Photo Will Warner ©
My wife and I celebrated her 50th birthday with a trip to the Ichetucknee -one of the finest small rivers in Florida. We started at the bottom, near the usual take-out point, where the river flows through a broad floodplain forest shaded by a tangled canopy of tupelo, ash, and massive old growth cypress trees.
After about an hour of paddling - at roughly the mid-point, we arrived at a wide, watery savanna, lush with wild rice and eelgrass. Ten thousand years ago, this area was home to Florida’s colossal mega fauna including mastodons and saber-toothed tigers. Now, great blue herons, egrets, ibis, and wood storks paid us little attention as we floated by.
Beyond the savannah, the river became a narrow windy stream with limestone banks and overhanging trees. The current lessened noticeably and we soon reached the dock, ready for a break after almost two hours of paddling up-river. With masks and snorkels in hand we headed for the spring for a swim. We had our own private aquarium to swim in for as long as we could take the cold water.
After lunch at a picnic table overlooking the spring, we started on our paddle back downriver. Stopping to explore one of the side springs we passed over the largest snapping turtle I’ve ever seen, an enormous, gnarly looking creature with a shell 3 feet in diameter. I was suddenly very glad I wasn't swimming.
Story by Will Warner
Click here to read more about the Ichetucknee River and Ichetucknee Springs State Park.
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