Thursday, February 14, 2013

St. Johns River - Day 2A

Opposed to the Great Blue Heron, this is the Little Blue Heron.
Within a couple hours, we had reached our first portage around a dam and the junction of several dikes that control water levels in the upper basin. There are ramps over the dikes that airboats can slide up and over, but for us it was a basic hump and carry. Some time was lost in trying to figure which channel ran out into the river, and which ones flowed to other dams and canals. We decided to have lunch while we were there, and in all spent 1 ¾ hours there.

This was our view of the headwater land cut as we turned out
of Blue Cypress Lake and headed north.
We soon started counting alligators. Gus knew someone who had done the river several years ago and had counted over 600 gators. The water levels were lower then, however, so most of the alligators had been forced from the drying marshes and into the channels in search of water and food. With the water higher now in the marshes, the alligator populations was spread much more evenly throughout the area. That left fewer for us to see, but by the end of the week, we had still counted 281 alligators.

This was our arrival at Great Egret Camp.
By late afternoon, we had completed 15.6 miles and arrived at Great Egret Camp. The camp is so small, we had to paddle back and forth along the shore awhile before Gus spotted it. It is nothing more than the narrow rim of a dike with two wooden platforms mounted on the top of the ridge. As we had been warned, hunters often squat all winter on camping sites in violation of the seven-day limit, and sure enough, a tent had been set on one of the two platforms and left. With our two small two-man tents, we were able to barely set both on the remaining platform. If we had had other paddlers with us, we would have been out of luck. This was the only dry land about, and the platform represented the only horizontal surface. Our timing couldn’t have been better. We had moved all of our gear, set up camp, prepared and finished dinner just as the mosquito swarm arrived. We dove into our tents at 7 pm and called it a day.

Both of our tents barely fit on the one available platform
perched on the spine of the dike.


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