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Number of Paddlers: 30 in 9 Rental Canoes, 4 Rental Kayaks and 5 Private Boats
Reference Used: www.clubkayak.com, DeLorme (Florida) page 72 and Paddlers Guide to the Sunshine State
Trip Length: 8 ½ miles or 3 ½ hrs to include rest stop. Put-in at 8:45AM and arrived at Eureka at 12:15PM.
Boat Rentals and Park Fee: Florida Pack and Paddle, www.floridapackandpaddle.com, provided canoe/kayak rentals. FPP does not provide shuttle service between Put-In and Take-Out. Parking fees at Gores was $3 per vehicle. Forms and envelopes were available with a nearby drop box. No parking fee at Eureka Park
Air Temperature and Weather Condition: It was a near perfect summer morning. Air temperature was in the low 80s, the skies were mostly clear with no threat of rain, the humidity was low and we had a delightful breeze with us throughout the trip.
The River and Terrain: The Ock continues to impress us as a rewarding paddle for a summer morning in Central Florida. The section of the river that we did this trip was wild and free from the signs of people – a picture of the past. This trip was our second trip on this 110-mile long Central Florida River. Our Put-In was at Gores Landing, a nice county park with a relatively clean restroom and ample parking. It is just a few short paddle strokes from the main channel, which flows northward, and we steered left for our journey. Recent rains have raised the level of the river, the strength of its current and may have caused recent downfalls that we encountered during the first half of the trip. I say “recent” downfalls as within the past two weeks of the trip, a river outfitter said that there were no major obstructions above, on or under the water that he knew of. We encountered three separate and challenging obstacles (fallen trees) that tested our technical skills to paddle through narrow pathways, some of which where at angles to the strong current. All accomplished this without incident. I would expect that whomever does river maintenance will cut through these deadfalls with a chainsaw at some future time. It should be noted that some of the difficulties encountered with navigating through the obstructions were due to a log-jam of boats near the obstacle which when compounded by the strong current, impeded one’s ability to plan your approach to the problem area.
One canoe tipped over when one of its paddlers grabbed a limb of an over hanging tree and both paddlers went in for an unscheduled swim and others watched as their gear floated down river. They were not hurt and the fact that they were wearing their PFDs most likely prevent a catastrophe as the water was deep, the current swift and the river full of submerged obstacles that could easily snag clothing. It proved the need to wear those bothersome PFDs, secure all personal and safety items such as dry bags, seat cushions with some kind of tie down. Also, it is essential for each boat to have a bailer, hand pump, and sponge (also e secured).
The main current was relatively easy to follow; however, we came upon two areas where the river formed a T. The first was at a third of the way into the trip when he came upon a T (either left or right) – the current traveled right – as did most of us, at least one paddler went left but caught up with us later in the trip. The second point was near the end of the journey and again a careful study of the river made us see the current going left. Note that available river maps did not show these details.
This section of the Ock cuts through the Ocala National Forest which protects it against urban sprawl that is, sadly, encroaching on other less protected rivers. The river width varied throughout the trip but was never too narrow nor too wide - I would estimate its width ranged from 20 to 50 feet. The surrounding terrain was wild and a picture of what this section of Florida was once like – it was beautiful! The water clean but stained a reddish tea color, but the bottom was visible in shallower spots and therefore, we cannot guess the depth of other sections. We were happy to see an absence of trash on the river that bothered us when we paddled a different section of the Ock last month. There were pull-off areas for rest stops on the river, undoubtedly areas that allow primitive overnight camping. Most were for smaller groups but the majority of us (about 20) stopped at a large and sandy pull-off at about the halfway point, it was on the right side of the river.
Near the end of our trip, good ears can pick-up the sounds of traffic on Route 316 and its bridge over the Ock. We paddled under the bridge to get to our take-out and came upon a group of boys swimming in the river – some of us were tempted to join them. As you look up at the bridge, you cannot but wonder why it is so high! We were told that the state had had plans to dam the river to raise its height and width for it to become an intercostal waterway for commercial barge traffic but, fortunately, that ideal was scuttled. A few paddle strokes past the bridge and on our left was a sign for a Canoe Outfitter who rents boats and another 5 minutes past that took us to our Take-Out which was on our left and the end a really nice morning on a great river.
Wildlife Sightings: During the earlier part of the trip many of us saw a tribe of monkeys in trees and near the water’s edge some were carrying their young. The story behind these Rhesus monkeys depends on which legend you want to believe. One is that they escaped into the wilds after the filming of some Tarzan, movies near Silver Springs in the late 40’s early 50’s. The other is that an early entrepreneur had put them on a river island for a planned animal tourist attraction – he did not know they could swim. Regardless of the tale, the monkeys are one the river and have been seen as far north as Jacksonville and as south as Tampa.
Also spotted were otters playing in the water, alligators, turtles, egret and blue herons, and three to four foot alligator gar. One paddler mentioned that the alligators seemed skittish and later that day, my wife and I heard on the news that July is the month that female gators lay their eggs and, therefore, a time when alligators are more nervous and protective of their turf.
Difficulty Rating: With the exception of the downfalls we had to navigate through, the rest of the river was not a difficult paddle. However, until the deadfalls are removed, we would not recommend this portion of the river for novice (beginner) level paddlers.
Recorders: Ted and Joanne Wendel
From Take Out to Gores Landing. Left on CR 316 until the intersection of CR 315 and take it south to 105th St NE (you can only turn left) then make a right on 130 Ave NE straight to Gores Landing. There is a $3 fee to park at Gores, please have the exact amount and pen with you as you will have to write information on the collection envelope.
The Kayak Wing