Well, it usually starts with an idea. This one started with a dog obedience trial. The dog and Qruiser compete from time to time in dog training events. He’s getting kind of old so he doesn’t do the obstacle course agility trials any more. So he does Rally and Obedience. So we found an RV park near the Fairgrounds and made reservations. But that just wasn’t enough. So we added kayaking.
On Sunday, 3.19.17 we planned to paddle the Lake Dora Canal. We launched at Summeral Park, 1001 Wells Ave, Tavares, FL 32778. It is a small city park with a single lane boat ramp and plenty of low bank launching opportunities for kayaks. It also had restrooms with flush toilets. The park is right on the Lake Dora canal. This area is a no wake zone for power boats. It has areas with RV and trailer parks lining the canal. Other areas of houses and cabins. Quiet with lots of woods areas for wild life. It is a nice mile paddle.
We started by paddling maybe 300 yards to Lake Dora. We poked our bows into the lake and were greeted by two coots fighting. Reared up on their tails, wings flapping and feet just a clawing at each other they were really going at it. I’m thinking it was the males fighting for dominance and the ladies. But that was just a thought. Review of the video might indicate other intentions and participants. We didn’t go into the lake much there was a power boat race going on with fast boats, rooster tails, police boats and lots of traffic going back and forth to the course. We “ducked” back into the canal.
The canal is really narrow for all the traffic it gets. Perhaps 30 ft. wide in places the overhanging trees made it a little smaller. But remember it is a no wake area and most boats adhered to the rules. You see the black birds drying their wings or swimming with just their necks out but have you ever seen a cormorant rookery. We did. There is one at the north end of the canal where it empties into Lake Eustis. It was a couple of trees with several cormorant nests. I’ve never seen that before. There were also some nests with three really big white birds sitting upright on the nest with becks pointed upward so they wouldn’t knock each other off. They looked a lot like ibis but we couldn’t get a good look at them. There were just too many cormorants.
We paddled into the south end of Lake Eustis. That’s where we first saw it. A square sign with crossed paddles and the number 3. We just learned we were also on the Golden Triangle Run, a Lake County Blueways trail. http://www.paddlelake.com/runs/golden_triangle_run.aspx We didn’t learn till later that this trail ties together three lakes/cities of Mount Dora, Tavares and Eustis. “City” might be a little overstated. The trail is a 10.5 mile trail, one way. We were doing an out and back from Summerall park. So still not knowing the trail we paddled on westward to the Dead River.
The Dead River is as most of them are a name only. Perhaps in an earlier time things were different but fish, birds, gators, water plants and trees made this anything but “dead”. As we were nearing the river fighting a wind from the north we saw bald eagles patrolling the south shore of Lake Eustis. Again not very dead around dead river. We made it to the river mouth and there it was another square sign with the number 2. The river had a lot of boat traffic so we pulled into a right hand traffic pattern and got in line. The water was a no wake zone like the Dora canal so the power boats were going slow. Which put them at our pace. It was nice. The south end of the river connects to Lake Harris, another big lake. So to keep out of the north wind we paddled the north end of the lake in the tree wind shadow.
At the other end of the lake was a really long building roof visible just above the lake. It looked the world like a Florida chicken house or dairy barn. So naturally we had to go and see it. Nearly three miles later we pulled into a new boat house for a condo development. You could see signs of wear on the boat lifts but no boats in the 30 or so slips. So we came back. There was need of a landing to stretch the legs and eat a snack so we started looking for a boat ramp or beach. WHICH reminded us of the fish camp we saw in the river. A few miles later we pulled into Palm Gardens Fish camp, restaurant, raw bar and marina. We pulled into the boat ramp and lifted our boats up onto the deck and took the table next to the boats. Fish sandwiches with the ‘fixins’. It was a great break. We also had some of the best gator tail. It was tender and cooked just right.
We really didn’t want to leave the fish camp but it was time and the deck was filling up with patrons that started asking questions about the boats. Seventeen foot sea kayaks are a little rare in the area. So with slipped the boats back into the water and continued on. Traffic was a little heavier so we sped off to the other side of the river to get into the traffic pattern. Fueled by good gator tail we got into traffic and caught up to the motor boats. Remember it is a no wake zone.
We retraced our steps and paddled the now windier Lake Eustis which now presented a beam wave set with occasional confused boat wake thrown in. Lots of boat traffic, a long fetch and wind driven waves makes for interesting paddling. Back in the canal and almost to the park take out we passed an oncoming column of two seat, short, pontoon boats with a leader/guide in the lead boat announcing points of interest to the 6 or 8 boats following each with a walkie talkie listening and driving their own pontoon. Its and interesting area.
If you go there are several launch points. You can see them on the Blueways map at the paddlelake.com website. We chose the Summerall Park because the Mont Dora ramps were busy with the spring Arts and Craft Fair, vintage boat show and of course the boat race. To get to the Summerall Park take old Hwy 441 from Mont Dora towards Tavers. Just after the canal bridge at the Duncan Doughnuts turn left. You can’t miss it. Our trip was about 12 miles.
If you wanted to do the trail in its entirety I’d start at the Mont Dora Marina, #7 on the run map. Then paddle past the Tavares and the float /seaplane dock, #6, to the canal. Follow the trail to #1 then double back to your shuttle at Palm Garden Marina. There aren’t any other boat ramps close to #1 and the gator tail is excellent at the marina.
Power boats are limited to idle speed no wake in the canals and connecting rivers. However there are a lot of them.
The canals and rivers can be sheltered but the lakes are subject to wind, wave and power boats.