The Econlockhatchee River is a hidden gem in Oviedo, FL, a bedroom community of Orlando. The "Econ", as locals call it, runs 19 miles from south of State Highway 50 near Orlando, northeast to the St. Johns River. I paddled the middle, 8 mile section of the Econ today, June 12, 2005, from the State Highway 419 Bridge to the Snowhill Road Bridge.
At Highway 419 is a small paved parking lot, and a sign indicating "Seminole County Canoe Launch". A 50 yard downslope leads to the Econ. I dragged my yak to the River, left it under the bridge, and drove to the Snowhill Road Bridge, 5.2 miles away on the bike computer. Yes, I did a car, bike shuttle, leaving the car in the grass along a dirt track at the Snowhill Road Bridge, biking back to Highway 419.
The 419 Bridge is at the confluence of the Econlockhatchee and Little Econlockhatchee Rivers. Thanks to two weeks of daily rain, the current was swift in comparison to previous visits to the Econ. I floated downstream, entering the Little Big Econ State Forest. Oaks, sabal palms, cypress line the high sandy banks. The Econ was wider and higher than on a paddle ten days ago, thanks to the rain. Less opportunity for alligators to sun on the lower banks. However, the large gator population found places to do what gators do, I saw eight in the eight miles, plus several large, loud splashes as I rounded bends in the Econ.
Other wildlife observed included great blue herons, great egrets, osprey, hawk, cormorant, butterflies, jumping bass, songbirds in the forest, and a bald eagle. And this is in June, which is a downtime for bird sightings in Florida. Surprisingly, perhaps because it was overcast and did rain, I did not see any turtles.
I did not see any one else on the river, until a powerboat at the Snowhill takeout. That is likely as far as powerboats, except for small johnboats, will go, although with the current water level the Econ is navigable farther upstream. I did see people along the River, camping in the State Forest. Both the Florida National Scenic Trail and Seminole County's Flagler Trail parallel, and later cross, the Econ on a wood bridge upstream from Snowhill Road Bridge.
The trail bridge makes a good spot to get out and stretch your legs, walking along the trails. The bridge is new, replacing a suspension bridge strung along old road posts. The road is long gone, the wood posts extend into and amongst the trees on both banks, a ghost bridge.
It took me two hours to paddle the eight miles from the 419 Bridge to the Snowhill Road Bridge. I have read other descriptions of this trip which give a five hour time. Perhaps the swift current and urge to beat the rain (I did not) account for my relatively fast paddle. Ten days ago, the Snowhill Road takeout had a flat, mud landing, and then a six foot bank. Today, just the six foot bank. I dragged the kayak up the bank, than maybe 35-40 yards to my car.
As stated at the start, the Econ is a hidden gem. Unfortunately, some people fail to keep it polished. There is more trash, empty bottles and cans mostly, and then I like to see. I tried to put a small dent in it by picking up at the Highway 419 parking lot. I know the reader does the same, take out more than you take in.
A major shopping mall, Oviedo Marketplace 5 miles away, and oh yeah, this is the Orlando area, there may be a hotel or two ;).
To Highway 419 Bridge, from Winter Park (six miles north of downtown Orlando). North on Highway 17-92, turn right, east on Horatio Ave., becomes Howell Branch Rd., turn left, northeast on Lake Howell Rd., turn left, north on Highway 436, turn right on Red Bug Lake Rd., becomes Mitchell Hammock Rd., east to Lockwood Blvd., right, north to Highway 419 to the bridge.
Above directions are from Winter Park, FL. Coming from the airport, the 417 toll road will take you to Mitchell Hammock Rd, west of Lockwood Blvd.
Snowhill Rd take out. West on 419 to Snowhill Rd, left, north to bridge.
419 Bridge put in. Small, eight car paved lot. No facilities.
Snowhill Road Bridge. Dirt, grass parking. Unmarked. A trailhead for the Flagler trail is a short distance south on Snowhill Rd. This unpaved lot may be safer, although I have seen State Forest workers checking out the Snowhill Bridge.
Florida Department of Greenways and Trails