The Ocklawaha River – Ray Wayside to Gore’s Landing 2020

Paddling the Ocklawaha River
Paddling the Ocklawaha River

It’s been two years since I last paddled this section of the Ocklawaha, and this week, the weather was perfect, the flow was great, and we enjoyed an updated, late-summer paddle on this incredible river!…James

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Brief Overview:

The Ocklawaha River is the principal tributary of the St. Johns River. Its main source is Lake Griffin, part of the Harris chain of lakes in Lake County, Florida. The Ocklawaha River watershed includes parts of the Green Swamp, most of Lake County, and portions of Marion, Alachua, and Putnam counties. The key tributary to the Ocklawaha is the Silver River, which originates in Silver Springs, Fl.

Metamora Steamboat - Ocklawaha River
Metamora Steamboat – Ocklawaha River

During the 1800’s and early 1900s, steamboats populated the winding river, bringing folks from Palatka to Silver Springs. These boats were small and narrow in order to navigate the many twisting turns. The Hart Line was the most popular, as was Lucas Line as well. With the arrival of the railroad to Ocala, Florida the steamboat popularity declined. On many of today’s maps, several of the landings where the steamboats picked up passengers are still listed.

Marjorie Harris Carr, past president of Florida Defenders of the Environment played a key role in fighting against the continuing of The Florida Barge Canal through the Ocklawaha River.

 

 

An Ocklawaha Morning
Morning on the Ocklawaha River during the 2019-2020 drawdown

In January of 1971, a federal judge issued an injunction that stopped the construction of the canal. This was immediately followed by President Richard Nixon officially halting construction due to the environmental damage it would cause. Today the Rodman Dam, now the Kirkpatrick Dam, is a reminder of the fight that continues to this day to have the dam removed. The fight to save the Ocklawaha River has inspired many artists, poets, and musicians over the years to include Will McLean, Gamble Rogers, Don Grooms, and Whitey Markle.

The 74 mile Ocklawaha River is a must paddle for those interested in ‘Old Florida’. Its history is rich as are the wildlife and surrounding forests.

 



River Details – Ray Wayside Park to Gore’s Landing:

icon-location-smLocation: This section of the Ocklawaha River is located between Highway 40 East of Silver Springs and NE 98th St, about 5 miles south for Fort McCoy.

icon-launches-smLaunch point: The launch is located at Ray Wayside Park 9564 NE 28th Lane Silver Springs, FL 34488 NE 28th Ln, Silver Springs, FL 34488. See above map. There is a $5.00 fee per vehicle.

Take-Out point: The take-out is located at Gore’s Landing 13750 NE 98th St, Fort McCoy, FL 32134. There is a $5.00 fee per vehicle.

Rentals are available at Ocklawaha Canoe Outpost Resort, 15260 NE 152nd Place, Fort McCoy, FL 32134. 352-236-4606 or 866-236-4606. Email: ocklawahacanoeoutpost@gmail.com

icon-distance-smPaddle Distance: This twisting and winding section of the Ocklawaha is 10.5 miles long

 

icon-difficulty-level-smDifficulty: Easy. There are occasional logs that need to be paddled over but on this trip, it was well cleared.

 

icon-time-duration-smAverage Paddle Time & Paddle Speed: This paddle can take as much as 4-5 hours to complete. We had a nice current and made a couple of stops…we were off the water in 4 hours. Our average paddle speed was 2.4 mph.

icon-width-depth-smWidth and Depth: The river is quite winding in this section with an average width of 45′ – 115′. Water levels can range from a couple of feet to over 5′.

icon-current-tidal-smCurrent – Tidal: The Ocklawaha has a nice steady flow probably in the 3 mph range.

 

icon-side-paddle-smSide Paddles: Side paddles are not the norm on this section of the river. Many of the smaller streams flowing into the river are blocked with trees and are not generally cleared.

icon-restrooms-smRest Areas: Restroom facilities at the launch, Ray Wayside Park, and in scattered sections along the river, especially at the 4-mile mark and several beyond. There are restroom facilities at Gore’s Landing.


Ocklawaha Paddle Map…


Ocklawaha Paddle Map - Ray Wayside toe Gores Landing
Ocklawaha Paddle Map – Ray Wayside to Gores Landing

Leave civilization behind…

Leaving Ray Wayside launch
Leaving Ray Wayside launch

From the Ray Wayside Park soft launch, there is a short paddle on a canal, leading to the Silver River before it meets the Ocklawaha. Here we are bordered by Carolina Ash, Bald Cypress, Swamp Tupelo, Red Maples, and the characteristic Sabal Palmettos. The combination of Bald Cypress, Swamp Tupelo, and Carolina Ash created natural arches overhead as they predominantly lean in toward the river.

We enjoy a nice flow to the river and while the temperature was warm, it was a perfect, late-summer day to be on the water.

A few Gators and Turtles took their places sunning on tree trunks along the way.  Most of the gators seen today were perhaps in the 4′ range.  We did see a couple of the rhesus macaques about a third of the way into the paddle. There were numerous String Lilies ( Swamp Lilies ) blooming throughout the paddle and we were also treated to the very colorful Scalot Rose Mallow and several Swamp Mallow. Mexican Primrose Willow displayed numerous yellow blossoms and the Dahoon Holly trees were full of bright red berries. Wildlife was at a minimum as far a birds. A couple of Herons and a couple of Ibis was it. In other times of the year, the Ibis are numerous along this section.



Paddling the Ocklawaha is always a peaceful experience.  The flow is nice and the paddle is smooth as long as the trees have been cleared. On this trip, it was fine the entire route. Lots of winding turns, several sections with high bluffs, especially at the 4-mile mark, a great place to take a break. This was another pleasant journey on a beautiful late-summer day, ending another chapter In Florida Paddle Notes.

Additional Ocklawaha River posts by Florida Paddle Notes


Guides, Maps & Info…


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2 Comments

  1. Ken Weyand

    Enjoyed this excellent posting. Over the past 12 years I’ve paddled many of Florida’s rivers, and the Silver and Ocklawaha Rivers are two of my favorites. I’ve put in at Ray’s several times, but didn’t have time to paddle as far as Gore’s Landing. Because of my schedule, my trips have been made in February, and I think the current may have been stronger then, making an “up and back” a bit more difficult. But the rivers were both clear, with many blossoming plants bordering the water, and numerous cooters, gators and birds accompanying my paddle. The excellent museum at Silver Springs State Park recalls the days of steamboating with excellent photos and artifacts. Highly recommend a visit. Thanks again for the memories.

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