Paddling “Juniper Creek” on a Prematurely Warm “winter” Day – February 22, 2019

We needed to paddle. Last week while visiting on two days not quite half of the 57 camping sites in Tate’s Hell State Forest, we saw the Dry Bridge Creek campsite with its grassy landing into what we thought was Juniper Creek. We did not recall paddling this creek, although, we thought we had paddled all the navigable areas of Tate’s Hell State Forest. This is where we headed today.

We planned to first go upstream as far as we could and then return to the campsite put-in. Then to go downstream until what seemed on the map to be Doyle Creek and turn back. We intended to get mileages for both the upstream and back and the downstream and pack. That information might be helpful information to add to this campsite’s post.

So we invited a friend, loaded all 3 kayaks on our trailer, and headed for SR 65, the western boundary of Tate’s Hell State Forest.

The sky was overcast, some sun was predicted, but the temperatures were supposed to get to the lower 70’s. The high cloud cover remained, although the day became warmer.

When we arrived at the campsite, the flowers were still dew-kissed: white violets, candy root, southern jessamine. Royal ferns were beginning to sprout.

Tate’s Hell State Forest waters are tannin-colored.

Going upstream the buckwheat trees were all in bloom.

As warm as it was we did not see bees on the flowers of any of the flowering plants today. We did see a black swallowtail butterfly and a forktail.

Going upstream, along the banks were large masses of either swamp or spider lilies and pickerel weed. In two months or less these areas will be blooming. Laurel greenbrier with green seeds promise food for bears in the forest. Spiders are beginning to weave their webs and by lunch time I counted 5 spiders which had fallen into my cockpit and which I had to move to a more natural setting.

This is a elongated stilt spider and the photo below of a jumping spider.

The distance of paddling possibilities along these creeks depend on tide and rain. We were able to get 1.7 miles upstream from the camping site before the narrowness of the creek, the trees and debris both above and under water made the endeavor more work than play.

We returned to the camping site for lunch, but not without mishap.

That lovely grassy put-in after launching 3 kayaks upriver, was less hospitable at take-out. One of the paddlers slipped on the mud getting out of his kayak, and again, as he pulled my boat up the, by then, muddy ramp.. After we returned home, we found that mud from this bank leaves a stain, despite several washings of clothes and paddling shoes. The photo below is of the final take-out .

After lunch, still under a hazy sky, we ventured downstream to see where Juniper met another creek.

Soon we paddled into estuary environment of marsh reeds and sedges and eventually found ourself at SR 65. We recognized this landing as the landing we took out a few years ago when we paddled Whiskey George creek. We had done this creek before: as Whiskey George creek, paddling, as we usually do to as far up as we can paddle and then turning back to the put-in. The distance from the camping site to this put-in was 2 miles.

According to Garmin maps and DeLorme’s Gazeteer of Florida, that campsite is not on Juniper Creek but Whiskey George Creek. However, just a tad south of the campsite is Juniper creek which is east of Whiskey George and follows about the same pattern into the woods. An older very large map of Tate’s Hell State Forest names this creek running by the camping site as Juniper Creek. It also shows that the creek goes up to Whiskey George Campsite which we had visited last week and found no navigable creek alongside, although the site was in a swamp with water on 3 sides.

So on a high water time, and also when winter temperatures are winter temperatures and not balmy late spring ones, we may attempt to paddle Juniper creek, as much of it as it possible. Yes, we have yet to paddle Juniper creek.

And we did 7.4 miles of paddling on Whiskey George Creek today, putting in from Campsite 51, Dry Bridge Creek.

If you paddle(d) Whiskey George Creek this far, please comment below in the box provided.

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