Tag Archives: Womack Creek

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.

 

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.

 

Womack Creek in bloom — see and smell the Pinxter Azaleas now and for the next 3 weeks!

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St. Patrick’s day, at 11:30 pm. It was perfect paddling weather — in the low 70’s.  There was a slight breeze which rippled the surface of the Ocklockonee River, but  the trees, even with the early leaves,  protected Womack Creek.   The colors were spring — shades of light green, tinges of red with a few red maples still asserting its shiny red colors — a continuum of hue.  The bays with their darker, mature leaves added a depth to the colors of the scene.

The woodpeckers were pecking, the ubiquitous kingfisher darted upstream and then down, the resident hawk could be heard and was seen, a great blue,  which now seems a regular in that creek, and both barred owls’ dueling duets and great horned owl sounds at dusk and in the early morning.

Walters viburnum is still in full bloom, but will not be so within a week of 70 degree weather, but the swamp dogwoods will be blooming soon and swamp sweetbells soon after.  The blackberries are now in bloom and are the parsley haws.   Ogeche tupelos are just beginning to start their leaf buds.

The swamp is alive with the sound and activity of life — carpenter bees and honey bees sipping nectar from the pinxter azaleas, nymphs hatching out, dragonflies and both the swallowtail butterflies flitting from flower to flower.

Young alligators — the creek may be a nursery — are never cautious.  One cruised along my kayak, unafraid.  And a young brown water snake, less than a yard long, was out sunning, totally camouflaged against the brown/black branch.   And even young cooters, some no larger than 5 inches,  were perched on logs.

We camped there overnight to save a trip the next day to Eastpoint’s Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve where we were looking forward to a talk on Florida’s freshwater turtles.

Two years ago, on this same week (Spring Break for Leon County Schools), we had met a father and his two sons and their guests here.   We did not camp last year during the spring break (we had taken two mothers and their four children to camp at Nick’s Road Primitive Camp site, which was reported on in an earlier blog).   We did not recognize the older son, he is now a freshman at Leon High School, but he nudged our memory.

This dad has taken his sons to camp and boat and canoe, fishing and hiking and just enjoying the Panhandle’s out of doors from the time they were very young.

The young man related to me that he went camping with some friends overnight and he brought along a Coleman stove, water and some food.  His friends made fun of him with all the gear he had, but they helped tote all that gear 2 miles to the camp site.   In the morning, he got up, and had prepared for them when they got up coffee and spam and other goodies!  Were they happy that he had some camping skills and to know that water and food are essential and he knew how to cook the food.

Mack, a host to end all hosts, had at our campfire a load of firewood and fatwood to start the fire.  The bathrooms were immaculate and freshly painted!   The picnic table was pressured washed clean and the fire pit was clean and ready to start.

The day before a couple from Alaska had camped.  There seem to be more out of town campers than in state.  What a shame — for a north Florida experience without being packed between RV’s and trailers, this is one of our favorite places.

The day we broke camp, Paddle Florida, which we had joined last February to paddle 5 days on the Withlacoochee, arrived with 40 paddlers.  Unlike last year, when every day but one was a rain day, and that brought a blustery winds which make doing Ochlockonee Bay treacherous, this year’s group will have perfect paddling weather.

We checked the New River — it is very low.  We were hoping to camp at Campsite 7 next week and paddle upstream, but it does not look promising.   When it is low there are too many big trees which have fallen over the river to paddle.  When the river is high, one merely paddles over them.   A federal forester, now retired, told us that when the deciduous trees start leafing on the New River, they guzzle up water like marathoners and paddling will require portaging and dragging.

The next day we paddled from the Womack Creek Campground on the Ochlockonee to Crooked River, all bounded by Tate’s Hell land on one side, to Loop Landing campground.  This, too, is another isolated campground which we like to camp — right on the Crooked River.  It’s a 4 mile paddle.  We started out at 8:35 a.m. and never have we paddled the Ochlockonee when it was so calm.  Pinxters are blooming there also as are Devil wood with its white blossoms and blackberries.

We paddled to McIntyre landing on the Ocklockonee which is at one end of the Crooked River.  The posts which once supported a train track on which trains hauled turpentine from one side of the river to the other are still there.   Crooked River connects to the New on the west and is subject to tidal flow from both the Carrabelle River and the Ocklockonee River.  We were against the tide that early in the morning, but it was a short paddle and the sky was blue, the air sweet and crisp  and spring in the air.

We had parked our car and trailer at Loop Landing, which is only 2 miles from Womack Creek Campground — one could walk to get one’s car if one is camped at Womack.

Go paddle Womack now and throughout April — the creek is blooming and there will be a succession of blooms from now on.

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The splash from a little turtle’s jump.

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Parsley haw blossoms.

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Nick’s Road landing — always a great place for lunch on Womack Creek.  Picnic bench, grill and fire pit.   Also a great place to camp — away from it all (from April through September, bring mosquito repellent).

P1130378New River at Camp Site 7 — very low for March.

 

 

Paddling on yesterday’s weather prediction – Womack Creek – March 1, 2015

March is unpredictable.

Based on the weather predictions for the Womack Creek area on the last day of February, we made plans to do our monthly field trip on Womack Creek, to note which changes had occurred since Valentine’s Day.

The one hour drive was under overcast skies, the temperature was much warmer than any day the previous week, and we were expecting some break in the clouds and warming temperatures.  So confident in yesterday’s weather prediction, one of us was in shorts and short-sleeved wicking shirt.   The other, more skeptical and weather-wise, dressed in waterproof pants and long sleeves and and waterproof jacket.

We were looking for new blooms of pinxter azaleas.  When these are in full bloom on the creek the air is fragrant and their delicate blossoms form  impressionist-landscapes, particularly if swamp dogwoods or fringe trees are also in bloom.   This is too early for that yet, but we were looking for more than that one bush we saw blooming two weeks ago.

P1120684We saw three bushes in bloom.  In two weeks the many bushes we saw with buds will begin to bloom.

Walter’s viburnum is still in bloom, hopefully, if the temperature does not exceed the 60’s, they will still be in bloom when the pinxter azaleas come into full flower.

P1120702This photo is an enlargement of each bloom cluster — they are small, but a fully blooming bush is noticeable.

As we had expected, the swamp buttercup were  beginning to bloom, the warmer temperatures inviting them to add golden dots near the forest floor.

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All living creatures must be opportunistic,  finding niches and opportunities to propagate.  This demure flowering plant is no different — wherever it can find soil, it will plant its roots.

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The blueberries are still in bloom, but this was a drizzly day and no insects were on the bushes.   Red maples have gone to seed.  Some red maple trees have both male and female flowers; others are only male and do not have seeds.  The male trees are putting out leaves, as are the sweet gums — tender leaves and bud clusters.  Last year’s seed pods — beautifully sculptured spikes of roundness,  still hang, most of its seeds already strewn into the waters below.

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And hornbeams, the earlier leafing trees, are leafing with pendulous bloom clusters adding an ethereal look against the sinewy tree trunks.

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Two weeks ago the resurrection ferns were still brown.  Today, getting ready for Easter, they, have,  as they are named, coming back to life.

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We shortened our paddle and didn’t go all the way to Nick’s Road camp site landing.  The optimistic one had to put on her waterproof jacket and, from her hatch, her waterproof pants, which lay on her legs, not worn — to keep her bare legs from freezing.   The temperature did not go up much than the 62 F when we started, and the drizzle became more persistent.

Blue skies or gray, there is always something new on Womack Creek.   Today, we found another stand of green fly orchid and will be monitoring that to note when the new plants put out bud stalks.

And even in this bleak landscape, we saw an eagle, a sparrow, a goldfinch, 2 hooded mergansers, and 2 cormorants floating downriver and enjoying a quiet, wet Sunday.  Even on a drizzly paddle, one can easily be restored by nature.

In two weeks, we expect more pinxter azaleas to be blooming and hopefully the beginnings of the swamp dogwoods, although this year, they seem very slow in leafing and no buds are detectable on the shrubs.   And except for one or two parsley haw trees, this tree too, with its light pink/white blossoms seem a bit slow in leafing and budding.  And the pumpkin ash will certain be blooming — the branches arching over the river should have purplish flowers.

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Valentine’s Day Paddle, Womack Creek and all its branches, blue sky, crisp day — what more could we ask for.

The day was glorious, though cool, wind from the north with some chop on the Ocklockonee, but once within Womack Creek, the water calmed.

P1120511We were looking forward to seeing more buds on Womack Creek.  But it is mid-February — it was a hope.

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At the first cove on RR, a single golden club plant with one bloom stalk and two others still nestled in its leaves.

P1120519We didn’t expect the pumpkin ash buds, still tight, but promising blooms in two weeks.

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And in the first mile upstream, in a secluded, but sunny spot pinxter azaleas were blooming.  The first of the season and an early bell weather.  The other pinxster buds are still tightly closed, waiting for more consistent spring weather.   This was a Valentine’s Day gift!

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Not to take these little blossoms for granted, they were already in bud when we last paddled Womack Creek.  Now throughout the whole creek and all of its branches, the Walter’s Viburnum blooms are opening up.   The earliest of spring flowers in the North Florida wetlands.

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And the hornbeam trees were full of blossoms.

P1120527Alders putting out their leaves.   As the regular rain cycle has resumed, these alders have taken over many areas previously taken by False Indigo and Azaleas.

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And sweetgum leaves will be bursting out soon.

And bald cypresses are now in flower.

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P1120562The Florida red maples are starting to develop seeds.   On Womack creek it seems many of the maples are either male or female trees, although maple trees can have both male and female flowers on a single tree.

And the deadly water hemlock starting with new growth.

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Insect cases, one case already emptied, the other still incubating.

We decided to explore all the branches of Womack creek.  About 2.5 miles from put-in on RL is a branch as wide as the main channel which flows past Nick’s Road Primitive Campsite.  We took this branch first — we had not been on it for a year. It narrowed after about 1 mile and ended as do all these branches into a tangle of mud, branches, trunks — an impenetrable and not navigable dead end.

Exploration in the branches of rivers in north Florida requires saw and clipper.   Downed trees  block further clear navigation, forcing a portage in muck, branches either overhanging or dead can be cut through, strainers (collections of branches in the water like a dam) can be loosened and opened up.  Some trees do not fall directly into the water and allow, depending on water level, for limbo paddling — one gets pretty good at what we call the “turtle scrunch” — receding into one’s cockpit with as much of one’s body and head close to the height of the deck to get under low trunks.   In slow moving waters this is easy; in fast moving waters failure to coordinate and place one’s kayak properly can result in a capsize.

With limbo logs, one has to note,  where the creek or river is tidally influenced, whether one is going upstream in high or low tide.  If one barely makes it under a log on an outgoing tide,  on return in an incoming tide plan B will need to be pursued.   We learned this on Trout Creek, a small tributary of the New River, which drains from the Dwarf Cypress swamp.  We were on one of our exploration trips which required, as usual, cutting through a path up river and found ourselves in an incoming tide on the way back.  The space was barely enough for the kayaks, sans paddlers.

P1120567This required cutting.

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And beyond that, more obstacles.

P1120570A lot of situations like this.

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Often ending like this, slough 1 or slough 2.

From put-in to Nick’s Road Primitive Camp Site which is a sunny spot with a picnic table, a fire ring and a grill, is 3.75 miles.  This is a good place to have lunch.

But upstream, there are two branches, each of which have increased in navigability in the last 3 years which were wetter than the previous 4-5 years.  We were able to get up to the furtherest point we have ever paddle on the branch on RL (about 1.2 miles) and got much further up the second branch on RR than we have ever been before.

These creek  branches were equally as challenging as the first branch, but we were amply rewarded:   an otter, a white tail deer, a pair of barred owls, a hawk in this section.   And we were 1.2 miles from hway 67, where Womack Creek crosses to the northwest before we had to stop. This is the closest we have ever been to hway 67 on the creek.

Here are the photos:

P1120584 One has to be willing to hope for the best.

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But it wouldn’t hurt to test the depth of the water occasionally.

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A sharp saw a necessity when one decided to explore small branches.

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There’s always that last barrier one is willing to cross.

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Nothing convinces more than a series of obstacles in close proximity that its time to turn around and go downriver to take-out.

Today’s paddle was 11 miles.  Our normal paddles on Womack Creek runs from 7.5-8.5 miles, upstream and downstream.

We put in at a temperature of 56 F and took out at 60 F.  The winds had picked up, the tide had turned, and we were ravenous.

The sky remained cloudless, the air crisp — in the protected waters of Womack Creek the 10-12 mph winds were not felt.  A bit of chop leaving Womack into the Ocklockonee, but it was a short paddle to the take-out.

What did you do on St. Valentine’s Day?

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