Juniper Run Kayaking

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Or is it Juniper Creek?  or Juniper Springs?  In any case, our second stop on a 3 day Florida kayaking trip was at this 7 mile stretch of clear spring fed water, located in the Juniper Springs Recreation Area within Ocala National Forest.  The price of admission is $5 per person, and canoes and kayaks are available for rent ($35 for either).  For those like us who brought their own kayaks, a shuttle service is available for $10 per.   It’s your option whether you would like to drive your vehicle to the end point, then ride the shuttle back to the start, or avoid the delays and hit the creek, then wait for the shuttle, which departs the end point at the top of each hour.  We opted for the former.

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The walk from the parking lot to the start is not short (100 yards?), but free carts are available and an elevated walkway is provided.  There is a park officer at the start, and she dutifully checked to make sure that we hadn’t packed any disposable food/beverage packaging, which I gather is standard for Florida parks.  And, finally, we’re off.

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Slowly.  It is truly a creek at the start, with a shallow and narrow beginning over a sandy bottom.  I’m not certain whether kayaks or canoes fare better during the first 50’ or so, but it’s worth it once you’re past bottoming on the sand. 

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Beyond, the creek/spring/run is like passing through a Tarzan movie, less the noises of monkeys and without the requisite man-ape yell.  It’s also a very technical path – it’s not difficult necessarily, but it twists and winds regularly, and several fallen trees require an in-boat limbo to pass.  In other words, it was the “natural wilderness” experience that I desired… with some allowances for the good people who keep the path mostly clear, of course.  If someone reports an obstruction, they reportedly close the run until it’s corrected.  This isn’t a place to get left hung up or stranded – there are no rest areas or public access areas until the end.  On the other hand, it’s very shallow throughout, and other than one very brief minor rapids section (just go with the flow), there’s really nothing other than bad steering to hold you up. 

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For those who enjoy taking pictures, it’s more difficult juggling a camera and the paddle, because taking more than a picture risks the current sweeping you into an embankment.  And who knows what is on an embankment.

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The trip was comparatively absent of wildlife compared with our other two trips.  Other than several gators, fish were frequently seen in the latter stages, and, of course, turtles, and we saw a river otter briefly.  But birds were surprisingly rare.  Also, there were no mosquitos in March.  We learned that the creek/river runs into a lake a couple of miles past the pullout, and birds are more common.  We went a short distance and found a bunch of partiers with airboats in a cove, decided that one form of wild life had driven away the other, and returned to the boat exit.  Overall, a highly recommended trip and great fun!

Photos can be seen HERE, and the video I pieced together is beyond the narrow turns and was a test of a different sort – wielding a paddle with one hand while recording with a camera in the other.

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