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A Paddle On The Wacissa

Dec 28, 2013
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Havana, FL
The Wacissa is a spring fed, pristine river flowing through Jefferson County in the Big Bend region of North Florida. Eight of us gathered at the put-in, located near the headwaters, this past Sunday morning (1/12/2014). A cold front with a lot of rain and wind had just passed through the previous day. The day was clear, not a cloud in the sky, and the weatherman was calling for a high temperature in the low to mid sixties. Ideal weather to get a paddle wet. We ran a vehicle shuttle down to Goose Pasture, our planned take-out. Goose Pasture is about 10.8 miles down river from the put-in. Driving time down and back is about an hour and a half.

The eight of us, all members of the Apalachee Canoe and Kayak Club, got on the river at 10:30AM. We were paddling six kayaks and two solo canoes. The Wacissa is a clear running river, fairly shallow and wide, with grasses growing on the bottom. Cypress and other trees, draped with Spanish Moss, line the banks. Mats of grasses and rushes form a mosaic along the waterway. Bird life is abundant and fish can be seen jumping all along the river. The turtles were out in force. Turtles of all sizes could be seen lying on logs along the banks, all with their hind legs characteristically thrust outward, as they welcomed the warmth of the January sun. Ducks, Ibis, Cormorants, Herons and many more water birds populated the route. At one point, an Osprey dove into the water, just behind our two lead boats, and emerged grasping a fish in it's talons. Kingfishers darted through the air and we saw a pair of hawks patrolling the sky overhead. We did come upon two alligators. I am sure that there were probably more, but we saw only two. Gators tend to hole up during the winter months and we usually don't see too many. One of our paddlers stated that she had seen one small alligator on the east side of the river. A little further down river we came upon a four to five foot gator lying in the marsh grass on the west bank of the river. The gator didn't even move as we all paddled by.

About five miles down river from the put-in is a low weir, the remnant of a long ago railroad crossing. The drop is about one to two feet, depending upon water levels. The water was high and we paddled over with about a one foot drop. We stopped for a lunch break shortly after crossing the weir. While we sat on the bank enjoying our snacks, an air-boat came by. Air-boats can often be seen on the Wacissa and paddlers need to watch/listen for them. These boats move fast and can be upon a paddler very quickly. Thankfully, we saw only one air-boat and he was not going all that fast at the time that he came past us. We pushed off from our lunch break and continued down river. The Wacissa widened as we paddled south. Multiple routes lead through the grasses and around numerous small islands. No two trips are ever the same and that is one of the highlights of paddling this river. We rounded one of those small islands and before us was the take-out at Goose Pasture. Total time on the river was right at four hours and that included stopping for lunch. We could not have asked for better weather, or a prettier river, to have spent some time with paddling friends.