Category: Kayaking

Tomoka State Park, Florida

We drove east across Florida from Manatee Springs State Park to Tomoka State Park, passing near beautiful Ocala. It’s like Lexington, Kentucky, with gorgeous horse farms. This is the height of show season, and big horse trailers were traveling to events. Tomoka sits between Orlando and Jacksonville, just north of Daytona Beach and south of Flagler Beach. It is a very nice state park with well-protected campsites and sand roads. The Tomoka River runs through the middle of it, providing a great place to kayak.

We have never been to this park, so we drove around exploring “The Scenic Trail Loop”. It is certainly scenic. It was Bike Week, so lots or Harleys were also driving the loop, mixed in with local travelers. I came to a frantic stop at Boardman Pond, a beautiful spot on the Halifax River. I grabbed my camera, tripod and walked back up the busy road, and for 40 frightening minutes took a hundred pictures of ducks, little blue herons, big blue herons and great egrets as cars whizzed by a few feet behind us. It’s a dangerous place to shoot, but would prove to be the best of the trip. I would later learn there is a viewing platform on the other side, but we would not see so much at that location.

Little blue heron

We drove over to Ormond Beach and went into Hull’s Seafood Market, maybe the best we have ever been into and bought a big Tripple Tail filet to grill over the fire. After lunch, we put the kayaks in and paddled Tomoka River for an hour or so. In the middle of the float, I was surprised by my phone ringing. It was Nick from The Apple Core. I find it difficult to understand people on a cell phone in perfect conditions, but with the wind blowing in my ears, I could barely make out what he was saying. He said he need to replace some chips and a board, that cost $450. The labor would bring it up to $920, and did I want to go ahead? “Yes, go ahead Nick.” That was an expensive bottle of wine!

Manatee Springs State Park

This is the second time we have been to Manatee Springs, and we will be back! The campground is excellent and the springs and boardwalk are very cool. It is a short stream from the springs to the lovely Suwannee River, but don’t underestimate it. Depending on the time you come, there will be opportunities to see a large variety of wildlife. This site lists 179 species of birds sighted: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L127260. Of course, there are manatees which we were fortunate to see. This is a place for kayaking, swimming, picnicking, hiking and diving, so it is a popular spot.

We hiked a beautiful trail through the park, then went to dinner at Suwannee Belle Landing, a very good restaurant on the river. Using a shuttle service to take us up stream, we kayaked the Suwannee for two hours down to the springs. I wasn’t too excited about floating what seemed to be a docile river with little wildlife, so I didn’t take a camera. As luck would have it, I was once again proven wrong. The Suwanee is a beautiful river teeming with wildlife. We watched 50 Ibis fly into the trees, herons along the edges of the river, fish jumping, black vultures migrating and a tree full of wood storks. Sometimes it’s nice just to float along and enjoy the ride! Next time we will take a longer float and take the camera.

Suwanee River at dusk
Belle Landing
Alligator tacos
Key lime pie

Riviere de Diable

Monday, August 8, 2016

Martha wanted me to float the Riviere de Diable and see how I liked her kayak, so she dropped me off at 8:30. There was no one on the river and it was quite pleasant. I saw ducks and woodpeckers and an osprey. Paddling closer to get a picture of the osprey, I just about had a heart attack as my phone rang in the chest pocket of my fleece. We haven’t gotten reception for days! Fumbling around  to get to a good spot to answer, I missed the call. It was a Charlottesville number, so I called, but it was busy. Having left a message, “who is this?”, Danis, my next door neighbor, called me back. He is getting our mail and wanted to know what was important. Of all the places to get reception, floating a river at the base of a mountain. I guess I wasn’t too far from the camp office, so maybe they have a cell tower there. 

It was a pleasant float, and I did like Martha’s kayak. It’s a sit-on-top, so it is somewhere between a canoe and a kayak, so call it a hybrid. There are deep grooves and holes on the bottom to keep it straight, which would make it more difficult in white water, but we’re probably not doing white water. It would be fine in class I or II rapids.

After lunch we hooked up and headed for the eastern part of the park in the Pimbina Sector. A better road than I expected, we arrived at 2:00. A very pretty young lady helped us. She spoke English and there was no one else waiting! I bought a Quebec fishing license for the year, but since this is Canada, you can’t just buy a park fishing license, but you have to tell them what lake you are fishing in. Then you get a one or three-day permit. I couldn’t really get a handle on the streams. They also give you a report to turn in with the number of fish you caught, released, what size and what kind they were. It is their way of managing the fishery. You don’t see many people fishing, and maybe this is good. It is, however, very frustrating.

We needed a few groceries, so after setting up camp, we drove into Saint Donat. What a cute little town with outside restaurants, pubs and shops along the main street. We found a little Bistro with outdoor seating where the people seemed to be having a good time, and they had WIFI! Martha ordered a sangria and I had a glass of wine. OK, it may not be a good idea to post for the world to see late in the day while you are drinking! Some pictures went to the wrong place. 

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