Alexander Springs – Fla.

Water Clarity – 10

Natural Quality – 10

Perception – Monday

Located within The Ocala National Forest, Fla

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It was an enjoyable weekend with some familiar faces from my hometown in Ft Myers – we grew up in the same neighborhood and went to the same schools for more than 12 years – always good to see those familiar eyes in the crowd once again.

Several nights of ‘visiting’ coupled with a time-change was catching up with me, so I headed up to The National Forest in Ocala to ‘spread-out’ a little.  I arrived at Alexander Campground  at about six in the evening.  November is the time of year before the crowd – so it was the campsite of choice, with a hot shower nearby.

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When the sun went down so did I, a full nights rest – even the cool 38 degree night didn’t deter my sleep (down blanket) zzzzzz…

First thing in the morning buzzards watched from the ramp as I slid into the water by 830a, always an early go when camping.

Bald Eagle

Didn’t take but a moment to notice the clarity of the spring water, at a constant 72 degrees it was warmer than the air – so the vapor was rising early – as were the animals of the creek – an eagle was keeping a close eye on me as I passed (or he was sizing up the rubber frog on my bow).

Lots of ‘natural quality.’

The first ‘leg’ to the bridge took about an hour – just perfect water and weather.  I had read that ‘beginners’ should not go past this point leaving me to speculate as to Why? (and how do you become ‘more’ than a beginner?)

Over the next few miles the river narrowed and slowed – some sunny areas were full of hyacinths and river grass, still it was possible to ‘plug’ through while enjoying the beauty within, and surrounding it all.

The reward of course for ‘pluggin-on’ was that the river would suddenly open up and be surrounded by forest and trees – and then you would pass through a great natural creek area.  As I picked and chose my way through one of the grassy areas I wondered – maybe a ‘beginner’ might lack the mental fortitude it takes to breach these areas.  After a warm summer the slower water areas fill with this growth – I’m sure it is clearer in the spring.

Just awesome little creek areas, and then faced with another grass crossing – not really a big deal, staying with the main current helps some –

or sometimes the occasional gator trail helps too.

Within those growth areas there were several marker ribbons along the way, the first that I noticed I went to the left of and it led to a clear pass with a water gauge along the left bank (read 2.0 ft). I stopped and stretched, it appeared to be checked frequently (a worn path).

The gauge happened to be my three-hour mark (from the landing), going with the current – I wanted to make the 552 landing, so I continued on.

about thirty minutes after the gauge I found another marker – this time going to the right of it, wasn’t long before I hit a strainer and couldn’t go further without crossing over – there were more in sight too.  Figuring that nothing could top the natural Florida creek setting I had already seen, I turned around and started back up river.

There were about five isolated ‘hunting camps’ along one side of the river, at one I stopped to stretch and eat a late sandwich while thinking about the critters I had seen – for the day I had seen the Eagles, Ospreys, kingfishers, an Otter, turtles, commerants, herons, six gators – and heard several large beasts beating through the palmetto bushes in the woods – still unsure what I rousted-up in there.

With the many little islands and contours of the creek, there are times that it’s your choice whether to go left or right.

I thought long and hard about the Natural Quality rating of this creek/river because of some of the unnatural sediment that I had seen, but the patches of lilies and hyacinths that you have to work through actually enhance the quality of nature here, along with that the lack of noise pollution easily made it a 10 on my scale.

Soon the bridge came into view so I knew I was a little more than an hour from the landing.

There’s a gator under that water, I followed just above this one for 50 yards or so before he stopped and watched me pass over.

and one in the sun. The American alligators are naturally afraid of humans, so unless you intentionally poke one with your paddle or jump on it and call its mom an ‘old handbag’ – they will avoid you.

Back to the landing at three o’clock, seven hours after leaving.

Alexander Springs, its a good day paddle – a little more challenging than Juniper (which I will do again tomorrow) because of the paddle back upstream, but really not tough at all ( the Silver and Colorado were more challenging currents).  They are probably right about beginners only going an hour out or to the bridge unless accompanied further with a more experienced paddler, the challenges are more a mental thing in working through the grasses and sunning gators (and whatever it was running through those woods).

Rainbow Springs, or the Ichetucknee further north are nice simple paddles too – but for clear water and a natural Florida habitat, Alexander is a ‘ten.’

(other pictures from this day)

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