Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

First biking it, now kayaking it

Friday March 14, 2014
Rainbow Springs State Park
Dunnellon, Florida



I must go on record as I congratulate my home town men’s college basketball team
for their awesome double win in the ACC Basketball Conference. 
They are not only the winners of the Conference Season Title but today they beat the Duke Blue Devils 72-63 to also win the ACC Tournament Championship. 
We are completely bummed out that due to our location out in the boonies, we were unable to see any of this. 
But we’re excited for y’all just the same. 
Orange and Blue  Wahoowah!!
See you in the NCAA Tournament!







OK back to calmer fare at least for a while 

We arranged earlier in the week with Rainbow River Outfitters to ferry us up stream 9 miles on the Withlacoochee River so we could ride the river down.  Today is the day!







We are set to be there at 9:30 to go out at 10:00. When it is only 41 degrees at 9:00, we think better of it and call them  to push back an hour. No problem.  Thus it is that we actually get on the river shortly before noon. 10:30 at their place, leave for the river at 11, arrive at 11:30.


The put in is at a very small little county park on a lovely channel that leads to the river.


The river banks look a little like fall in their early spring colors.  The leaves are green and some are so light they look yellow.  The maple fruits are red and the trees look a bit rusty.  But the colors are just lovely.





Even though there are houses along the river.  Today, all is quiet and we paddle and float along in delicious solitude.

We float by a riverside pub or restaurant called Shipwreck with tables out back, boat slips for patrons and Dino gas. Haven’t seen that in years. Nobody is partying yet in the early afternoon of this Friday. My pictures suffer from my having been almost past it by the time I got set up. I not only need Nancy Mills’ camera, I also need her handless paddling technique learned from the famous Linda Payne.








The birds seem exceptionally wary and fly off as soon as they see us and when we are so far away yet that it is difficult to get pictures at such a zoom.








A beautiful river we float leisurely along.









And then I see one of those side trails.  It starts out wide enough.  But soon…….









It narrows down to just the size I find intriguing.













Getting pretty shallow at this point.  I’m having to pull myself through on the cypress knees.  What fun!!



But then I come to a pile of debris just within viewing beyond this point and know that it is probably more trouble than I want to continue.




But now what.  This is way too narrow for turning around.  So I’m thinking that I’ll just get out and walk back and push the kayak along.  HA!   It isn’t that far.   It isn’t that deep.



But David has other plans.  He picks his up and turns it around.  Luckily he is only 12.5 feet long and has no heavy rudder.  Still I find that pretty slick.




He then helps me turn mine around – no one available to take that picture – and we head back out with him in the lead this time.




Brings a smile to my face remembering what fun that was.





Ok back out on the river, we are both drying off our shoes as the river pushes us along at a leisurely pace.




Even the turtles on the Withlacoochee are skittish but we do manage to get a few pictures of their interesting perches.  How do they do this?





















We spot the rare teal blue painted turtle as well. Nice balancing act he’s got going.




We have just had a lovely day so far on the river and figure we are nearly half way when we hear what sounds to me like a jet engine about to take off about 10 feet from us.   I don’t see anything but the noise gets loud and louder and then here they come.   It’s an airboat tour out of Dunnellon.   They are considerate enough to slow down so their huge blasts of water and wake don’t tip us over but the noise is clearly above the legal limit since everyone on the boat is wearing ear plugs.

How to scare the day lights out of me, the turtles, the birds, everything.




We can still hear the noise as we pass the halfway point of our paddle which is a sign marking DANGER ROCKS.  This sign is not for us or even for the airboat but for propeller boats who might sustain damage.







Finally the airboat noise dies off and things go back to “normal”.




We spot what looks like a cypress swamp and paddle in for a look.














We’re not sure where the picturesque bridge goes but there is nothing in the water beyond it.




At points, the water is too low and requires some effort to get back out.






We look down every twist and turn but find they don’t go anywhere.  It’s just a wonderful cypress grove to “be” in.









Back out on the river we pass the Dunnellon city limits sign in the middle of the river.  What a hoot!!














We hear it again and barely have time to get over to the bank under some cypress before the airboat’s deafening roar and ridiculous speed fly by again.  I’ve really never heard anything sound so loud and ominous.







None of this is about the beauty of the river or its creatures.  It’s all about the thrill of noise and speed.  But it sure ruins the atmosphere for everyone any where around them.  I can’t even imagine living on this river with these things going up and down all day long on any nice day.





It takes a while for the river to return to its normal  placid languid state and for the the animals to return.










The last landmark on our paddle is the soon to be opened bicycle bridge over the Withlacoochee River.  We are less than a mile from our take out at this point.  The bridge will be a continuation of the Withlacoochee State Bike Trail.  The owner of Rainbow Springs Outfitters who brought us to the put in told us all about the 15 year effort he and other members of the Dunnellon city council put in to get the funds to put the trail through to Dunnellon.  It was finally the Recovery Act which brought the money to the city and the jobs to its people and the bike path to all of us.  Well done.  I find that an excellent use of my tax dollars.  We can hardly wait to try it out but it will have to be next time since we will be gone when it opens next month.










We’re rounding for the home stretch when I see these basking turtles and then AGAIN here comes the noise that actually is so loud it shakes the kayaks.












It’s a sad picture to end on but as I told the person who was there to greet us at the Rainbow River Outfitters dock when he asked how was your day,   “the river was beautiful and the paddle was wonderful for nearly half the way down (4.5) miles but the constant return of the air boats both coming and going for a total of six runs had a very negative effect on the second half of the paddle and was enough to persuade me that I will never kayak the beautiful Withlacoochee from Dunnellon again and will be sure to check with any outfitters on the river further up about airboats before I book a shuttle.”  

The owner of Rainbow River Outfitters told us on the earlier drive that he really feels towns need to get in on the windfall that occurs when they attract the folks who engage in “the silent sports” – hiking, biking, kayaking.  I totally agree.   But in my opinion, that’s never going to happen at least on or near the river in this town if the air boats are allowed to continue this thrill seeking adventure stuff here.   Not sure where I think they should go to exercise their personal freedom.  But their freedom is sure impinging on mine and others like me. Additionally, it seems almost an insult to the beautiful river in my opinion.

Still, it was a lovely paddle, mostly, and I’m glad I did it.  But I probably would not have had I known about the air boats for 4.5+ miles.  Thank goodness we didn’t do a shorter paddle or they would have been around the entire way.   I definitely wouldn’t do it again.



  1. Glad you did it so I don't have to. There are so many different kinds of people in the world, and a lot of folks really seem to need the noise and speed, they thrive on it, seek it out. Much like the 4 wheelers out in the desert, they each need their place to be. I am just incredibly happy that there are places I can go where they can't, both with my feet in the desert and with my kayak in some of the rivers and lakes. I am sure that they are equally happy that most of the time I am not in their space as well. As in the desert, where I avoid the 4 wheeler country and leave them to themselves to have fun, I would do the same on the rivers and try to avoid the airboats. That said, I worked on a 4 wheeler for years in soil survey, I also rode an airboat through the refuge and marsh with the wildlife folks to access areas that we needed to access for scientific purposes. I know ranchers who would have a terrible time trying to manage their property without the use of 4 wheelers and refuge managers who need their airboats. I just hope that there will always be places where we can both be left in peace with our own idea of fun and beauty.

  2. Glad you got to paddle the pretty river, but sorry about the noise issue. Yep, it takes all kinds. Thanks for letting us know about this issue... but more importantly, thanks for sharing the beauty of a part of the river we probably will never see!! Excited about the bike bridge...read that they were extending the Withlacoochee Bike Trail to Dunnellon:o))

  3. I have to laugh at your exploration of all those dead end trails. Those are exactly the types of paddles that I try to avoid. :) Be careful on those narrow trails. I was ready to use my hand on a branch to push off once and fortunately I noticed a rattle snake on that branch. There are lots of water moccasins in those waters too, so be watchful.

    I HATE they are allowing airboats. What about the manatees? I have never seen an airboat on any rivers I've kayaked on and I hope I never do. It might be good to add a comment on Facebook or the website of the kayak store. Maybe some bad publicity will help.

  4. Too bad about the air boats. They sure are loud. Definitely tough to put kayaking and air boating in the same water. Glad you did get some quiet and good wildlife sightings. I like the turtle on the arch tree branch. And that teal turtle is beautiful.

  5. I had the same concern as Karen about the narrow trails. We have seen lots of water moccasins and copperheads in the rivers near there.

    What a surprise to see the airboats! I will be asking a lot of questions to avoid the airboats when we spend time in that area next month.

  6. Some of my fondest memories are of being out in the marsh here at Anahuac in an airboat. Of course we weren't out on a joyride, but accomplishing work for the refuge. It gave me a much better understanding and deep respect for the vastness and importance of marshlands. Airboats have their place, but as Sue said, it is good that there are still places where they are not needed.

  7. Too bad about the airboats but I loved your photos of the cypress trees and turtles.

  8. Towns in the west have the same problem with ATVs and snow mobiles. Then of course there are the jet skis. I don’t know how anyone would want to disturb the beauty of nature, but you’re seeing it first hand.

    As far as wildlife pictures, you’re doing great. I saw a white egret (so stately), yesterday, snapped the picture and he wasn’t in it. LOL

    Great blog, as always, Sherry.

  9. They should not allow those airboats. I know, I know - personal freedom, but, that noise just seems ridiculous (and unnecessary...) to me - Get a recording in those ear covers and blast it as loud as you want so you ruin your hearing, but, no one else (human or animal) has to listen to your noise pollution. Those turtles really find interesting ways to 'sun' and 'sleep' - neat teal back that one has! The cypress wonderland is quite pretty - half the fun is the exploring and sometimes getting yourself in a spot where you have to negotiate your way out :) GO HOOS! HEY, HEY U.V.A. :)

    1. Oh dear, I thought everyone would know the teal turtle was a plant by someone. It was nothing but a painted shell. Not sure who did it or why but I sure hope no real turtles were harmed in the doing of it. I wasn't sure whether to post it or not.

    2. LOL. My mistake...I thought there was something off about that ;) I, too, hope no harm was done - I doubt it - probably a shell found and painted. xox

  10. Thanks for the warning about airboats on this river. Julie and I had this on our list of places to paddle, but will now probably pass on it.

    We had the same issue with airboats when we kayaked near Shell Mound park in Cedar Key a few weeks ago. I could not believe how loud the we're and for how long we continued to hear them after they passed.

    1. I didn't mean to scare people off of a paddle of the lovely Withlacoochee River but just to say that if you do it out of Dunnellon you may well encounter airboats. You can put in further north on the river and probably not have that problem.

  11. Such a shame about the airboats. Those riders probably don't have a clue to the magic in those swamps.

  12. BUT you got some really great 'turtle' shots!!! How in the world do they get up on those perches anyway? That would b interesting to watch, huh???

  13. I've never been around airboats, but always thought jet skis, ATV's, snowmobiles and even motor boats just generate noise pollution. In Sacramento it's the helicopters that drive me nuts, and even airplanes that cross my space occasionally. None of these will't be going away though.

  14. Stupid airboats!@#@! How would you see anything? All of the wildlife would be scared away. I feel the same way about jet skis. We were kayaking on the Alligator River Nature Preserve and had some zoom by us. We were totally surprised. Here's this lovely quiet river.......... Love the turtles! What's with the turquoise one?

  15. Maybe they should have days just for non-motorized boats & kayaks? I've always wondered how the turtles can balance like they do, or even get up on some of the places they rest on!

    1. I'm always learning new things about you from your posts: Nature lover extraordinaire, biker, jogger, tree hugger, JMC addict and now...

      Rabid college basketball fan!!! :cD

      Go Cavs!

  16. Love your shout out to the 'Hoos. Wahoowa!

  17. Oh darn, we had the Withlacoochee River on our "to kayak" list -- but I've completely lost interest after reading of your experience. Thanks for sharing the good and the not-so-good with us! I don't understand the need for fast and loud -- what's the point of being out in nature if you're going to scare away all of the critters??

  18. I wondered if you were watching the basketball this year. Go Virginia! But you have to remember to cheer on your adopted states team- go Gators! Seeded number ONE! I'll cheer for both. Unfortunately I get a little loud so you might hear me!

  19. Go Wahoos!!
    What I don't understand is why airboats are allowed to be so loud that they sound like thunder and literally vibrate the hull of kayaks from a quarter mile away. Is there not a public safety issue when everyone in the boat is wearing hearing protection while they blast around damaging the hearing of anything with ears they pass? Am I supposed to carry hearing protectors for my own safety?


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