We loaded up the Pelican Pursuit single and the Dagger Blackwater tandem in Jacksonville and headed south. This was the first open highway test for our new Thule Hullaports so the driving was a little slower than usual. It was a picture perfect early spring day with afternoon temps in the 80s.
We unloaded the boats at the trail to the put-in and my partner drove to the take out. It cost $6 for her ride back to the put in. We chose this option so we could just pack up and go when we reached the end. There is also the option of leaving your car at the put-in and getting a shuttle back to the put-in for you and your boats at the end of the run. Also, take advantage of the free carts to take your yaks down the windy paved trail to the put-in. We put in just after noon with my 9 year old and I in the tandem and my partner in the single.
You drop in to just a few inches of crystal clear water surrounded by beautiful forest. Its not quite as wooded at the beginning lately as there is some kind of boardwalk trail being built along the first part of the creek. The reason I marked this run as moderate difficulty rather than easy is because I wouldnt suggest it for first timers or maybe even second timers. What makes this run so fabulous is that it is so natural. But with that comes some difficulty. The creek is very winding and loaded with obstacles such as submerged stumps, overhanging branches and fallen trees that you have to lay down to go under. There is very little time of leisurely row row row your boat on this run. It is pretty constant turning and maneuvering. But, don't get me wrong, its worth every bit of it. This is Florida at is best.
We traded yaks about the halfway point. There are plenty of places to pull over and chill out for a while, grab a snack or let other paddlers in more of a hurry pass. We were in no hurry and enjoyed giving our daughter lessons on the trees and the where the water comes from and such. We pulled over a couple of times to let canoists and other yakkers go ahead. Its very quiet out there, so you can hear it when another party is approaching from behind. Also, there were no...as in nada...as in zero bugs except for a few dragon flies. I dont know if this is the case later in the season, but it sure was nice.
Our daughter, Sydney, kept the official wildlife count for the day. 24 turtles, 4 deer, 1 gator and lots of birds. The turtles are throughout the run sunning themselves on your obstacles. The deer are in the marsh part of the creek. One was less than 5 feet away from where the water flows. They lift their heads and watch you, but they don't move away. Another group of people in the marsh had seen a gator, other than the one we saw sunning himself on the bank of a small island in the forest just past the marsh. The one we saw was about a 9 footer and only 8-9 feet from where we quietly paddled by.
The run is 7 miles and takes about 4 hours depending on how many times you pull over. You can tell when you are reaching the end of the run because you can hear the children playing in the swimming area. When you go under the bridge, exit to the right.
There is parking, picnic area, swimming area, camping (I think?), restrooms, showers and a little store at the park. The food choices at the store are limited to beverages and snack food, so bring your own lunch.
It cost $4 per person to enter the park. If you drive your car to the end of the run and get a get a ride back to the beginning, its about $6.
I'm not sure how much it is if you leave your car at the beginning and get a ride for you and your boats from the end. The last shuttle back to the beginning is at 4:30.
From Jacksonville, we took 95 south to exit 298 US1 (Bunnell), then right on FL11,right on FL 40. Look for signs for Juniper Springs/Creek recreation area.