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Trip Length: 12 miles. Put-in at 8:30AM and arrived at Gores Landing approx 4 hours later.
Boat Rentals and Park Fee: Florida Pack and Paddle provided canoe rentals (Bruce Beckwith 800.297.8811) Parking fees at both Rays and Gores is $3 per vehicle. Forms and envelopes are available with a nearby drop box.
Car Shuttle: The club was responsible for shuttle service. Driving distance between Gores (Take-Out) and Rays (Put-In) was approximately 11 miles.
Air Temperature and Weather Condition: There were typical afternoon thundershowers during the days before the trip. It was in the mid 80s at Put-in and temps rose to high 80s at take out. During the early part of the trip we hit a brief sun shower but did not encounter any more rain for the remainder of the trip. We frequently heard what could have been distant thunder or the sound of explosions at the U.S. Navy target area in the National Forest.
The River and Terrain: This portion of the Ocklawaha proved to be a good choice for a summer paddle in central Florida due to a friendly and constant 3 MPH current, shade from overhanging trees and a pleasant breeze. Having said that, it was still a 12 mile paddle on partly sunny June day – we were sweaty and looked forward to a cold beer.
Leaving Rays Park we paddled down a channel and steered left into the northward body of the Ocklawaha River. Within minutes we floated under the SR 40 bridge on our journey to Gores Landing. The Ocala National Forest was on our right throughout our trip and the land to our left was just as wild. I recall passing only one or two houses that were not directly on the river. Once on the river, paddling efforts were eased by the current. As we paddled upriver, or is that down, the sounds of nearby Ocala bound traffic faded into the stillness of the surrounding forest. The river width was comfortable, neither too narrow nor too wide, throughout the trip and offered some bends, but there was always sufficient field of vision to see and plan ahead. While there were submerged obstacles, fallen trees, you could see the telltale ripples on the water in sufficient time to steer accordingly. River depth ranged from a foot or so to perhaps 15 feet at times.
The river was reasonably clear despite the recent heavy rains but it was not the same clarity as we experienced on last month’s trip on the Silver River. We passed some interesting banks, some almost 10 feet high and we could only wonder about them, as they seemed so out of place.
At about the halfway point, our group of about 16, found a nice and wide put-in at a beach type area for a quick rest stop on the river’s right bank and it appeared to be part of a hiking trail in the National Forest. About three-quarters of the way through the trip, another group put-in on a smaller beach area. Gores Landing was relatively easy to spot, it is on the left bank of the river just beyond a left bend and it had a large metal sign that was mostly illegible from the river.
We passed people fishing from the banks and only a few motor boats. We were upset with the trash we saw on and in the river – guess not all know the “Leave No Trace” rule.
Wildlife Sightings: The wildlife was quiet this day but the sounds of bird life in the forest were a constant reminder that they were there. Paddlers at the front of the pack saw alligators, most all saw an occasional Egret, Heron, Hawk, turtle, Gar (fish) and some very exotic looking wild flowers (some of the leaves of which bore a striking resemblance to Marijuana – or so I thought from my law enforcement training. The group of paddlers I was with was most fortunate to catch sight of a herd of the uniquely rare and elusive species of Florida Goat-Deer near the riverbank – a private joke for some of us on the river this day.
Difficulty Rating: This was not a difficult river to paddle and it was enjoyable journey, minus the trash, on a still wild Florida River.
Recorders: Ted and Joanne Wendel
For good river map go to www.clubkayak.com
YakCatcher Rod Holder