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Ichetucknee Springs – Florida

Water Clarity – 9.75

Natural Quality – 9.75 (without people)

Ichetucknee Springs is a collection of eight natural springs, then in combination pass though a setting that could easily capture the feel of 10,000 years ago.  Once a rich resource to the native Timucians of this area, concerns now are with groundwater awareness.  Quality.

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With proper respect (and please don’t ask me to pronounce it consistently), the Ichetucknee is one of several springs along the Sante Fe river (which flows into the Suwannee) below Branford.  I had once thought the Ichetucknee was the spring-head for the Sante Fe, but no – just a good ‘feeder’ along the way with a very simple history.  With a day to spare and looking forward to a future Sante Fe paddle – investigating this spring will only save me time later.

Many springs in Florida (Rainbow) have become unnatural habitat for thousands each summer in their escape from the heat, all those folks – all those tubes – all that traffic.  After the visit herein on the ‘itche,’ I wondered if they could really appreciate what a quality stretch of natural habitat this is.  In nearing the area the tubing market was apparent – almost every corner rented tubes – as for me, it was a weekday, October (off season), and a mighty lonely (closer to natural) place.

First stop was at the Family Campground on the North end near the spring-head. The place was pretty much vacant, but the folks in the store provided some great information about ‘the run.’  It was obvious that the Ichetucknee provides the local area a strong influx of seasonal income – and that the quiet time of year was now.

I gleaned from the conversation that a paddle ‘up’ the run, to the N springhead would be the best route for me; at 4-miles – shouldn’t be a big deal.  Paddling up river couldn’t be any different than the Silver, or the Colorado –  it’s simply about finding the ‘dead-water’ and keeping the arms moving; it’s “just water passing under.”

I proceeded to the River Run campground a mile from the South entrance and ‘put-in’ at 10:00 am.

(@VGPS – 12341 U.S. 27 Fort White, FL 32038)

They’ve done a great job with the park, the place is quiet and clean, plus there were folks parked and biking on the comfortable trails as I entered.  The portage to the ramp wasn’t bad @ 1 tenth of a mile, stuff organized –  and on the river (reminder to throw my ‘dollie’ on).

What an awesome place and time of year – I pretty much had it to myself.  Two other paddlers the entire time, and they were enjoying the ride further down to the Sante Fe for a ‘take-out’ at the hwy 129 bridge.

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I did spot a couple of ‘beaters,’ cypress trees that represent numerous encounters with humans – much like Juniper Springs.

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For some reason I couldn’t give the water a ‘ten,’ Silver and Rainbows clarity was in how the bottom ‘jumped up’ at you – at 9.75 this is close enough.  The first section was a winding area within a swampy type of area – cypress knots.  Mullet were a plenty, even ‘schools’ of them.

Then there was this open stretch, a wet-land feel.  The lingering fog helped me here – wildlife aplenty. On the day (and without all those doggone people) this place was easily a 9.75 in the Natural Quality rating – a rare one for me to give (I guess its those people).

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The hour and a half leisurely paddle to the North end of Ichetucknee came quickly, a simple paddle in an awesomely peaceful setting – again, only two other paddlers.  The North spring head is restricted – this is the farthest point…

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Lunch, my lack of preparation and unwillingness to run the 7 miles to Branford had me eating potato salad as a main course, I missed my turkey sub.

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and I thought the paddle up river was nice.  Once turned around, its easy to locate this ‘other’ living ecosystem.  I find no hurry in the return – put your feet-up and absorb the world, ‘as it has been.’

‘Feet-up,’ the paddle touches the water only to correct drift, Why paddle here?

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There are several ‘restricted areas’ along the way, Blue Hole spring is restricted too – I suppose for good reason (doggone people)….

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In turning away from Blue Hole Spring

there were those ubiquitous tree roots, plunging into the water with centurion like speed – just like those ‘old mountain-man’ roots along the Suwannee at Holton Creek.

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and herons, egrets, and through the swamp-like area either beaver or river otter –

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if you look close (or enlarge) there is a mullet leaping in the center – mid air

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Through the open area once again the fog had burned and the sun was warming up the critters…

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Turtles reluctant to move from a ‘drifter…….

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and I liked this ‘free ride, reminded me alot of the Current River ..

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shorelines of century’s past…

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The only burden was my conscious…..

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Guess I’ll have to work on that one..

The Ichetucknee was simply awesome! A morning, an afternoon, a day paddle – my thoughts are that the natural part of this river can only be realized during low (to no) traffic (people) periods.  It may have been simply a flooded ditch many, many years ago, but these are the times and systems that feed my desire to ride them.

Paddle up, then make a stealthy return – highly recommended.

little Bessie

First true day of ‘Life at 60.’

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