Juniper Springs

Water Clarity – 10

Natural Quality – 8+

Perception – Tuesday

(VGPS – 26701 Florida 40, Silver Springs, FL)

Located within The Ocala National Forest, Fla.

From camping and paddling Alexander Springs the previous day to a day at Juniper Springs? What to do? – As I passed Ray Wayside Park the choice to paddle The Silver again was present, but there was something about the ‘free-ride’ down the Juniper that I wanted to return to.

The ride from the Ocala Motel to Juniper Springs took about 40 minutes, so my 8am start time fell in to a 9am’er – the prize for that later time – ‘doggone people,’ or after so much paddling alone – ‘cheap entertainment.’

This older group of canoeist (using that word ‘loosely’) had ‘keystone cops’ written all over them…. I love landings for the entertainment value so I sat across the stream as they struggled ‘putting-in.’ Fun, apprehension, joy, nervous laughter, it was all there – and of coarse the ‘banging’ around, lots and lots of loud ‘BANGING’ around….. I suppose the aluminum canoes are a measure of safety for many because with all the racket they didn’t have to worry about the gators – any gators would be long gone by the time this crowd came near (so would all the birds, turtles, deer, – and most other paddlers)..

So off they finally went, I followed behind with one other more peaceful canoer bringing up the rear.

Yep – it didn’t take but just a few curves before the process began of who? was working together –

and then once in the water, whom! was not….

Lets give them some credit, the first part of Juniper is full of some tight maneuvering and adjustments for anyone, the canoe sits higher and without being in one in say 40 years – they did good making it as far as they did.  Time to move on and with a few words of encouragement (in between their ‘bantering’) plus a little guilt, I moved on to see if any wildlife might remain (past the others waiting ahead).

Maybe the problem with a dependent group (“sheep,” as Eric might concur) could be that you pay more attention to each other rather than the natural qualities that brought you there – ‘Ken’ from Colorado (Pagosa Springs), was also in that landing bunch but not a part of them, he quickly fell in behind and we began to enjoy Juniper as it is meant to be appreciated – calibration, observation, and simple chat.

My last visit to Juniper was in February and the water became ‘tea-colored’ (tannic water) as it trickled in from the surrounding land, today the water was as clear as the Itchetucknee the entire run.

After paddling a bit Ken and I found an ‘eddy and stopped to make a friendly wager of whether the last canoeist;  A) stopped/stayed to help the others out, or B) moved past them… with some time and light ‘banging in the distance, the last canoeist quietly rounded the bend shaking his head – we didn’t see or hear him the rest of the day.

I guess Ken had picked up this little kayak because it fit neatly within the confines of his truck, now he was finally getting some use out of it. I felt that Juniper was a good place to start with it, with all the maneuvering it would allow him to get a better ‘feel’ of it.

Back to the peace of Juniper Springs, in several places the stream splits (I didn’t notice it so much in February) but it doesent matter which route that you take they all reconnect.  Even on the smaller splits these today showed the positive signs of the summer traffic (a clearer paddle trail).

again, where it was ‘tea-colored’ water before it was a ’10’ on this date.

The smaller and tighter beginning of Juniper opens up some with distance,  it gave me hope for those ‘canoeist’s’ bringing up the rear (probably an hour behind now).  What still remained was plenty of maneuvering – fallen trees became apparent obstructions, yet as you come right upon them – there was a crack to pass through. For all those that work on keeping these paddle trails clear, thanks.

I wondered if the old cypress had fallen, you can see clean under or around it – nope, still standing proud.

A ‘beater’ is a tree stump that shows the trickery of the current at times, multitude of canoes have left their mark – along with that no-ones perfect – many times the moment that I reached for the camera just happened to be the moment that I needed to completely miss a ‘beater’….

along with an occasional (and well used) ‘paddle prod.’

Soon we came upon the strainer that blocked the river, it really wasn’t a difficult crossing – just took a little agility, I really would have loved to hung around and watch the other’s behind cross this tree,

but as Jimmy Buffet sings – I got “boats to build.”

Gator in the water, for the day I only saw two (@ 5 and this 8 footer) – and again came right up on a deer drinking.

Rapids?

All too soon came the old pilings before the new bridge, I could hear the sound of an occasional car where on my last visit there was the pounding of a pile-driver and highway work, the peace was much better.

Just after the bridge the park shuttle was waiting – the shuttle leaves at 130, 230, 330, and so on through the afternoon and for 12 bucks they will return you to the park where your vehicle is secure (or for 6 bucks you can put-in and shuttle with a friend).  We had left the landing at around 915 and at a very easy pace made it to the bridge just before two, as I had anticipated – the canoer’s didn’t show…..

I really hope they made it ok.

Juniper Springs is one of those ‘free-rides‘ that is not a difficult paddle, while being very scenic it is a little tricky and allows one to become more familiar with maneuvering through the obstacles at hand.  It gets alot of use which has it’s benefits (keeps the trail beat back) along with some disadvantages (‘doggone people‘), I saw very little unnatural sediment and would recommend it highly to anyone wanting a special insight into Florida’s once primitive landscape, or simply a ‘day-off.’

My father always said “never own the same car twice,” but this just might be one of those ‘paddles’ that deserves to be revisited from time to time.

(other pictures from this day)

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( “Buy American!” )

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