Wekiva River – Katie’s Landing

A bit limited on time, we decided to stay relatively close this weekend and went back to Katie’s Landing for another Wekiva River jaunt.  Last time we were here, we traveled upstream toward Wekiwa Springs. This time we planned on venturing in the opposite direction, downstream toward the St. John’s River.

Great picnic spot

Before heading out, a nice little picnic was had at the launch site, right next to the river.  (OK, fine, we brought subs from Firehouse.  Whatever.)  There was a family fishing while we ate our lunch – it was amusing to see the friendly smack-talking between the family members… apparently the girls caught a fish before the boys did. PWNED.

After loading up on sunscreen and bug spray, we slipped the ‘yaks into the water and headed downstream.  The weather was a little warm, around 90°, but the spring-fed water really cools things off quite a bit.  The breeze was behind us, as was the current, so we had a nice leisurely float down the river, most of the paddling done just to keep the boats oriented.  We let the river take us for a little ride.  The current was surprisingly swift at a few points – nothing even close to rapids, but it kept us moving at a nice pace for taking in the scenery.

The first part of the trip, we floated by some pretty cool houses on the east bank, and eventually reached Wekiva River Haven.  It’s hard to miss, even if you’d prefer to.  That’s pretty much the last thing man-made thing we saw while heading downstream.

Wekiva River Haven

I’m pretty happy with some of the photos I captured on this trip.  A few Great Blue Heron, some pretty funny pics of a turtle who looked like he was planking, ducks, Ibis… But neither of the two gators in the water.

Is he planking?

Most of the things I’ve read indicate the gators are a relatively low threat as long as one uses common sense, but it’s alligator mating season, and I still get a little anxious when I see them close up.  One was about 6′ long, was in the water about 10′ from KC’s boat, going perpendicular to our trajectory.  It’s cool though, it disappeared under the water shortly after we saw it(!).  We decided to head back after that, mostly because it was about time to head back anyway.

The diversity of the different parts of the Wekiva are astounding to me.  I really love paddling the Wekiva River.  There are a lot more places to check out, but sometimes familiar is nice. 🙂

KC and I are getting pretty good at loading/unloading the boats.  Just before she got her boat, I ordered the Malone Stax Pro 2 system – so far I’ve been really happy with it.  We timed our unloading routine this time, and it took around 9 minutes.  I suspect it takes longer to load them.  I’ll have to remember to start the timer next time we’re loading.

 

STREEEETCH

It’s likely going to be a few weeks before I’m on the water again.  Stupid responsibilities!

Here’s the map for the trip.  We paddled a total distance of 3 miles.

 

Wekiwa or Wekiva?

So, which is it?  This has confused me for a while now.

I stumbled onto this YouTube video, and at around 2:10 into the video he explains very succinctly:

  • “Wekiwa” and “Wekiva” are both Indian words.
  • “Wekiwa” means “Water flowing from the ground, or a spring”
  • “Wekiva” means “Water flowing above the ground”

 

Therefore, when referring to the spring, or park, it’s “Wekiwa”.  When referring to the river itself, it’s “Wekiva”.

WONDER NO LONGER.

Indian River – Canaveral Nat’l Seashore

The trips just keep getting better.  This one, I think, is my favorite so far.  The Indian River, launching from Canaveral National Seashore, Lot #7.

On a tip I got from a random doctor office employee, I decided it was time to check out the Indian River.  Tales of manatee and dolphin sightings had me sold in a big way.  The initial plan was to launch at JB’s Fish Camp, but some friendly advice from Dave over at Dave’s Yak Tales pointed me toward Canaveral instead.  It was sound advice – we drove by JB’s and it looked busy and crowded.  Lot 7 in the Canaveral Nat’l Seashore park was perfect.  Around 15 parking spaces, right by a small beach perfect for launching.  The park entry fee is $5 for a vehicle, but it was FREE today, due to some sort of national park week promotion. SCORE!

We pulled into the lot just before 2pm.  I strolled over to the launch spot to check it out… and there were 3 manatee not ten feet out.  AWESOME.  I ran back to the truck to grab my camera and excitedly (but quietly, though I’m not sure why) tell KC what I had just seen.  A few photos and squees later, we started to unstrap the boats from the truck, and quickly realized that we needed bug spray, STAT.  Even though it was only 2pm, the mosquitoes were NO JOKE.  Bring bug spray, and use it liberally.  We actually had to re-apply at the end of the trip to load the boats, because those little blood suckers were ruthlessly unbearable.  They were nearly nonexistent on the water, though.  Don’t forget the bug spray.

We dropped in and headed northwest from the launch, toward an archaeological site called Turtle Mound.  The history of Turtle Mound was cool to me – it was built by the Timucuan people around 1000 BCE.  Incredible.  We could have beached the kayaks to walk around on the boardwalks, but another manatee sighting distracted us and perhaps served as a reminder that ON the water is where we really wanted to be.

The features of the Indian River are spectacular.  Oyster reefs, dozens of islands, and lots of wildlife.  The mullet fish were darting around everywhere and pirouetting out of the water almost constantly.  Groups of small crabs were frequently seen crawling onto the many island shores.  I guess the brackish water makes a pretty big difference in the types of wildlife one can see.

Part of my goal for this trip was to check out at least 1 or 2 of the primitive island campsites that are owned by the park system.  One can reserve one of the dozen-ish sites up to 7 days in advance.  Once I found that information, I started to get really excited.  Another mid-term goal – camp on one of these islands. One of the campsites is less than .5 miles from where we launched. SO EXCITED.

The water conditions were very diverse.  Parts of the river, away from the intracostal waterway and main channels, were as smooth as glass.  Crossing the main channel, however, was not calm at all.  WHEEEEE!  We also lucked out with the weather again, because it was nearly perfect, if maybe a tad on the warm side.

Around 3.5 miles into the trip, KC started feeling a bit under the weather.  She’s on some antibiotics for a nasty toothache, and it’s just not treating her very well. Her boat is 10′ long and much lighter than mine, so she was having to constantly paddle to adjust her tracking in the rough channel, which wasn’t helping.  I had a length of paracord in my boat, so after resting for a few minutes, I offered to tow her for a bit.  A quick check on the GPS indicated we were about 2.75 miles from the launch site, on the other side of the wide, choppy canal.  It was time to turn around.  We had just spotted one of the campsites, so my goal was complete anyway.

I’ll definitely be returning here soon.  We didn’t venture south of the launch site at all, and there are plenty of calm-water sections of the river there that I’d love to explore.

Here’s the map for the trip.  Total distance today: 7 miles.

Wekiva River – Katie’s Landing

My kayaking partner, we’ll call her KC (short for “Kayak Cutie”), bought a Wilderness Systems Pamlico 100 today.  No more renting for this duo!  We picked up her boat right when the place opened, which was about an hour and a half after we THOUGHT the place opened.  Perkins breakfast for the win!

After loading up on noms and boats, we headed for Katie’s Landing, excited to get out onto the river.  Katie’s Landing is a NICE launch site.  You’re able to drive right up to the water to unload.  No powerboats are permitted to launch here.  The only fee is a small parking fee, on the honor system.  There are restroom facilities and a drink vending machine on site as well.

The weather forecast was pretty awful.  Small craft advisory, 100% chance of thunderstorms.  We pressed on and figured we’d play it by ear.

We dropped in and headed south, upstream.  Because of the weather, and the fact that we hadn’t launched from this location, we didn’t really have a plan other than to paddle upstream until we felt like turning back.  The weather cooperated – it was gorgeous. What surprised me the most about this part of the Wekiva is how WIDE it is, compared to the Wekiwa Springs and Wekiva Island areas. We spotted plenty of birds and lots of jumping fish, which startled KC every single time.  I was QUITE amused at this.

We ventured past lots of houses (jealous!), under the bridge at 46, and ended up about 3 miles up the river at a KOA Campground, where we headed back because I got nervous about some dark clouds in the sky.  It rained lightly for maybe 2 minutes, but other than that, the weather was perfect.

After I got home and offloaded the routes from the GPS, I realized that we turned around just shy of the Seminole Wekiva Trail and the conservation areas.  Houses flanked most of our trip this time, had we gone just a little further it would have been all nature.  That disappointed me a bit, but there’s always next time. It’s still an awesome trip.

Definitely will be launching from Katie’s Landing again.  Thinking about working out the logistics for a one-way paddle from Wekiva Island to Katie’s Landing, in the future.

Here’s the map of the trip.  We paddled a total of around 7 miles.

Family on the Wekiva

I had some company today while paddling the Wekiva.  Family trips are definitely different than 1 or 2-person trips, but they’re fun in their own way.  Seeing my preschool daughter zen-out on the water is pretty amazing.

We launched from Wekiwa Springs again, rented a 3-person sit-on-top ‘yak for the family, and dropped both boats in at the launch.  We stayed in the main channel all the way to Wekiva Island, docked the boats, and had a few beverages while my daughter played with some new friends she made.  (Kids make friends so easily, don’t they?)  Stopped on the way back to get a few pics of the sunning alligator, and called it a day.

Here’s the map. (It’s cheap this time – I didn’t capture a route with the GPS.)

 

Solo on the Wekiva

Today I went for my first solo trip, second trip with my brand new Ascend D12.  Because it was familiar to me, I opted to head to the Wekiva River, launching from Wekiwa Springs State Park.  I’d also get a chance to try out the kayak cart that I built with the plans I found on the ‘net. Wekiwa Springs is a great park, but the launch is quite a trek from the parking lot, making the cart necessary – especially for a solo trip with a heavy boat.

The river was calm, but crowded.  I’d say a good 95% of the boats on the river were rentals.  Once the rentals were presumably due back, the river went from loud and crowded to almost completely silent and empty. That’s when I really enjoyed being on the river, and took most of the photos.  I took a few “excursions” off of the main river, but nothing too adventurous.  As I approached Wekiva Island, the sounds of the boisterous party-goers convinced me to turn around just shy of the island.

I also got a chance to try out my new handheld GPS, a Garmin eTrex Vista HCx.  I’ll probably create another blog entry about the GPS, because there’s a lot I’ve learned about mapping, importing, exporting, etc.

Anyway, here’s the map I created that includes the route I took.  I’m planning on including these maps/routes with my trip posts.