen.
Later on in the trip I was forced to get out of the boat and pull it over maybe 2 inches or less of water over mud/silt that was up to my waist. When I reached the fence bridge I took a picture of the water level marker. The water level was so low that it was below the numbers on the marker.
Just a note: make sure to check out the river level by looking at the marker at the CR365 bridge over the river. If the water level is below the white on the marker it is important to be aware that hitting the river bottom while paddling is possible. Perhaps more important - the eel grass in many places will be so close to the surface that the boat bottom may hit it, not to mention the paddle blade.
After a short stop at the bridge ramp to talk to another kayaker I returned down stream. The tide had changed and the current was greatly reduced. I spent most of the time drifting in the current and got some nice pictures of the manatees breaching. Some were quite friendly and I got some pix of one that came right up to my boat and was swimming along beside me. Then it swam under me and I got some nice pix of that.
All in all, I really enjoyed the trip. But also learned a valuable lesson, pay attention to the tides when you are on a river that empties into the Gulf.
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