Category Archives: Tate’s Hell wildflowers

Womack Creek – overcast skies, but warming…go paddle! GRASI Tactical Area 3

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A cloudy day, 58 degrees at put-in, but no breeze — Ochlockonee River running high.  This is where Womack Creek meets the Ochlockonee on the east side of Tate’s Hell.

We put-in at the Womack Creek campground.  There were no campers, but the hosts were home — Mack and Lee are doing a marvelous job of maintaining this and other east-side campsites in Tate’s Hell.

In mid-January, after three nights of freezing temperatures, we were not expecting flowers.  But there it was, at the entrance — a brilliant display of Florida maple in bloom.

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And soon after and thereafter, upriver, high bush blueberries, promising fruit in late May and June.  Surprisingly without insects, but bees shall soon be gathering nectar when it warms.

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The alder catkins were not unexpected — we see them in late winter.   Their seeds still remain on the branches.  The subleties of hue and shape which nature gifts us on this river cannot be overestimated.

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But there were remnants, too, of last summer and last fall.  A pair of hornet’s nest and the furry seeds of silvering which bloom in late fall.

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With no breeze to speak of and the tide at turning point, it was a calm paddle up and back.

We were again surprised to see a single spray of Green Fly orchid.  Our written sources had noted that they bloom in January to March, but after years of diligent searching from  January through March, we saw a profusion in bloom last May!  Last December two sprays were blooming.   These are lovely elfin flowers — we have not GPS’ed them on our Womack Creek blog http://www.womackcreek.wordpress.com  (our Master Naturalist project, “A
Paddler’s Guide to the Flowering Plants of Womack Creek”) because we were told that plant collectors can be avaricious and will harvest them if they know where to look.  There are more plants in other locations in Tate’s Hell, but we have never seen them in bloom.

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Too cold for alligators and even turtles,  but there were 3 female cardinals, a gold finch, the always present kingfisher, a cormorant, a buzzard, a woodpecker, a thrasher and a flock of unidentified gray birds.   No insects, either.

While eating our lunch of jerky, crackers, kumquats and for dessert a Perugina chocolate-hazelnut “kiss” each at Nick’s Primitive Campsite, the clouds parted to give us  sun. We had the warm blessing of the sun on the paddle back to the Womack Creek Campground.

A lovely 7.7 mile round trip paddle.

Sunday morning meditation – on Womack Creek, Tactical Area 3

November 2, 2014.

Blue sky, temperature in the mid-50’s at 10 am, but feeling like mid-40’s.  A bite in the breeze.  No one on the Ochlockonee River as we put-in heading up to Womack Creek.   We were layered; the PFD no longer was enough to warm our torsos.

Once into the main body of Womack, the water calmed — Womack Creek is usually protected from winds, or breezes.   At the confluence, a welcoming mass of vining asters and swamp sunflowers, welcoming the sun.  The tide was out when we put in. P1110254Low tide — looking at Ochlockonee River from Womack Creek.   Later, the tide will cover this muddy barrier (below).

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The asters are still in full bloom, with occasional clumps of swamp sunflowers — their seeds seem to fall in the same locations.   Blooming at the same time they combine to form lovely arrays, occasionally  with red-berried Dahoon, an even more striking display.

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This cold — we were not expecting turtles, and certainly not alligators.   But this little one — just a little longer than a yard stick had first dibs on this sun drenched log. P1110266 But these were only brief interruptions from the calmness of the creek, the trees and shrubs still with leaves, but beginning to prepare for winter.  An arena of change — for us, a chance to meditate on the gifts which nature endows a paddler who enters in quiet and absorbs with ears, eyes, nose to feel the totality of wildness.

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Come paddle and find peace and quiet and beauty.

An October Saturday Paddle – Cash Creek, Tate’s Hell

Come paddle Tate’s Hell — the cosmos, Florida’s state flower, is in full bloom –from put-in, view  a panorama of cosmos gold between sedges and pines.  Also see climbing asters, goldenrod, salt marsh morning glory, swamp lily, cardinal flower,  ratttlesnakemaster, vanillaleaf, dahoon and yaupon holly red berries — wasps, bumblebees, alligators (big ones), lots of sedges, rushes, gnarled cypresses,  long leaf pine — estuary and pinelands.  Gulf fritillary and sulphur butterflies — an October estuary ecosystem vibrant and alive!

The cooler days of October through April temper the sun’s rays.

Put in at Cash Creek Day Use boat launch, off SR 65, head upstream.  The branches will end — you should not get lost.

The first fork:   to the left is High Bluff Creek, to the right is the continuation of Cash Creek.  High Bluff Creek, as does Cash Creek, ends in a narrow swamp creek.

If you take the fork to the right (Cash Creek) and come across the next fork, the fork to the left is an old canal probably cut through pineland by the logging plantation, previous owners of Tate’s Hell lands.   It is straight and narrows to less than the length of most kayaks. Last December, we saw a mother bear and her cub (the cub on a pine tree, learning its climbing skills).   The mother bear quickly alerted her cub when she saw the us.  The cub’s instinct was to climb up the tree.  A sharp rebuke from its mother brought the cub scurrying down the tree and quickly into the palmetto.  A wild bear will avoid human contact; a bear habitualized to humans, e.g. garbage can or campground scavengers, may not.  Feeding wildlife habitualizes them.

(We had just broken camp at Wright Creek in the Apalachicola National Forest and had paddled Owl, Fort Gadsden and Graham creeks,  tributaries of the Apalachicola.  The night before we arrived there,  a camper saw a black bear near his campsite.  The camper shouted — loud noises are usually sufficient to warn off wild bears. This bear ruffed back and went into the woods.  The camp host reports such incidents to the forest service and an effort is made to capture the bear and relocate it away from established campsites. )

On the extension of Cash Creek,  the branch to the right continues into woody swamps and dead ends.

Easy paddling: some tidal influence.

Two portable toilets at put-in.  Bring your own toilet paper.  Covered concrete picnic pavilion with 3 tables.

There is no day use fee in Tate’s Hell, except for Womack Creek Campground which has flush toilets and showers — $2 there.  (A good place to shower, if traveling through).

Photos taken on Saturday, October 25, 2014

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View from put-in. Between the sedges and pines is a huge field of cosmos. Reminded us of that shot in the movie Color Purple where the child is seen romping through pink and lavender cosmos.

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Golden Rod

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A small island of cosmos.

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Paddling in an area where estuary meets the swamp environment — it gives you two experiences.  We think Cash Creek would make for a beautiful full moon paddle, up to the first fork (a little over a mile from put-in). After that there are snags which might not be readily seen in the dark.

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Golden rod and cosmos growing from a spot of soil on a snag in the water.

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Gulf frittillary on cosmos with rattlesnake master cluster in foreground.

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Osprey nest. In the spring the pair of osprey will return to begin a new generation.

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Cardinal flower – attracts insects.

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Cosmos – Florida state flower

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Salt Marsh Morning glory

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Salt marsh morning glory seed pods.

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Swamp lily.

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Dahoon holly berries — feast for migrating birds.

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Vining aster – common fall flower in Tate’s Hell.

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Vanillaleaf

Paddling Womack Creek on Mother’s Day, May 11, 2014

The day was overcast, the temperature at put-in was 82 F, but there was a slight and welcomed breeze.   It felt more like an early summer than late spring day.

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In a little branch off the Ochlockonee before entering Womack Creek, a troupe of Cowcreek Spider lilies — the first of many to present themselves on the creek.

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Nearby, in the same branch, more Lizard’s tails than we have ever since in one spot.  This is the way it is with the creek — a profusion of one species one year, scarcity the next.  Every trip is a surprise and every year is a different scene.

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Not too far away, and pretty early, false dragonheads.  In the main part of the creek in late May and June masses of these blooms were seen last year.

 

 

 

 

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Before I left the branch, I could not resist these blueberries — tart with a slight tinge of sweet.  There is nothing like wild blueberries — hybrids cannot compare.

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Last year cross vines bloomed from spring to the killing frost in the winter.  The year before they were hard to find.  They may not bloom in abundance this year.

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In 2012 the creek was festooned in clematis crispa.  Last year we saw only a few.  This year the vines are thick, but the buds do not seem to have appeared yet on these vines.  We cherish the few flowers we see.

 

 

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Sweet bays are always blooming; in some years in greater profusion.  Their fragrance, thick and heavy, lead you to the blooms.

 

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I inadvertently broke this spider’s web while holding on to a branch to get a steady shot.   More often than not, it’s harmless water snakes I encounter while taking photos.

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There are three native hollies on Womack Creek:  Yaupon, which blooms first, American and Dahoon which bloom about the same time.  They provide fruit for the migratory birds in the fall.  The dahoon hollies will be in full bloom next week.  Along with the swamp titi, Arrowwood, muscadine grapes and poison ivy.

 

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This inch worm fell on my thigh.  I relocated it to a better surface to photograph.  Wondered what type of flying insect it would develop into and where it came from.

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Got my answer just a few paddles upstream.  On the Ogeche tupelos tent worms.

 

 

 

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The last of this springs pinxter azaleas — this was a glorious year for pinxters.

 

 

 

 

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Another flower which leads you to them by scent — swamp rose, not in such profusion as 2012.

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Ferns, a harbinger of summer, at Nick’s Road Primitive Camp Site, our usual lunch stop, 3.8 miles from put-in at the Womack Campground landing.

 

 

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The geometry of natural forms — hard to come up with a better design.

 

 

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This less than 1/2 inch grasshopper will grow 5 times and consume many times its weight in tender plant leaves.

 

 

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Every trip, we check the green fly orchid plants, a threatened species.   We have never seen the blossoms of this epiphyte, the only tree orchid in North Florida.  Today we were rewarded when two tiny plants showed these bloom stems — even seeing these buds was a thrill.   If you wish to know where they are located e-mail quincypair@comcast.net — we will give you the coordinates.  We have been advised not to post the coordinates on a public forum because plant hunters will harvest them.

No snakes, today, but we saw a hawk, heard what we believe to be a pileated wood pecker, cardinals and barred owl.   We also saw a mother duck with 6 ducklings and a great blue heron — probably feasting on the frogs we heard while paddling upstream.   Turtles are always sunning on this creek and the few alligators are skittish, diving into the water with a great splash when they hear us coming.   Dragonflies, no butterflies, but mosquitoes and yellow flies at the Womack Creek Campground landing (not at Nick’s Road primitive camp site), lots of bees on the Ogeche tupelos.  The old frames in the bee hives on Rock Landing Road have been replaced to store the tupelo nectar which bees transform into honey.

As for the sound:  1 small plane, a light drone; one motor boat on the Ocklockonee and a pontoon boat on the Ochlockonee going at minimum speed.    Except for these, the whole paddle was without reminder of human mechanized invention.

On Sunday, Mother’s Day, we spent the day with Mother Nature.

 

 

Paddling Womack Creek on Cinco de Mayo, May 5, 2014

Banded water snake, Nerodia fasciata fasciata. Adult size 24-42 inches. Non-venomous, but can bite. When confronted may exude a musky odor. Bears live young. In western panhandle interbreeds with yellow belly watersnake (Nerodia erythrogaster flavigaster). Range: Florida northern peninsula through panhandle, South Alabama and along Atlantic coastal plain to Virginia. Eats fishes and frogs.

 

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Redbelly water snake, Nerodia erythrogaster eryghrogaster. Adult size 2-4 feet, non venomous, bears live young 11-30 about 9-11 1/2 inches long. Food: fishes & frogs. Habitat: rivers, lakes, swamps, marshes and cypress strands. In summer heat active mostly in early morning, late afternoon and night.

 

 

 

 

 

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With stunning colored head

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Young and old of banded water snake.

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Meanwhile, on any log they can find in the high water, the turtles are sunning, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blooming now on Womack Creek:

 

 

 

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Cowcreek Spider Lily, an endemic species only found in this area. Discovered by Prof Loran Anderson, emeritus, FSU, biology.

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Male Ogeche tupelo, providing the nectar for tupelo honey. Bees buzzing all over these blossoms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Female Ogeche tupelo, it’s drupes are food for wildlife in the fall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Narrowleaf evening primrose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Virginia sweetspire, a few still blooming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And most of the swamp dogwoods are going to seed, food for migratory songbirds in the fall.

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The last of the American wisteria. Unliked the invasive exotic Asian wisteria, the American wisteria has a thicker clump of blossoms and does not invade an area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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False indigo in the peak of bloom and favorite flower of bees and hornets

 

 

 

 

 

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Spatterdock just beginning to bloom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Swamp rose and clematis crispa

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Swamp rose, almost white. The roses perfume the air around them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lots of activity on the creek:

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Lady bug beetle on muscadine leaf, swamp titi buds just below.

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See what looks like the discarded shell of the bug (or larvae) on the swamp titi leaf just above the beetle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And dragonflies all over the creek.

Leaving the creek, still in Tate’s Hell State Forest, the honey harvest from titi blossoms which bloomed throughout the forest in April.

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A sweet ending to a warm and sunny day.

 

 

April Flowers on Womack Creek, Tate’s Hell State Forest

 

 

The flowers were blooming throughout Womack Creek on April 10, 2014.   The azaleas continue their blooming, with full, large heads.  We were happy to see many smaller bushes in flower, replacing some of the older bushes which were replaced by flood waters of the two previous years.   Although the Walters Viburnum and the Parsley Hawthorne have peaked, this was a year of Pinxter, Walters and Parsley Haw — more shrubs of these than we have ever seen.

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Pinxter azaleas and swamp sweet bells.

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Pinxter azaleas and cross vine blossoms.

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Cross vines with orange blossoms at eye level and all the way up to the trees.

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Yaupon holly the first of three native holly species to bloom on the creek.

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Rusty Blackhaw — on upper 1/3 of Creek.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pinxter azaleas and fringe tree

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Close up fringe trees. They were blooming through the creek.

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Swamp dogwood just beginning to bloom — many shrubs still in bud throughout the creek.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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At Nicks Road primitive camp site a good place to stop for lunch: azaleas, candy root, and salvia with its blue blossoms.

 

 

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Blackberry bushes all in bloom throughout the creek.

 

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Not too far behind the yaupon, a few American holly bushes beginning to bloom.

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American snowbells, the first blooms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of all the waterways in Tate’s Hell which can be paddled, Womack Creek seems to have the most diverse of blooming plants and trees.

Also beginning to bloom are the Virginia willow (sweet spice), and ogeche tupelo, the last of the trees to bloom on the creek.   The ogeche tupelo from which nectar the bees cook up tupelo honey has small round buds.  When they are fully opened the sound of honey bees is discernible as one paddles near the trees.

With the temperatures in the high 60’s and a southerly breeze, the fragrance of flowers was noticeable while paddling the creek.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tom Hahn Creek, Crooked River, Tate’s Hell State Forest

March 26, 2014

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River view of Rock Landing with 3 campsite: large, medium and small, the smallest being the most private. Day use pavilion. Unisex vault toilet. No water, no sanitizer.

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Site 1, the largest campsite (see stand-up grill, fire pit and table in back of lot), but close to public usage area.

 

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Camp site 3, no stand-up grill, and smallest, but most private of 3 campsites.

 

 

 

 

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Looking east on Crooked River where it meets the Ochlockonee about 4 miles. This is a favorite putting in place for motor boats.

 

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Better putting-in place for paddlers west of concrete ramp.

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First blue flag iris at Rock Landing, March 26, 2014.

Start at Rock Landing (3.5 miles west of loop campsite) on the Crooked River and paddle west.

Rock Landing is about  4 miles from the Ocklockonee River.  Crooked River has neither up-river nor down-river, tides come in through Ochlockonee River to the east  and from Carrabelle  River (New River) on the west.  It is an alternate trail  of the North Florida Circumnavigational trail.  Some paddlers go up two miles on the Ochlockonee  to Womack Creek Campground for a hot shower.

Tom Hahn Creek is 1 mile west of Rock Landing.   But before that,  .4 mile west of Rock Landing,  is a smaller .4 mile creek where we saw a yellow headed night heron.   There is more variety in plants and shrubs on Tom Hahn Creek, except there may be more open blooming iris and golden club patches on the first short branch.

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Golden club, branch .4 miles west of Rock Landing.

About .4 of a mile upriver on  Tom Hahn Creek the creek forks.  The fork to the right is about 1/2 mile long before thickets and low water may deter you.  The one on the left is about 1.1 miles log before you encounter real obstacles (there are overhangs and snags in the river toward the end).

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Spider lily near fork Tom Hahn Creek, Crooked River, March 26, 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right now on the right branch and the shorter other creek,  golden clubs are blooming.   There are more blooming native pinxter azaleas on the branch to the left, swamp jessamine, lots of blooming titi shrubs and blackberry blossoms, but we saw no honey bees.   Fetterbush were blooming in one large bush on the longer branch.

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Titi all in bloom in both forks of Tom Hahn Creek.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Native pinxter azaleas in peak of bloom on left fork of Tom Hahn Creek, 3/26/14,

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Fetterbush, March 26, 2014, Tom Hahn Creek.

Expect in a few weeks blue flag iris and spider lilies.

 

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Parrotfeather or Brazilian watermilfoil on left branch of Tom Hahn Creek (in 3 places — this is the largest patch).  Non-native invasive plant.  Myriophyllum aquaticum.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The longer branch is wide at the entrance and narrows about 3/4 miles.  We saw more alligators here than any other creek in the last 2 days — 5 alligators.

On the Crooked River,  you may have tides against you or the wind or both.  Keep to the shoreline and you may escape the full brunt of any wind.

Once leaving Rock Landing there is no easy place for a pit stop.   On the Crooked River, the land to the north is Tate’s Hell State Forest, opposite lands are in private ownership.

Tupelo, cypress, pines, Florida maples are some of the trees you will see on the crooked river.  On the way back to Loop campsite east of Rock Landing, we stopped for 15 minutes to try to photograph a beautifully golden-capped prothotonary warbler in a shrub.   We were unsuccessful.  It seemed undeterred by us, but kept itself under tight cover.

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Back on the Crooked River, headed east to Rock Landing.

Womack Creek in pink and white, March 25, 2014.

 

 

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We had company when we drove in to launch our kayaks to do our weekly observations on Womack Creek.  A pair of campers in camp site 1 with their pontoon boat.

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Blackberry blossoms, a bit late, but welcome.

A bit cool, but the sun was out and using the dead canes for a bed to sun on was a water snake.   When one does close-ups on Womack Creek, don’t be startled by a snake on a branch nearby — they are harmless and will slither away, unless, they are still cold as this snake was.

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And just around the corner, taking advantage of the springy blackberry cane mattress and sun

 

 

another,  curled up.

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And just around the corner and everywhere there was a log or branch to perch on….

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Notice how the turtles splay their back legs out when they sun.

Paddling back, we heard a screeching and caterwauling like we’ve never heard on the creek before.  Both of our heads turned around looking for the source of the sounds.   The one with better hearing saw two racoons mating on a large branch parallel to the river surface.  As we approached, they parted and quickly scrambled down the tree and disappeared into the palmettos.   Earlier we had seen a single racoon on a log in a short branch near the campground.   Keep your foodstuff high or in the car when camping.

And in the narrower creeks of the branches, one will undoubtedly see these long jawed spiders. They are harmless.

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With the river down from flood stage, you can actually see the swamp buttercups.

 

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The Walters viburnum on the lower 2/3’s of the river and parsley hawthorne throughout are in their peak.

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And pinxter azaleas with their scent.

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And orange cross vine flowers, competing for your eyes — “look up, look up”  to see them blooming.   And yellow swamp jessamine, lower down beginning to bloom in clusters throughout the creek.

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And soon, fringe trees or grandpa greybeard, will be festooned with their flowers moving with the breezes.

When we took out, another tent was seen and two campers/bicyclists were setting up camp.

A photographers report, New River, Tate’s Hell, March 10-11, 2012

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Putting in at the Owens bridge (FH 22) east of Sumatra. Wooden bridge burned down when fishermen, on a cold day, decided to build themselves a fire near or on the bridge and had more heat than they had bargained for. Photo by Branson Carlton.

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Starting out on a day which promised neither sun nor rain. Photo by Branson Carlton.

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Brush was expected, of course. Photo by M. Feaver.

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The river widened, than narrowed, then narrowed even more through cypress trunks. Photo by M. Feaver.

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This area will dry out as soon as the deciduous trees begin to green. The New River in this section is navigable only a few months of the year. Photo by Branson Carlton.

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About a half a mile of gnarled cypress lies ahead of us, and faster water for that distance. Photo by Branson Carlton.

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There is some impediment ahead and we’re waiting for the lead paddler to check it out.

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Limbo logs not uncommon — this will eventually fall into the river and create a real obstacle. Photo by Branson Carlton.

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All boats accounted for. We had planned to camp at campsite 7, but it was already occupied, so we paddled downstream for 2.5 miles and got campsite 6. Photo by Branson Carlton.

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Early enough to relax, enjoy a cuppa’ and conversation. Photo by Branson Carlton.

 

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Second day, spider lilies in bloom between camp site 6 and Pope’s Place. Photo by Branson Carlton.

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Rest stop at Gully Branch where there is are vault toilets. Photo by Branson Carlton.

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Pope’s Place — our take-out. Further downstream is Trout Creek and Crooked River and Carrabelle River. Photo by M. Feaver.