We decided to do an exploratory paddle this week on Sweetwater Creek. The creek was a tributary to the Ocklawaha River, but now, unfortunately, a tributary to Rodman Reservoir. The Creek forms in the swampland north of the Ocklawaha and has a navigable distance of 3 miles depending on the water lettuce, which forms large clogs throughout the creek. This day’s paddle was to see just how far we could go.
Sweetwater Creek Details:
Launch Point for this Paddle: A small bridge on HWY 310. Launch area is on the SE corner of the bridge.
Paddle Distance: Potentially 3 miles…this day, due to water lettuce clogs, 1 mile ( one way )
Difficulty: Easy…unless you want to maneuver the water lettuce clogs.
Average Paddle Speed: 1.8 mph
Width and Depth: The width averaged between 25′ and 70′. The depth was at least 6′
Current – Tidal: NA, except during Rodman Dam draw down.
Side Paddles: A quarter mile up from the launch is a fork, very unnoticeable. Deep Creek enters Sweetwater Creek here, however, Deep Creek was totally clogged with aquatic vegetation.
Rest Areas: There are no restrooms or rest stops.
Important Information: Be prepared for numerous water lettuce clogs after the 3/4 mile mark.
The Paddle Route…
The launch is rural. Just a narrow path of gravel and grass on the southeast corner of the Highway 310 bridge. It is a tricky feat paddling under the bridge as the water level is just about 2′ below the bridge…time to get prone!
Sweetwater Creek was a beautiful paddle into swampland bordered to the north by Pines, Oaks, Gums and Ash. 1/4 mile into the paddle is the fork where the smaller Deep Creek enters Sweetwater from the northwest. Because Deep Creek was completely clogged it was hard to see however there is a tall, dead tree that adequately marks this intersection.
For the most part it was about 50′ wide with Cypress trees, Willow and Swamp Dogwood as the predominant foliage. Lake Sedge and Smart Weed lined the paddle trail accented by Water Lettuce, Hydrilla, Dollarweed, Pickerel Weed and Cattails. It was sad to see so many ‘drowning’ trees and shrubs in this area due to the reservoir!
We only had to maneuver through two clogs of Water Lettuce, less than 10′ thick until we reached the 1 mile mark, where the Water Lettuce completely clogged the creek for as far as we could see. Disappointed, but prepared for anything, we turned back and made an attempt to paddle up Deep Creek however it was totally blocked with aquatic vegetation.
As we were prepared for anything, it was nice to paddle a beautiful swamp for at least a mile and we are told to try again after the Rodman Drawdown in January 2020, which kills much of the Water Lettuce we encountered.