Kayaking on the FBBSB Waterways

Kristee Booth

Kristee Booth is a scientist with Greenhorne & O’Mara, Inc. She has an undergraduate degree in Biology from WVU; MS degree in Ecology from FIT. She has been actively involved with the byway since its inception, and is a current CME member. This mountain mama travels the world to learn of the culture and history of the area and its people while enjoying those outdoor activities… Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu; snorkeling with marine iguanas and sea lions in the Galapagos Islands; riding a camel up Mt. Sinai; horseback riding around the Great Pyramids, the jungles of Costa Rica or an active volcano in Ecuador. Kristee feels Florida and the FBBSB has as much beauty, history and adventure to offer as anywhere in the world.


Kayaking on the FBBSB Waterways

Here are a few memories and pointers from my experience kayaking the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway:

Juniper Springs: a great spring head w/ the ONF amenities, the historic spring pump house, so beautiful to sunbathe or swim here. There’s a long boardwalk to traverse to put in the kayak/canoe. I do love this challenging and beautiful run. It has a variety of narrow winding passages and wider ones with sandbars and high banks as well. There is little downed tree removal so it is more challenging in a canoe to twist and turn around these potential natural obstacles. I’ve seen deer and alligator along the way- that is when the arguing couples aren’t too loud to scare them off. This trip can challenge a couple’s patience and relationship – be warned!
It isn’t rocket science to navigate this run, which is not recommended for beginners, but it takes patience and awareness, because what is great about this run is also what makes it challenging: it has an amazingly beautiful canopy of trees winding down at you – but if you are not paying attention – you WILL get clocked in the head, as well as stuck on  trees underwater if you are not looking all around the “obstacle course” of Juniper Springs Run.Alexander Springs:  is always a good run as it is always pretty, and it is less complex than Juniper. A better choice for little ones, perhaps. All of these springs are great spot for bird and nature watching: I have seen gators,  herons, cormorants out drying their wings, deer, osprey, hawks, and gators. A friendly dragonfly hitched a ride with me a while on one trip. Turtles haul themselves out onto downed trees to sun themselves. Cormorants are out on limbs drying their wingspan with the usual drama, and otters pop their heads up. The diversity of birds is truly endless in this neck of the woods.

Silver River-Ocklawaha Run: Starting in the Silver River State Park- they can be accommodating if one needs assistance as there is a looooong dirt path to hike to the put in spot for kayaks. The Park has a great, very informative Museum that is a “must see” stop. For the energetic paddler you can paddle up to the springs attraction and won’t be disappointed. You can see manatees, all kinds of fish species, a variety of birds and possibly some raccoons as well as some of the movie props used on location at Silver Springs. The Silver Springs Rive run is stunning; lined with large trees, clear water you can see through and some narrow passages to add spice to the trip. There is a possibility to see rhesus monkeys which, contrary to popular rumor, aren’t  escapees from the Tarzan movie, but were intentionally released some years ago to attract tourists.

To paddle the Ocklawaha River one can come down from the Silver River or there are other put in points along the river. You can put in at Ray’s Wayside Park that has a few amenities, and go south to the springhead or head north on the Ocklawaha to Gore’s Landing (this has some amenities). From Gore’s Landing you can float up to the Outpost (this private business has camping facilities) and spend the night camping or continue on your journey to investigate the old lock and dam system. I’ve always had a good time on this paddle trip and have participated in the Aquaholics Poker run for charity. Yet another beautiful river to float on and enjoy the sites and sounds of the Florida woods. I even discovered one pull over spot on the Ocklawaha where I got a “fish pedicure and manicure”! People pay good money to have little fish nibble the dead skin off their feet and hands – it was a major trend in 2011 – and I got a “wild” one for free!

There’s no end to the ways you can get close to nature on this byway.

See Also: Paddling

Links: Canoeing & Kayaking Florida, Florida Kayak & Canoe Meetup Group