Rock Springs RunB Description and
By Bill Logan Site last updated 8/26/03
A short 8.5 mile, very forested and pristine, small river,
shallow, full of twists and turns, at low water - some cross logs and underwater
stumps, but some of the best wildlife viewing in the State of Florida. My opinion,
98% probably looks as it must have 100 years ago.
Note, no pictures of the tight turns, too busy paddling to stop for shots.
All photos will enlarge if you click on them, "Back" takes you back to normal.
My wife had serious surgery and was hospitalized for over a year. I had to stay home and take care of the house and animals. My paddling buddy Mac McCullough=s wife also had serious medical problems which required he stay home to look after her for almost as long. We both were almost stir crazy since we had not wet a paddle in almost a year and a half. Our other paddling buddy, Chuck Littleton of Chulouta , and also a retiree, had only been on a couple of local short trips during this time. We have another paddling pal, John Depa, who lives in New Jersey. He e-mailed us that he was leaving on the 8th. His plan was to spend the winter in Florida just paddling and camping. Finally, it looked like we all could get out. John had just bought a used Mad River 16 footer and was eager to get it wet. All three of us Floridians were champing at the bit to get our paddles wet also. After a few phone calls and lots of e-mail, we decided on Monday the 13th of November. We agreed we would prefer to camp an extra day and just kick back enjoying the fresh air and the outdoors. Mac, Chuck and I just to get out with a change of scenery and John to rest after the long drive from Jersey.
Entrance Parking Canoes Galore Launch
We agreed to meet at King's Landing, (Next door to Kelly Park - which is East of Mount Dora -- West of Sanford off of Hwy 46 -- turn south from 46 at Mt. Plymouth, down Hwy 435 and left turn at dead end will take you right to the entrance. King's Landing is roughly one half mile to the left of the entrance - and at the end of the dirt road) Chuck said he would meet us around 10 - that would give him time to go by the R/S/R State Park office and pick up our camping permits. We were later to find that was a good move. I had thought no permits were necessary but Chuck, (a retired 28 year Sheriff's Deputy) said they were required and he would pick them up on the way to meet with us.
We pulled in about 9:30 and spent some time talking with the another Chuck, who runs King's Landing for his grandfather. I believe he said the family had been Outfitting there for over 25 years. I will say this for them, they sure have canoes. Everywhere you look there are canoes stacked on canoes. In the Photos of the landing, note the hundred or so laying around the front office. Then also note behind the office, laying upside down in the trees, there must be close to another hundred, maybe more, of which are Mohawks. Chuck is an easy going, friendly fellow who enjoys a laid back life just renting canoes and picking up the paddlers at his landing at the back side of Wekiva Marina. His fee for launch and transportation was reasonable and he was on time for our pick up.
We had each just finished loading our canoes and gear when our Chuck showed up. By the time we hit the main stream of the river it was roughly 11:A.M. The river starts out as a very shallow sandy bottom, fairly wide and lots of lily pads. However, the flow is good so if you are careful, you can pick your way through easily. About a half mile downstream the lily pads get extremely thick. Though the river was wide here, the pads have almost closed it completely. I would hope the state would spray these so the river will not become completely clogged to canoe traffic.
After a short distance we got out of the pads and continued downstream. Just after the huge clog of lily pads, I believe it was, we encountered a very deep large hole that my fish finder saw many large fish. This would turned out to be the only really deep area with fish we found on the river. I explain this later on. Right after the hole, we came to what is almost the norm for whole the river.
Narrow twists and turns with just about every kind of Floridian
vegetation one can imagine. If it is in Florida, it is here. Heavily forested on both
sides, with a canopy of trees hanging out over the water in many places. It is one of the
most picturesque and prettiest little rivers I have paddled.
Though it is short, it is well worth the trip. For those who do not wish to camp, you can make this trip in a matter of hours. However, we wanted to camp out, so we stopped at the Indian Mound Camp site. There are two campsites. The other is named Big BuckCamp. That one you will come to first. It is on the right about half way. It is a nice site but you will need to get your permits at the Wekiva Springs Ranger office before you camp. They check these sites so if you dare to camp at either of these without a permit, you run the risk of getting a ticket. More about that later in the story.
After a couple miles, you will come to several low hanging trees that jut out over the water almost all the way across. You will have to bend way over to get under. For those who like to fish, we found worms to be best. (We each tried our luck with soft plastic lures and got skunked, I failed to mention that a front was due in late that evening) They didn't want lures or even spinners. But John who is a real fishin fool,was wise enough to also bring worms. He caught quite a few but they were all too small to keep. If you will note in the photos, the other three are paddling Mohawk and Mad River canoes. However, you will note that Im paddling an aluminum 15 footer Ouachita square stern. (No longer made) The reason I chose the aluminum with a square stern (I also have a Mohawk) was that I wanted to check out the deep holes with my Eagle fish finder. Last time we were here, I had seen lots of deep holes in the tight bends. I went to a lot of trouble to install my fish finder (and carried a heavy Diehard battery) hoping to see what was in them. I expected to find some big boys hiding in those holes.
Me Chuck John Mac
Though I enjoyed looking for fish, all my trouble was basically for nothing. The holes I had seen on our last trip had now filled in with sand since this year there had been so little rain there was no swift water to keep them cleaned out. They were now almost the same depth as the rest of the river. However, the finder did work well. I was able to see many large logs and stumps with nice size fish hanging tight to them, as well as lots of smaller fish. I pointed out some to John and he did catch fish where the rest of us did not. So, if you want fish, good idea you carry a box of worms. ( Especially when taking kids) They probably will hit small lures if you don't have a cold front moving in. Be advised however, you will snag often if using underwater lures.
As stated above, this little river had more wildlife in it's 8.5 miles than I have seen on any other river -- in over 100 miles.
We saw at least 5 otters, lots of deer, 3 or 4 flocks of wild turkey were near the water edge so when we came in close, they moved out fast and noisy enough that we could see them easily, and all kinds of wading birds. Not many turtles on the upper river, however, they were thick down near the end. We saw only one small gator - sunning himself on a log but were almost past him by the time he was spotted. He was only about 4 feet long.
I spotting an otter working his way upstream, (you can see his head coming to the canoe) so I deliberately jammed my canoe paddle into the sand and sat still so we could watch. He was feeding. He would go down and scrounge around the bottom for about 15-20 seconds or so; then surface, chewing something. We couldn't tell if he was feeding on the tiny muscles or if he was catching crawfish. When he surfaced, he would be chewing something that as he got closer we could hear it crunching. My paddling buddy Rusty, my old dog (who sits up front looking aristocratic as if I were his chauffeur,) watched the otter intently as it worked up river. I whistled several times softly to the otter and out of curiosity, he came right up to the canoe to within paddle length from our bow.
I whispered 'No' to Rusty and he didn't move a muscle. He sat still as a rock and watched the otter intently, occasionally tilting his head like most dogs trying to comprehend something. He's about 6 years old and has been paddling and camping with me 5 of those years. He is a one-of-a-kind - one - man dog, a wonderful paddling companion. He loves to canoe. The only way he would make a better paddling companion would be if I could just teach him to paddle. (Grin)
Chuck's Wildlife Photos - are proof that this little river is the most pristine in Florida and one you certainly won't want to miss.
This is one of hundreds of Turtles of several different species. Not certain but I think this one is called a red belly.
Above . . . First wading bird - Ibis . . . . Second wading bird - Limpkin . . . . Third wading Bird - Blue Heron.
I carried only a wide angle lens to capture the full river. Chuck carried his telephoto and got some great wildlife shots.
Back to the trip.
John wanted to see Big Buck campsite. He was interested in what it looked like in case he came back later so we stopped for roughly 20 minutes. This Campsite is large enough one could probably set up a dozen tents and it also has running water piped in. Very large shade trees and flat. Very pretty site. According to the sign, the site was used by a hunting club back in the 1920's. As stated above the site is easy to spot, on the right and about half way down the river. Look for an opening with a small open sandy landing and a wide path going up into the site from the river. From the river to the site is about half a city block so if you are stopping, expect to carry your gear for a short distance, but is very nice and well worth it.
As we were leaving, a large hiking group came through. This would
be a draw back to camping here in my opinion. The hiking and horse trail is about 40 or 50
feet from the camp. We chose the other camp, Indian Mound, which is about a half
mile farther downstream and on the left. Since it's on the other side of the river,
this site is very isolated. One would not have to be concerned with traffic other than an
occasional canoe passing. (With one exception I will cover later)
John and I pulled into the Indian Mound site about 20 minutes behind Mac and Chuck. They wanted to go ahead so Chuck could capture some of the wildlife on film. All of the enclosed wildlife shots were taken by him. By the way, I think he did a great job. They already had their gear unloaded when we arrived. This campsite is on a very nice flat, hard sand with some grass in the tent area. Flat and above water about two feet. This campsite is within 30 feet of the river. One unhandy thing about this however, it's almost two feet - straight up and down. No beach area. You have to climb up and out of your canoe.
Fortunately, there is a large tree there with very tough exposed roots so you have something to get a good footing on.
There is one other problem here. Immediately around the large fire ring. I suspect the park camp attendants apparently don't know any better ( they are civilians hired by the Park Service) so they probably have cleaned the fire pit many times and just spread the potash and charcoal out on the ground all around the ring instead of taking it to the edge of the forest. Who knows how many years this has been going on. As the result, the black, almost talcum powder gets into everything. I put on clean white socks about 9:00AM and in less than an hour, they looked like they had been worn for several days of camping. They were really dirty. This is only around the fire ring, not where the tents go. That area is grass.
Back to the story.
We all pitched in, unloaded all gear and soon had our tents set up and kicking back. Rusty was checking out all the trees within 50 feet of camp. We soon had a nice fire going, Chuck made supper of sweet potatoes and chicken roasted over the fire. After supper there was the usual banter and sea stories for a short while. It soon became apparent the front had arrived. The temperature dropped about 15 degrees in about an hour so we packed it in, crawled into our sleeping bags and slept like babies and then slept in the next morning.
When we got up the next morning there was fog hanging over the river which made an interesting picture.
Chuck again decided he was going to be chef and brought out his two burner Coleman. (Usually we all carry single burners) I had brought my 12 cup community coffee pot so I put it on. Chuck fixed scrambled eggs with sausage mixed in, and a huge pot of grits. On this cold morning a big breakfast like that really hit the spot. We ate like we hadn't eaten for days. John decided to take off downstream fishing while the rest of us just kicked back and enjoyed the smell of a campfire and the woods. Listening to the wind in the trees and hearing not another sound does something for one's soul. We puttered, reorganized, walked up the little road, did some checking out the woods and Rusty had a ball looking for snakes. We spent the whole day just kicking back and enjoying getting out. (Which was the main intent of the trip)
John had run out of worms so he got back around noon, again having caught quite a few but all small, so he released them. It was around 3:00 PM when we looked up and saw a Park Ranger vehicle coming into camp. John had brought his favorite beer with him from New Jersey and was having a cold one when the two Rangers arrived. We thought nothing about it. First they asked to see our permit which we showed gladly. Then they hit a nerve. We were surprised when they said to John, "you are on State Property and are not allowed to have any alcohol. OOPS! They asked if he had more and he said he did. Then came the other shocker. They said, he had a choice, he could either pour it out, or B he could have a ticket that would probably cost about $255.00 John was only too glad to pour out his beer, All fifteen cans I'm not much of a drinker but I had brought three Coronas in my tiny little cooler I forgot about them since I had not even had one since arriving. When they asked if we had any more, We all said no. Then they asked to check all coolers. I was just about to open mine when silently I groaned and had a chilling feeling I DID have more and had lied to him. I had forgotten them. It was an innocent mistake, however they didn't know that. So, I fully expected to get a ticket.
I sure hated to pour out those Coronas but did so gladly B to avoid getting a $255.00 ticket. Then, came another shock. Old Rusty was not on a leash. Here we were, B not another soul around -- at least five miles from the nearest human being (on our side of the river) and Rusty had to be on a leash - because it was state Property. What a shame. But I complied B much to my chagrin. However, the Rangers were just doing their duty, enforcing the law so we didn't give them any guff. It was a good thing we didn't. It worked in our favor, they did write our tickets, but only a warning. Boy, we sure were glad of that.
Only problem was, we had to listen to old John fuss, cuss, groan, and raise Cain all night long "that he had brought his special brand all the way from New Jersey - (Black Label) and couldn't find it in Florida, only to have some darn Ranger make him pour it out. Aarggggg!" He had us all laughing so hard our sides hurt. All except poor old John. He was all bent out of shape. Even after we climbed into our sleeping bags ... he was still cursing. But we all learned from the experience. Don't take alcohol with you in this park. If you take your dog, as much as you may hate to, put a leash or small rope on him. Even if the leash is accidentally untethered, at least he would be legal.
Wednesday morning it was cool but not uncomfortable. We were up about 7:30 and again Chuck wanted to do the cooking so we agreed. He made breakfast of a pound of Maple sweet bacon, sunny side eggs (of which ole John did away with four) and again a huge pot of grits. With two large cups of coffee, we dined in grand style.
Usually when I camp, my breakfast consists of dry cereal with a small Parmalat milk. (If you camp and don't know about Parmalat, you should. It is a whole milk that does not have to be refrigerated and tastes very much the same as regular milk-- and is sold in all the grocery chains) So this was a real treat breakfast we all enjoyed.
After breakfast, we slowly began breaking camp. We had until 1:45 PM to get to our pull-out destination. Reason being, that Chuck (the outfitter) would not be available to pick us up until after 1:30. Taking our time packing up and trying to get rid of as much of the black charcoal dust as we could, we were on the water about 10:00 AM
It is only a little over 2 hours to the pull-out so we slowly
drifted down river, again taking photos of the river and wildlife. It was a beautiful
morning. John stopped several times along the way to fish; using small beetle spins, etc.
Caught a few more but all small.
We arrived at Wekiva Marina about noon.
John bought some more worms and immediately went back to fishing
near the ramp while we waited for pickup. This time he caught 5 or 6 nice bluegill that
were keepers which he promptly cleaned to have on his next river trip. (which turned out
to be the St. Johns river - from Saw Grass lake to highway 46 fish camp)
We shot some more pictures and lounged around taking it easy. Called Chuck at 1:30 - he picked us up at 2:00 PM and ferried us back to our cars.
If you want your kids to see Florida like it really was
and are looking for a short paddle, I highly recommend this little river. It certainly
will be one they will remember for the rest of their lives. It also is an opportunity for
them to see wildlife in the wilds. There are darn few places where you can do this in
Florida and in such a short paddle. For those who don't care to camp, you can make this
whole trip in probably about 6 hours, taking your time. If you have small children, it is
imperative that they remain extremely quiet paddling down river. Any
noise, and the animals will be be gone in a flash. You and your kids will never get
to see anything but trees and water.
Be sure and take your camera and lots of film.
Good luck and smooth paddlin,