After reading different trip reports online about the Santa Fe River (near Gainesville), it was definitely on my "to paddle" list. Lots of springs, abundant wildlife and, of course, local legend Naked Ed.
We drove down from Jacksonville with our Pungo 120 (which we bought at a great price 1-year used from Kayak Amelia. They well their rentals every year and get new. We parked and put in at Santa Fe Canoe Outpost at about 10:45am. Jim gave us a map of the springs and we decided on a length of paddle and pick up time. There is a 7 mile paddle and a 15 mile paddle. We did the 7 mile to Run island with lots of leisure time for drifting and stopping at springs.
This is a very liesurely paddle with clear water that moved at a good pace. There were times we didnt paddle at all and just put our feet up and drifted (gotta love the open cockpit of the pungo). Fish were jumping, birds were singing and the only bugs were friendly dragonflies that are happy to hitch a ride on your toe.
Then there were the turtles....hundreds and hundreds of turtles...12 to a log. There were also a coule of deer spotted running through the forest along the bank.
There are a couple of areas that have houses, but its still a very natural experience. We stopped at Lily Springs to see if "Naked Ed" exists and he sure does. We stayed and chatted for about a half hour, asking about his life and reading his philosphies on the signs posted about his cabin.
About a half hour into our visit, we read the sign that he disaproves of gays and would never roll out the welcome mat for such degenerates...Ooops! I guess we should have worn some kind of signage besides my partners obvious tattoos so he could have been less hospitable. Oh well. Though it kind of jaded our idea of him, it was still cool to see him in the flesh ( so to speak).
We paddled to Run Island Park. There were more boats and snorklers at this area since it is a large park. The Santa Fe Canoe Outpost van came at 4 and took us back to our truck. This was a great paddle with nature, education and even some teeny tiny almost rapids where underground rivers join the Santa Fe from underneath.
I'd say its great fun for any level of paddler, but then again, I love every paddle I take.
Parking at this location, they will help you unload your boat and take it to the water. Then they will pick you up in a van at the end and bring you back to you car.
$15 per boat for the ride back to start. I don't know what their rental fees are as we brought out own boats, but if you rent their boats, the shuttle is included.
Directions to Sante Fe Canoe Outpost:
Pensacola/Alabama area - I-10 East to I-75: I-75 South to Exit 414(Lake City High Springs exit). Bear to your right and you will be heading South on US 441. We are 15 miles down the road, on 441, right hand side of the road, immediately after crossing the Santa Fe River Bridge.
Jacksonville - I-10 West to the 2nd MacClenny exit (exit 335); bear right off of exit and that will put you on SR 121 heading South. Take 121 South for about 30 miles until you come to CR 18 (yellow flashing light); go right on 18 for about 10 miles until you dead-end at 41/441. Turn left on 441 and we are 7 miles down the road, on 441, right hand side, just after crossing the Santa Fe River bridge.
South Florida - Take the Florida Turnpike to I-75 North. I-75 North to exit 399(Alachua/High Springs exit). Bear right off of the exit and you will be heading North on US 441. We are 7 miles from the exit, on 441, left side, just before crossing the Santa Fe River Bridge.