Category Archives: Tate’s Hell State Forest

May 30 – Womack Creek in summer garb

P1140894To avoid the summer thunderstorms, we put-in early.  At 8:40 we were already on the river and the first blossoms we saw on river right was stand of cheerful shortleaf sneezeweed.   This and the poisonous water hemlock were new blooms on the creek.

The temperature was in the mid-80’s, the water was calm, the sky blue.   There was a slight breeze which was cooling and did not hamper paddling.  The tide seemed to be at equilibrium.

For those planning to paddle this creek, the following flowers are at the end of their blooms:  swamp titi, arrow wood, swamp rose, pickerel weed, swamp (false) dragonhead, button bush, narrowleaf primrose.  However, these plants are still in bloom:  sweet bay, scenting the air around them; coastal rose gentian (look on the forest floor); clematis crispa, nestled in their vines and spatterdock in the water; green fly orchids will be blooming for another month — you will have to look on the trees for them.

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We were delighted to find pairs of cardinals and, even more surprising, pairs of protothonary warblers flitting in the shrubbery.   They were the most common birds, but there was one little kingfisher and a buzzard overhead.   In the woods one could hear a hawk.

There were not as many cooters as one would normally see and these were juveniles.  One 4 foot alligator — another juvenile.

We were also happy to see many apple snail eggs throughout.  This is the preferred food for limpkins and their presence in this creek may mean that we may be finding pairs of limpkins there.  Except for one sighting last year, we have not seen apple snail eggs in that creek since 2011.

P1140960This was perfect temperature for water snakes, but as hard as we looked, we failed to detect any.  There are there, however — a favorite location is in the blackberry bushes which are now loaded with fruit.

New Ogeche tupelo leaves are sprouting after the infestation by tent caterpillars, but we noticed very few drupes (fruits).

Except for a Gulf Fritillary, the butterflies have departed to other areas with more nectar and pollen.  A few wasps, hardly any honeybees, a few bumblebees and other smaller insects.   But the dragonflies are throughout the creek, dipping into the water or hitching a ride on the kayaks.

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Deer (yellow) flies, however, were persistent and aggravating, particularly in the upper 1/3 of the creek.

We explored one branch — these are smaller creeks and provide lots of shade and a cooler temperature, but at the risk of deer flies.

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There is a smaller tree down in the upper third of the creek which we could have cut through if we hadn’t forgotten the saw.  And there is a much larger tree which would require a chainsaw to cut through shortly after that, but we were able to paddle around a small opening.

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When we took out, just before 1pm, the air around the water was in the 80’s, but the land was closer to 90.   Southerly breezes were cooling us at about 8-10 mph, and the tide was coming in.   In the summer — the water is where one wants to be.

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Summer colors and flowers on Womack Creek – May 21, 2015

It was in the mid or high 70’s when we put-in at the Womack Creek Campground landing.   There was a slight breeze, the sky was sunny with some clouds.  The tide was outgoing.

P1140431We were expecting the swamp roses to be in full bloom.  But we had been gone from the creek for 6 weeks and only a few were blooming.  But they were fragrant!

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Other trees and shrubs which had passed it bloom were narrow leaf primrose,  cow creek spider lily, and sweet bay.

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The most dominant flowers are clematis crispa, arrow wood,  false dragon head, button bush and swamp titi.P1140478

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We had hoped to see orchids on the bloom stem we saw previously, but that had bloomed out.  Instead we came across a patch of green fly orchids now blooming. P1140533 P1140532 P1140529A new flowering plant, still unidentified, was blooming.

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We were hoping for blueberries to snack on, but the birds and animals had dispatched them in the 6 weeks we were away.  But the blackberries are ripening.  And while the muscadines upriver have little grapes on their vines, the lower vines are still blooming.

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The temperatures are just perfect for snakes to catch some sun’s rays and we were not disappointed.  A brown water snake and what we think is a green water snake were sunning.

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And, the hornets were busy building their nests.

P1140576And perhaps in the future we shall see limpkins in the creek — there were many apple snail egg cases on various plants.

P1140437P1140501P1140555The hornets were building nests, the bumblebees, dragon flies, damsel flies, Gulf frittilary butterflies, and assorted flies and bees were taking food from flowers and other parts of the plants.   We saw bright yellow headed prothotonary warblers in the shrubs, a pair of ducks, heard cardinals and other birds in the forests, and on the paddle back saw 4 magnificent kites flying overhead.

No one else was on the river; we heard no aircraft overhead — it was a warm, delightful paddle and we escaped the predicted thunderstorms of the late afternoon.

 

Summer temperatures, summer blossoms, Womack Creek 4-14-2015

P1140159Swamp Rose — in a few weeks the many bushes will fill the creek with its fragrance and pink blossoms.

Summer weather too soon.  Thunderstorms or rain predicted for the week and we chanced today’s opportunity to paddle Womack Creek.

Our last visit was 16 days ago and so much has happened on that creek: the American wisteria, a thickly clustered and fragrant native species, bloomed in the interval and deprived us this year of their blooms and their scent.   All but the last few pinxter azaleas have bloomed, but the stalwarts in the shade still can outshine the swamp dogwoods which peached their peak in the interval.

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Spring memories can easily fade when these flowers are stepping into the spot light.

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Blue flag iris in a short branch of the creek.

P1140166Swamp sweetbells.

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When the patch is all in bloom the cow creek spider lily resembles a merry troupe of dancers.

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Swamp dogwood, a few stands still blooming, but most are going to seed.

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False indigo, a favorite of insects.

P1140184The source of the non-sugaring tupelo honey, Ogeche tupelo blossoms beginning to bloom and a few honeybees have already found them.

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Clematis crispa, you’ll have to look to find them — this year they are less clustered along the vines.

P1140213But you won’t have to search for these; with their bright yellow faces, they call for attention.   Narrow leaf evening primrose.

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A few Virginia sweetspire still blooming.

P1140256A sure sign of summer, spatterdock.

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and…highbush blueberries!  Each bush differs in taste, some tart, some sweet, some tart-sweet.  This calls for sampling.  This year the bushes are loaded, so sample some, there’ll be enough for the birds.

P1140170Another sign of early summer — carpenter bees on Virginia sweetspire.

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A colony of busy wasps.

Not many birds today, but…

P1140231Tah dah!!!   A beautiful juvenile little blue heron.

There are more blooming plants and trees on this 3.75 mile of Womack Creek than almost any other creek in the Panhandle.

The last trip we destroyed what we hoped is the last of the invasive Japanese climbing ferns (3 locations).  Today we dug up the first of the invasive taro plants, off the shoreline requiring some slogging to get to it.  To our knowledge Womack Creek has no exotics, only native plants and trees.

March goes out like a lamb…. Womack Creek 3-29-2015

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Womack Creek is in the middle of its spring flowering.  The blooms above, Rusty Blackhaw had a back drop of Pinxter Azaleas right now at it’s full bloom.  Fringe trees, cross vines, yaupon holly are all blooming.  And poison ivy.

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Swamp sweet bells are just beginning to bloom.  Below with cross vine.

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Two swamp roses were blooming, promising more blooms and fragrance.

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And the earlier bloomers are now going to seed and fruit.  Pumkin ash and blueberries.

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A kingfisher, an owl, a duck, cardinals and a yellow-crowned night heron — not much in the way of bird life.

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One alligator out, only a handful of cooters, a few swallowtails, but hardly any honeybees and other insects except…

P1130917 This is wilderness, folks!

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Get in your boat, canoe or kayak and check out the rivers and creeks of Tate’s Hell.

 

Paddling to Loop Camp landing, Crooked River, Tate’s Hell – 3-18-2015

The afternoon Florida freshwater turtles presentation at the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve was not until 2pm, so we knew we had time for a short paddle from Womack Creek Campground landing on the Ocklockonee River  to Loop Campsite landing on the Crooked River.  We had camped overnight at the Womack Creek Campground and paddled Womack Creek the day before.

At 8;35 AM, we have never paddled the Ocklocknee River when it was so calm.  For three miles on this beautiful blue-sky day, a tinge of coolness, but no wind.  Quiet.  Along the eastern bank of the Ocklockonee, the residents were not outside or were at work. We had the whole river to ourselves.

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We passed the rest house at the Womack Creek campground where Mack recently repainted the sign, so passing boaters could see that this was a public campground.

Wild olive or Devilwood were blooming along the way, along with pinxter azaleas and blackberry.

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At a bend in the Ocklockonee are pilings, remnants of a railway which carried turpentine across the river.  On river right of the Ocklockonee is McIntyre Landing.   The Crooked River is at this junction and continues west (crookedly) until it joins with the New River into the Carrabelle River.   This river has tidal flow from both ends.

At the mouth of the Crooked River is a little island.  This houseboat has been mired on its banks for at least 4 years.

The photo above shows how calm upriver Ocklockonee was from this junction.

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This photo shows the Crooked River at the junction.  The tide was going out, but without wind and with still a crispness in the air, it was an easy paddle to Loop camp site.

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We’ve heard more cardinals in Tate’s Hell recently.

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A mile from the Ocklockonee, Loop camp site appears.   It is one of our favorite places to camp.   Last year while one of us was preparing dinner, the other, sipping tea, saw a big otter pop its head from the exposed roots in the water of a pine tree and quickly swim away.  When the Ocklockonee floods, this campsite can be covered with water.

P1130444Lots of room for tents, an RV or a trailer and lots of room for kids to play.

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And a nice launching area.   When camping here, remember that paddlers who want to use the landing do have a right to do so and also to park their cars along the road.  There is more than enough space in this and other single primitive campsite in Tate’s Hell for several tents.  The rule applies to all Tate’s Hell Campsites:  on the New, on Crooked River, on Ocklockonee River.

On the way out, we received a beautiful farewell.

P1130447Titi are blooming everywhere in Tate’s Hell and beekeepers and bees are busy.

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