Juniper Springs has been on my radar for some time. While not a state park, it has a swimming area and canoe/kayak run that are very popular to visit. I've seen countless pictures on the internet of the shaded, shallow run and have been wanting to attempt it in the kayak. There is some degree of difficulty, though, due to the sharp turns, shallow deadfall, and low-lying trees over the run. After much consideration, we decided to give it a go last Sunday. And let me tell you, if visiting De Leon Springs on Saturday was the lesson, then kayaking the Juniper Springs run was the test!
Our day didn't start out in the greatest way, however, when we found Xandra's car dead on the side of the road. Apparently her alternator went out...while she was driving!...and we drove up to find Chris giving her a jump. Xandra managed to limp her car to a nearby gas station and, God Bless AAA, we waited for a tow truck.
After they pulled away, our remaining group, consisting of myself, Rob, Olivia, Chris, and Randy, headed down Highway 40 to the park. We dropped the kayaks off at the boardwalk leading to the run, and then Chris and Rob drove down to the take out point to leave one of the vehicles. Randy waited with the kayaks while Olivia and I wandered around the swimming area and nearby nature trail.
That last picture is a view of the canoe/kayak launch from the other side of the run. We went back that way, met up with the guys, and managed to launch right ahead of a large tour group. The run started out shallow, clear, and shaded. We immediately realized that it was going to be easiest for Rob to do most of the paddling due to the trees and turns in the run, so I relaxed and got into photographer mode. A few highlights:
And this is how most of the day went. I can't describe how much I loved this run. Granted, Rob did almost all of the work (Thank you, babe!!! I appreciate you!!!) and I got to sit back and take pictures, but still. It. Was. Amazing. In fact, I have since started thinking about Juniper as my ideal Florida waterway. Until we can go back, I have my pictures to remember it by. Here are a few more:
Wildlife sightings were mostly the usual. Lots of turtles....lots and lots of turtles on logs. These were mostly all cooters (yes, that's really what they're called), although I did see a large alligator snapping turtle swimming next to us. Unfortunately I couldn't get the camera in the water in time, and I do value my fingers, so I don't have a picture of it. Speaking of alligators, I saw one of those as well. I'm glad I saw it moving away from us, though, since it was pretty decently sized less than ten feet away from us. It was well camouflaged in the plants at the water's edge, and we didn't stay there long enough to get a picture. We did get these, though:
After some time, we heard something. It was the distinctive sound of rushing water. Rounding a curve in the run, we discovered the cause of the sound: a small rapid. I managed to snap a couple of quick pictures before grabbing my paddle and having some quick rapid fun:
After the rapid, the river opened up quite a bit. It's an area Chris refers to as The Flats, and I understand why. We paddled through and continued to take in the sights while listening to thunder bear down on us.
Soon after this, we rounded another curve and came to the take out spot. Our journey down the run was amazing, and I'm so glad we did it. I had been doubting my ability to stay sane and comfortable, but I managed. And you know what? I can't wait to go back. The one trip I had been dreading the most turned out to be the the most gratifying. As it turns out, our fears aren't always what they're cracked up to be. Imagine that.