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

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The Santa Fe–the Disappearing River

Monday Evening March 16, Tuesday March 17, 2015
O’Leno State Park
High Springs, Florida



MONDAY March 16

My previous post talked about the earlier part of this day.  Now for the later part.

David decides to take a shower after dinner. This normally takes a while so I go out for a walk before dark to hopefully shake off the blues. It does bring a big smile to my face to the see dogwood trees in bloom along campground road. Sure signs of spring that have been part of my most of my life.





I want to see the suspension bridge which was closed for repairs when we were here in 2013. I walk down to the swimming dock for a picture. The roped off area for swimming is above the river sink which you can see along the appropriately named River Trail. I’m not going there today. The swimming area keeps paddlers away from the river sink. You can put kayaks into the Santa Fe just above the swimming area and paddle against the river up stream.




Looking back up the river from the bridge to the swimming platform. Just beyond the far rope is where you can launch a canoe or kayak.


From the bridge, watching the river run toward the sink.




I cross the bridge and find a big pine to give me an uplift before hiking on down a short section of trail to a lovely area with giant trees that I remember from our former visit. The trail follows the river for a bit. The river is dark and beautiful. It is blissfully quiet here and the riffles are music to my ears.





The trail has moved away from the river and I am nearly to the spot with the large cypress when I hear a loud WSHHHHH. I stop immediately and look around. She’s watching me. I watch her.



She finally wanders off and I carry on down to one of my favorite spots.  I call it knee valley.  It’s full of cypress knees and large cypress trees.   It’s just off the river so when the river floods, this area fills in with water.  Today it is full of leaves.




Time to turn back. I walk along the black river to the bridge where I find David has come to join me.  Has he come to walk me home or see what I’m up to?  Probably both, but the walk is over. It’s almost dark.  








The Santa Fe River is the disappearing river.   In O’Leno State Park it disappears underground for 3 miles before reappearing.  This river “sink” is in the park along the River Trail. The “River Rise” is 3 miles away by car, 6 by hiking trail in the appropriately named River Rise State Park which has only hiking trails, a primitive equestrian camping area and equestrian trails.   We’ll do the River Walk and see it disappear tomorrow.  Today has been a very long day.





First thing this morning I hear the unmistakable call of a hawk.  It’s very close by.  Then I hear two and I’m not sure what’s going on.  It is spring.  But by the time I get my camera and step out on our patio they sitting peacefully next to each other just above my head and Winnona’s.




Aren’t they beautiful?  What a way to begin your day.



David spends most of the day working on arrangements for the velcade shots at the FCS office in Gainesville about 27 miles away.  It takes a number of phone calls to Dr. Wright’s office to get the script sent and calls to Gainesville to make sure they have it and can dispense it tomorrow.   David likes to have the shots in the morning but tomorrow is a groundbreaking for a new building so they aren’t taking any morning appointments.  They offer him 3:00 in the afternoon.

It’s mid afternoon before this is all worked out.  Now we can hike back down to the river and do the River Trail to the Santa Fe River Sink and over the land bridge above the river flowing down into the Florida aquifer.




And there it is.  The river just ends.  900 million gallons of water a day flow underground here at the Santa Fe River Sink.

From its headwaters at Santa Fe Lake the river flows 44 miles to this spot where it disappears.  It magically reappears 3 miles away and then flows another 35 miles to the Suwanee River.   We hope to do some kayaking on the Santa Fe while we are here.

Not sure what all the green is but I’m guessing it’s some sort of plant like duckweed.  The river is just flowing along and then boom the end is all green and very slowly, almost imperceptibly moving in a counter clockwise circle.   All that water flowing in and disappearing.



The turtles don’t seem to care.   The sun is dropping low in the sky casting a golden glow behind them.




We walk on and are now on the land bridge between the Sink and the Rise.  We look back and see the sink from beyond the river.  We are standing over where it is flowing now.   That’s it in the far distance with a couple of water filled sink holes nearer.




We walk over closer to see it from a different angle.



As we walk down into the flood plain, at our feet are hundreds of maple tree seeds.  They look gorgeous in the light.



More turtles are unbothered by all the muck.


I look over on the far shore to what looks like a log and turns out to be a slime covered gator basking in the waning sunlight.  Good camouflage.



One last look at the far side of the sink and we are on our way further along the land bridge.  The River Rise is too far away to hike to tonight.  Round trip it is about 14 miles.





On along the River Trail we come to a lake.  The sign nearby identifies it as Ogden Lake and tells us that narrow lakes are common in the park.  Each lake has a slight current and their levels tend to increase and decrease in conjunction with the river.  This indicates that the lakes are actually a part of the underground portion of the river into which the surface layers of the earth of collapsed.   Well now, that’s probably what those two “sink holes” beyond the River Sink were that we have just seen.



Only a little further along, we come to the first of what we come to call the Giant’s benches.  Who designed this thing?  I hop up on it just to show you how ridiculous it is when I hear a bird in the trees and David snaps my picture.   I feel like Edith Ann. 




I reciprocate as David gives a giant Live Oak a hug and grins from ear to ear standing by a huge Cypress tree surrounded by knees.  O’Leno is a wonderful place for a lover of big trees.




We’re nearly back to the suspension bridge, now on the other side of the river from where we started thanks to the land bridge, when we find this lovely “normal” bench and sit a while to just enjoy the solitude, the quiet and the beauty.




When we head on down the trail David spots this cute little guy hoping along across in front of us.  He’s about the size of a quarter.  Once he is under cover in the leaves he is hard to spot.  But isn’t he darling? 





We get to the suspension bridge but David wants to go on by and see the walk I took last night so I show him the amazing roots of this tree which are now, probably thanks to river flooding, above ground.




There are two spots along this little spur trail beyond the bridge that are my favorites.  And this one on the banks is one of them. 





The second of my favorites is the last place we walk to and by now it is getting dark.  Last night I saw the little deer here and she is back again and has a friend with her.  They must be very used to the people in the park and feel quite safe as she watches me and browses, although I can’t figure out on what. I don’t see any grass or anything much that’s green. This area is heavily wooded and the ground is covered with leaves.  She looks up every once in a while to see what I am doing but since I don’t move, she just goes back to her business.






Seeing the two deer is  a wonderful way to end our day.  Tomorrow will be focused around starting the velcade shots routine.  The trip to Gainesville will take nearly 4 hours in total if it is like every other time David has had to have shots.  But at least they aren’t infusions and after that he’ll be free until next week.




  1. Love the turtles the best. Hope everything goes well with the shots. Hang in.

  2. Great Hawk pics, there are two near here, yet I have no pic.

  3. Are people in Florida extra tall? The sinking of the river underground and its re-occurrence further on is very interesting.

  4. Love the photo of you on the bench! Those hawk photos are spectacular! Oh......tell Daid that he needs to let you cut his hair....he looks like Eienstein!

  5. The blue turtles are stunning, or is their color a trick of light or camera? Just gorgeous!

  6. Your walk into nature seems just the thing to clear the blues. Such an interesting landscape with trees, knees and a disappearing river. Hawks in the morning and deer and night make for a good day.

  7. Such a beautiful park -- we love it there. Walking those trails is healing balm for the spirit. Even better with the dogwood in bloom and your visit from the Red-shouldered Hawks!

  8. I've always loved the dogwood trees, especially the pink dogwood. PA is covered in them. Boy that water is black...beautiful and spooky! The cypress trees are so neat and you gotta love those knees:) That is a great bridge! I am so amazed to see water disappear and then reappear down the road. Nature sure is a wonder, isn't it! I look forward to your hiking to see the various rise and falls of the river. Good to see that the green stuff doesn't bother the turtles or alligators! Yes, the hawks are special:) Love those little deer. So nice of them to pose for you:)

  9. The medicine of Deer is gentleness, self-care, calm. Hawk is the Messenger, carrying information from somewhere else. Usually from some place we are unfamiliar with, or have ignored in the past. You likely know this, but I'm compelled to share it with you. The ecosystem of the underground river must be so unique, completely dark with a ceiling has to be eeeeery! Great pics of you and David with the trees :-) Bill would love that big bench. I love the exposed roots - looks like the tree could just walk away :-)))))))

  10. Wonderful post... nature does heal the soul!! Looks beautiful there, we are fogged in here at the beach; o ((

    Great park for you BIG tree lovers!

  11. I am seeing cypress knees here in TX, an interesting sight! Looks like you've landed in another beautiful spot for this round of treatment. Gotta love those turtles (and alligators!) covered in greenery!

  12. What a peaceful place for a stroll.

  13. Does David ever get jealous of all those tree you hug? Thank goodness he is an equal opportunity tree hugger... :cD

  14. I enjoyed the pictures here - seeing the signs of spring, the deer, the big trees, the turtles and you and Dad enjoying it - that looks so peaceful. The hawk picture was great - how neat to see them there together and...good eyes to spot that frog! Amazing that 900 million gallons of water can just disappear underground and come back up miles later! You'd never know it just looking at where the river disappears.

  15. Love the hawk photo! You got to see all kinds of wildlife- cute frog and I always love turtles! The dogwood remind me of my Mom. She and I had a joke: she loved dogwoods and I always said they had dirty little blossoms!@#!

  16. Yep, time for another haircut all right. Great to be here for the opening day of dogwood season (or at least very close to it). Love the gator in camouflage, and especially the two hawks sitting together. Now that is a rare sight in my experience. Favorite picture though is the giant bench with the tiny you on it!

  17. Hope the sights and sounds of spring do help to cheer up both you and David. I love Dogwoods and was noticing yesterday how many are in bloom now here in SC. Beautiful! My favorite picture is also the one of you on the Edith Ann bench. And that's the truth. :-)

  18. Great pictures of those hawks- glad you have some watching over you.

  19. Dogwoods are one of my favorite spring trees! Love that candid pic of you and David sitting on the bench. Great shots.

  20. Good to see you both still hugging those trees! I think spring forgot Florida however, we seem to be already in summer!

  21. Dogwoods are blooming, how lucky you get to see them! I read something recently about a fungus that is destroying them, can you imagine them all gone like the chestnuts? I know I'll treasure it when I see one again.


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