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

Henry David Thoreau

Celebrating Spring Equinox In and On the Ichetucknee

Friday March 20, 2015
O’Leno State Park
High Springs, Florida




Today is the Spring Equinox.  Day and Night are nearly equal length.  The Earth is in balance.  It’s a time to think about the balance in our lives in balance as well.   This festival, known as Ostara from which comes the word Easter, has been seen as a time of renewal by cultures around the world throughout history.  First day of spring, time to put away all that snow and welcome a new season of flowers.  A time for new beginnings, a time to plant seeds literally in the ground and figuratively in our lives.  We’re really hoping that these treatments begun just two days ago will mark a new beginning of better control of David’s disease. 

To celebrate that idea we choose to repeat our favorite thing from the last time we were here at O’Leno in 2013.  We’re going over to Ichetucknee State Park, about 13 miles from here, to paddle 3.5 miles up the Ichetucknee River to its springs and then float back down. 


We pack a lunch and are soon putting our kayaks in at the foot of what is, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the Ichetucknee River State Park tube run down the river.  There is a tram operating here then to ferry tubers back up to the head spring so this entrance is closed during that time.  But today it is wide open and we set out from the dock into the crystal clear waters of the Ichetucknee. Guess who loves to eat all that grass?



The turtles are out celebrating in the sunshine on this perfect day.   Lots of turtles.  Single turtles, double turtles, tons of turtles.





We have the wind at our back as we paddle against the steady but not overwhelming current.  The water is clear, it reflects everything.  The trees are big.  David can’t get close enough to hug them though.




The current is easy enough that I have time to take pictures of this beautiful river and still not be forced back down stream too badly.

With the river reflections, sometimes it’s hard to tell right side up from upside down.





It is one of the many spring break weeks this month so even though the official tube run and tram are not in operation there are still students here floating down.   There are other kayaks and canoes coming down as well.  The names on their sides show they have been rented from outfitters near the park.  We sort of expected this so we just paddle on by them as they laugh and shout having fun.  Soon they are behind us and all is quiet again.





Not everyone in the water is a spring breaker.  This Q-tip has no boat.  She is floating down river snorkeling as she goes.  I’m liking that idea.  The river is just carrying her along.   I could float down and walk back up.  Nice idea.




I think this turtle is celebrating the Equinox with the hokey pokey – he’s got his left foot out, soon he’ll shake it all about.  Wonder where the rest of his dancing crew is?




Over and over we see amazing cypress trees.  Sometimes it looks like there just isn’t enough room on the log for everyone who wants to climb aboard.







I notice these beautiful white flowers growing in the water along the bank.  I’ve never seen them before and unless it’s a Spider Lily, I can’t identify them.  Any of you Floridians or anyone else know? 






Of course the fishermen are are out along the banks and in the trees.






We come to a spot on the river that we remember from two years ago.  It was here that we saw the manatee. 


It’s just amazing.  They are here again.  Whoo Hoo!!





It appears there is a female and a younger manatee.  The younger one is much more interested in us than the adult.




At one point the bigger manatee goes right under my boat and luckily does not need to come up for air until she’s past me   The white/blue line is the side of the cockpit of my boat.  She’s huge.  Her head is on one side, her tail on the other as she passes beneath me.





The water is so clear that as long as I’m not facing the sun, I can see them perfectly.  It’s so exciting, so wonderful to just be in their presence and watch these gentle souls live their lives.  Can’t imagine a better highlight to this day.




Well I was going to paddle, guess not.




A belly roll right in front of me.  This little one is having such fun and so am I!!



The water is spectacularly clear.







We are surely here for at least 30 minutes just watching the manatee but the time does come to leave them and continue on toward the head springs.





The turtles are getting a bit carried away here.   Is this like the people in the VW or phone booth?  How many can we get on a log?




It’s a perfect day to be on the river.  





David is ahead of me and I see he is waiting.  When I approach he points to the manatee between us.  This is for sure our lucky day.  Twice!   I do think that 3 Sisters Spring is beautiful but I’ll take this experience with manatee over sharing them with the crowds any day.  She appears to be sleeping on the bottom in pretty shallow water although she moves around a bit just before she comes up for air.





When she does come up for air, I get a picture of her cute nose.  I love taking pictures of manatee noses, they are all different.  But I’ve never gotten a picture of the bubbles left when she submerges again.  Love the picture of those bubbles right above her. 





Just as we start off upstream again she seems to come up for a look.  What a sweet face.




The manatee are the biggest animals we see but not the only ones.  We pass a flock of coots chattering and dabbling.  Their white bills are unmistakable. y always make me smile. 





A cormorant and the stunning moorhen are nearby.  Food must be plentiful in this area. 





The Ichetucknee River flows into the Santa Fe which goes through O’Leno State Park.  The Santa Fe in turn flows into the Suwanee.  All 3 rivers have many springs which create their waters.  We’ve come to Devil’s Eye spring and decide to go in and have lunch.





On our way back out into the river I am able to get a shot of the deep spring though not of the bubbles coming up from it.   Note to self:  Next time start out earlier and bring snorkel gear.




The river is just so beautiful as we approach the dock for the head spring.  You cannot paddle into either of the two springs so we dock the boats at what is usually the tube put in but is “closed” today.   Since there is no one here to protest, we just go under and over the chain as our heights allow.








We bring the paddles with us since we have no way of securing them and walk over to the spring.  Ichetucknee has two springs.  The closest one and the one most people swim in is the “head spring”.  It is a first magnitude spring meaning it puts out more than 100 cubic feet of water per second.

The second spring is called the Blue Hole which is even more natural and less “people friendly”. It is a deep hole with no where to just stand around.  Get in and swim or just look at it.  It is also a first magnitude spring. Together the springs produce 130 million gallons of water a day.  WOW!  Blue Hole is my favorite of the two but we don’t have time to walk the distance today to swim in  it.  So no pictures.  Maybe we can make a return trip on another hot day for a swim. 

But for now this is a nice break from paddling up stream and a cool dip is just what I need.  There are quite a few people here but most of them are just standing knee deep.  I can’t imagine how many people there must be on a hot summer week-end.   I wonder if you could even see the spring for all the people.

I waste no time getting in the 72 degree water.  That’s me swimming on the right side.  The water feels fabulous.  David is not quite so anxious to jump right in so he takes some pictures before coming in.  Since he gets out when I do, there are no pictures of him in the water but I promise he was.






Too soon we need to head back to the kayaks since we aren’t exactly sure what time they lock the gate to the back entrance.  We “think” at sundown but it is now 4:30 and we want at least 2 hours to float back.  That’s the lazy part.  It’s what all the paddling up was about.

So bye bye for now Ichetucknee Head Spring.IMG_0339





Here is a demonstration of what not to do when getting into your kayak.   He’s so lucky he didn’t fall in.  But he didn’t!




We float back down the river at its pace.  The beauty and quiet of this natural area is unmatchable.   We see not another person the entire way back.  We have the river all to ourselves.  I’m so happy I could sing.









On our float back we pass cute little pied billed grebes.  A great egret is fishing just before the spot where we spent time with the manatee earlier.  It is late afternoon now and they are gone but I do get a clear picture of the river grasses that attract them to this place.








The second super duper find of the day is my very favorite duck, the wood duck.  Today is a bonanza since he is swimming with his lady fair.  Just look at those colors and markings.  No wonder she’s hanging out with him.





The paddle back down is so lazy and wonderful.  We only hear natural sounds.  It is simply magical.  So much so that I don’t take many pictures after this last one that looks to me like a turtle on an alligator’s back. 









David paddles back up toward me and takes the camera so there will be some proof that I was actually on this trip.  <grin>  The pictures are mostly of my back but that’s what he was seeing.  The sun is dropping low in the sky and unfortunately is often in our eyes.   But he manages to get some nice pictures in spite of it.








We make it back by 6:30 after a simply fantastic day on the water.  The Ichetucknee does not disappoint.  What a wonderful Spring celebration!   I hope you all had an equally wonderful time welcoming spring on our glorious planet Earth in this ever Amazing and expanding Universe.









  1. Seeing manatees is a great treat- they're such gracefully gentle creatures.

  2. Amazing Paddle...wonderful way to spend the new beginning!!! So many wonderful sights and the manatees were really special:o)) The beautiful white flower is a Spider Lily...I didn't know that, I looked it up;o)) We really need to add this paddle to our TODOS list!!! In the mean time, thanks for taking us on such a wonderful adventure!!!

  3. When I read your posts, I find myself talking with you as if we are sitting in the same room, sharing all that you have seen and done. Then I get to the comment section and my thoughts have taken flight.....again. Loved the Manatte pics, and I so would love to see them one day...this setting looks perfect to spend some time with them. While I know that all the moments are not perfect, you two have a wonderful ability to squeeze out wonderful moments into a science. I luv it !!

  4. The manatee water looks like a swimming pool. What a glorious trip!


  5. What a glorious day! I'm sure it did your souls good to celebrate spring & life.

  6. I loved those turtle conga lines! And I can see why the wood duck is a favorite of yours, its colors are beautiful. Nature sure is grand! :c)

  7. What a lovely day. It's even relaxing to just read about it. I'm so happy that y'all had so much fun. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Glorious!! I think seeing the manatees was a sign that things are going to look up. What gorgeous pictures by both you and Dad. The water was so clear. I loved the line of turtles - was that really an alligator? ;) That wood duck is definitely pretty indeed. So nice to be able to swim in the spring - it is wonderful to read blogs in which you are so happy you could sing! :) Wonderful day to celebrate the start of a new season! xxoo

  9. Happy Spring to you too! What an awesome paddle. I'll have to see how far it is from home base. The turtles are way too funny :-).

  10. Now that looks like a day for the memory book! And you know I just love all those turtles piling up on everything and each other! I cannot believe how enormous the bottoms of those trees are...I just love how they spread out. The water was absolutely perfect for your manatee shots...really spectacular!

  11. I think 72* water would seems pretty cold to me. Glad you enjoyed it though. Wonderful paddle. Sure wish I could do that. I agree with the spider lily ID, but I'm no expert on flowers.

  12. Great paddle! You did so much better than us! The turtles looked the same but...
    We loved this river and paddle. The only thing that would have made it better was to do it without Spring Break :)

  13. How do all those turtles stay on a log. I'd say you greeted spring in a wonderful watery way. Those manatee so close, my loud heart-beat would probably have scared them away. Huge! The reflections of those dense forests create a magical environment.

  14. Thanks for the wonderful photos!!

  15. My eyes were filled by the time the wood ducks appeared - what a wonderfully magical Ostara! The reflection shots before the tubers are incredible, like another world. I'll take manatees over bunnies and chicks any day :-) That second one looked ginormous between your two kayaks. So glad you got to swim on the equinox, it is so healing for the soul, and something we should all do every year :-) Oh how I love this day!!!!

  16. Spring Equinox or not, you had a very special day with the manatees!

  17. I also like your paddle pictures. --Dave

  18. Yay, spring! Nice turtle shots :)

  19. I felt as though I was on the journey too. Thanks for the great description and the photos. Loved seeing the manatees. It took my mind off the 9 inches of snow we got yesterday here in MN!

  20. What a wonderful day of paddling! Slightly envious here.

  21. Nothing like a day out on the water to celebrate the arrival of spring.

    I think you would love snorkeling there. There are always a lot of fish that you can't see from a kayak. I hope you get a chance before you leave.

    We still love Three Sisters the best, but prefer it when no one else is there.

  22. Great pictures. Makes us want to get back to Florida - it has been several years.


  23. This was most definitely a day the two of you needed and so deserved:) What an absolutely perfect day! The water is just gorgeous but nothing will beat that time with the manatee. I'm glad the water was so clear and we can enjoy what you saw:) These are such neat creatures. Your photos are amazing. I can just imagine your excitement:) A swim along the way...very nice! It is amazing how many turtles there are and all fighting for the same log, at times. I do enjoy seeing the wood duck. They seem fake with such perfect markings. Thanks for sharing you glorious day:)

  24. This old Floridian so appreciates all the wonderful photos you have taken......you are so good at finding that which so represents this state's natural beauty. So many wonderful parks and places to camp while enjoying nature at its best. Maybe one of these days......until then, thanks for sharing.

  25. So very, very glad I went back and read this post!!! so very many turtles!!! and the manatees!!! how very special!!! great day, not at all like the rainy day!!! where you both got soaked. Remember those Florida storms and drenching rain!!!! But you did have a perfect day and float!!!
    We had a foot of snow on the mountains!!! Mt Bachelor and the passes, none down here thank heavens, but it has been COLD!!!! and they expect 70 degree weather by the week end.. Spring in Central Oregon!

  26. What an absolutely perfect celebration of spring on my very favorite river! The Ichetucknee is always magical, and you captured it beautifully. You're right -- the white flower is a Florida spider lily -- did you notice how fragrant they are? Lucky you to have so much time with the manatee -- your photos are wonderful. So happy that you had such a glorious day!

  27. What a great way to celebrate spring. What a wonderful day on the river, thanks for taking us along. Haven't had the canoe out since we got here, hope we can find some spots to float on before we get back to VT.

  28. Oh how lucky to be there on a day when there were so few people. If you were here in heavy traffic, you would miss all this natural beauty. Good timing Sherry!

  29. Im jealous, you had a fantastic time to just enjoy nature on a clear warm day and seeing all those beautiful creatures. All photos are just wonderful and it depicts vividly the clear water and the smiles etched on your faces!

  30. Wow! If I were planning out an absolutely perfect Equinox celebration for you, I couldn't come up with a better excursion than this! Magical manatees, wonderful wood ducks...


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