Monday, May 11, 2020

February 2020: Silver Springs Unlevel but a Fantastic River

Posted: May 11, 2020                                                   Recent Posts:
About February 5-15, 2020     Late January 2020:From Oscar to Myakka and Back
Silver River State Park                 Early January 2020: Moving into a New Year         

Note:  This post has SO MANY pictures but I defend it as the result of the numerous renewing mornings on the beautiful Silver River.   Maybe it will be a faster read with the fewer words once I get to the paddling part.  Or maybe you are all so bored in the quarantine that you aren’t in any hurry. Smile  I hope so.

Feb 3I was still at Oscar Scherer on February 3rd, a day I wish I didn’t remember.  It is now one year since David died and I don’t see how it can have been so long.  I still use “we” in many conversations and very often talk to him and expect him to come in the door and tell me what he’s been doing.  

Before leaving the Venice area, I went to Detweillers, a fabulous place and favorite place of David’s.  I brought back breakfast treats which were among David’s favorite things.   The  sticky buns will probably get hard before I eat them all.  But I have one along with a cherry cheese Danish on this day in his honor. How I wish he were here to eat his share.  Perhaps I wouldn’t eat so much if he were.  Either way, it would be a lot more fun with him.

My journal reminded me that last year on this day after David died I was forced to pack up and leave Little Manatee River State Park where they were so terrible I will never ever book a site there again under any circumstances.  I moved to the site I am amazingly in this year on the same date.  But this year on February 3rd,  I am not arriving in Site 5 but leaving it to drive to Ocala for a two week stay in site 14 at Silver Springs State Park. 

For me, it’s really too early to be this far north but this was the best I could do in the reservations department when I was making them last year.   Sure hope it is warm enough to kayak.

The day after I arrive,  I take Winnona to PatRick’s for an oil change and chassis lube.  Both things David has always done.  $158 seems high for such service.  What do you think?  They say they checked a myriad of things including the windshield wipers.  But if so, why did they not mention that the windshield washers are disconnected and do nothing about it.  I forgot to mention it but so did they.   It’s so much nicer when you have a mechanic that you love who would never take advantage of you.  I guess this is another part of my new world I don’t like very much.

IMG_20200205_165945661_HDRI came frequently to Silver Springs in my childhood.  First as a child of about 5 or 6 long before there was a campground. I rode on the Glass Bottom boats with my Great Aunt Carrie for whom my daughter is named.  I have a warm place in my heart for this place.

David and I have been here nearly every year, but never in site 14.  After the park redid the campground a few years ago there were many more pull throughs and a few full hook ups. The full hook up is pretty unusual for state parks.  So I was looking forward to being in site 14 because of both those things. 

IMG_20200205_134314835_HDRUnfortunately far too many of those who design and put in campsites don’t give much thought to how level they are.  Sort of like people who design kitchens but don’t really cook.   Here are some views of the difficulty I had getting Winnona level in site 14 which you can be sure I will never book again.

That’s 4 pads on one side and three on the other.


IMG_2440On the bright side, I only have to level once and now I have 13 more days to hopefully do a lot of paddling on the river which is the number one reason to love this park.  I can take my kayak once down the long and difficult sandy trail to the dock and lock it up so all I have to do is hike down and put the kayak in the water any time I want to paddle.  At the end of my reservation I have to drag it back up that trail of course but between now and then it will just be a very nice hike to get to my boat and the ramp.

Though no blue skies today, the river is still lovely.  I never know what I’ll see but over my numerous times on the Silver River, some of the same folks get their pictures taken multiple times.  Hope you don’t mind.


Great Blue Herons sure do have bony knees

Herons take many postures and poses which makes it hard sometimes for beginning birders to recognize them.  Amazing how the Great Blue can pull in that neck and make himself horizontal.


The red of the woodpeckers and their rat-a-tat-tat draw my eyes.  First the large Pileated and then the red bellied.  More on the Pileated later.



The cormorant has the best of both worlds in my opinion.  He can fly. With those webbed feet he can swim and amazingly those same feet do grab tree branches. AND he can disappear from sight and swim under water.  What beautiful blue eyes but I wouldn’t want to tackle with his beak.  Check out that hook.


The anhinga has absolutely beautiful feathers that he often spreads wide to dry after swimming.  His neck always looks like black velvet to me.


The broad spreading roots of the cypress look ancient.   They always create a spiritual feeling when I paddle among them.  Somehow they seem wise.

Even the Little Blue Heron’s bill is blue during breeding season.




Is there a more beautiful bird than the male wood duck?  They are quite skittish and in most places fly immediately as I barely get a glance at them.  But here on the Silver River they seem to have learned that people mean them no harm.


With all the tree limbs along the river I wonder why this female anhinga and the male cormorant are sharing a branch.  I love how the cormorant holds on with his webbed feet.


This time it’s a male anhinga with his beautiful feather patterns and a White Ibis with his long long bill sharing.


I spent some time on this day watching flocks of White Ibis come flying through the air toward me first high and then lower to land in a tree.  It’s too early in the day for this to be their roosting tree but these birds often hang out in very big groups.   The sound of all their wings is amazing.  I have read in books of early naturalists about the skies being so full of birds they covered the sun and the sound of their wings drowned out all other sound.  Sadly things are not like that any more.  I sure wish they were.




The adult Ibis is all white, the juvenile brown.



And there they go.


IMG_2640Not many alligators today.  Perhaps there is not enough sun for them to bask in to warm up.

I guess the anhinga on the other end of the log  feels he’s far enough away or quick enough to fly if the gator starts thinking of a snack.


On cool rainy mornings, I often stay snuggled in bed with Mary Oliver and hot chocolate in my Nana cup.  While my loved ones in Maryland and Virginia are enjoying a rather mild winter, this one in Florida has cooler than I like.  I often compare the temperatures where I am and where they are and frown at the little difference between them.  I came here for the warmth, where is it??

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It seems I haven’t really taken any pictures other than of my time on the river.

I usually skip week ends on the water and just go hiking.   Even getting out to paddle early as I do during the week, there are often too many people on my return trip from the head springs.  Week-ends are impossible.   This of course is before the Covid-19.

It’s much better during the week, as on this Monday, my second trip,  when it is also finally warm enough to get back out on the water and I am lucky enough to encounter this pair of wood ducks who don’t fly off the minute they see me.  Wonderful!!  Aren’t they GRAND!

Unlike my previous day on the water, this one is blue sky picture perfect.


I paddle along beside this gator for a while.  He doesn’t seem to pay me any regard.



They are so ancient looking.  Like the Pelican.


IMG_2682I’ve read that with the current lock downs, rivers all over the world are becoming clear and many fish and even dolphins not seen in a long time have returned.  As the Silver River flows from it’s own underground headspring and is protected on both sides by the state park, its waters are always amazingly beautiful.


I’m not sure I’d like to be the turtle between what I assume is mama and baby.

I think the Limpkin is a very attractive bird until I hear her call.  Especially when she calls at night, she sounds like a woman screaming at the top of her lungs from danger.   If you’ve never heard it, close your eyes and listen here.

I watch the White Ibis looking or perhaps listening for food.

What ever it is must be far down.

The water is so clear, at spots I can see down to the bottom where a manatee rests.  I’m about to paddle over him when I notice.


Today is the first day I’ve come upon the manatee, another of my absolute favorites here on the Silver River.


You can hardly see what I think looks like a hog nose on this Florida Softshell turtle.  He’s a rare sight for me.

Would you look at the length of this alligator and I didn’t even get all of him.
And how about the bravery of this Great Blue Heron stepping over him.  Watch yourself buddy.

Great Blue Herons are tall birds as in 3 to 4 1/2 feet tall.  You can see from that how gigantic the tree is.   I love this river!

On my third paddle and the last one for this post.  I am again lucky enough to see a pair of Wood ducks and luckier to get these pictures.


The coloring and markings is just nearly impossible for me to believe.  Nothing mankind creates can hold a candle to it.


IMG_2802I’m also very happy to again see this largest of woodpeckers, the Pileated.  They can be 19” tall and have a 30” wingspan.  Lucky for us they have been around for the last 40+ years working on the paulownia trees right outside the farm master bedroom window.  We could often see them when we opened our eyes in bed first thing in the morning.  Their rat-a-tat-tat frequently woke us up if we’d had a late night.  No missing their bright red heads and black and white facial coloring.

The river is really showing off this morning.  As if two Wood Ducks weren’t enough, how about three.


Looks like Ms Wood Duck has stepped down and out of the way of the face off.


The fun continues with the candy corn bill of this Moorhen.


The coloring on the juvenile alligator is quite different from the all gray of the adult.  Great patterns on both body and tail.

The Black Crowned Night Heron has his eye on something.  I’ve got my eye on his breeding plume, long thin and white it really stands out.

Early on in my birding, I was fooled thinking this immature Little Blue Heron was a Snowy Egret.  It’s his green legs that give him away.


The Green Heron is another beautiful bird.  This picture is not quite enough of a close up to show the intricacy of designs on his feathers.  But the next one is.  He often seems to me to be skulking around.


IMG_2897Another day with Manatee – whoopee!

Manatee are mammals and so must come up to breathe.  They often scare me with their big breaths when I’ve had no idea they are around.  

While I’m paddling, it’s hard to know where to look on this incredible river – on the banks?  in the air?   in the water?  Manatee sometimes lay around on the bottom and are very hard to see if the sun is shining on the water.  But those breaths give them away.  How about this nose close up?


There are an abundance of fish in the Silver River probably because the state park allows no fishing or swimming.  I’m no fisherman.  Since I wouldn’t like a hook in my mouth, I do unto others.  

But I bet Bill Gravel could tell me what kind of fish these are just below my paddle and so easily visible in the crystal clear water.

This turtle with his look ma no hands stance is one of the many many many many seen today.


This really is my lucky day another rare sighting, the Wood Stork.  I’ve often said they were one of the ugliest birds outside of vultures but he looks pretty good from this angle.


Another Limpkin screaming.  She has a long bill like the White Ibis who uses his to search out crabs and crayfish.  The Limpkin uses hers  to find snails and mussels among other things.  Her favorite is the invasive apple snail and I cheer her on in her efforts to keep them in check


Would you call that the evil eye?

As I mentioned, the return trip on any day has many more folks.  So many today that the ramp to the park where I want to tie up is blocked.


Here I am waiting in line for folks who have probably stopped for lunch at the tables the park provides.  They eventually get in their boats and I’m able to pull mine out of the water, lock it and hike back to Winnona.

  And so my time on the river is over for this day.  Kayaking this river lightens my heart especially when I get out early enough that the crowds haven’t begun.  I can almost never avoid them toward the end of my paddle and they spark my decision up river that it’s time to call it a morning.  

Who knows how long I might stay out here if I had the river to myself and my bird and animal friends.


When I get back it is lunch time.  Complete with home made potato chips. 

Only a few more days here before I will have to move on

But before that something fun is happening in the park this week-end.  That’s for my next post which I’ll try to make less picture heavy.

Congratulations for making it to the end.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks for commenting Tom. Hope all is well in your world.

  2. Sherry I love your pictures and narration.

  3. Sherry I love all of your info and photos. I actually live in Florida and very rarely camp here.

    1. Florida has some of the best state parks in the entire country. But I know what you mean we lived in Virginia for decades and almost never camped at Shenandoah national Park which was less than 20 miles away.

  4. Reading your words, seeing your photos was wonderful, Sherry. The Silver River was my very first Florida spring run paddle, and on March 8, 2019, it was my last. I remember the light and the sound of the paddle in the water. I see no possibility of ever slipping my boat into that magnificent river ever again. This post made me cry. For you, for David, for Florida, and for my last day on the Silver River.

    1. Sue this may be one of the most heartfelt comments I have read on this blog. I am honored that you left it. It really is hard facing the last time one ever does anything. Perhaps it's a good thing we don't know at the time that this is the last time. I'm actually wondering how long this shut down, and the one that may well come because we're opening up too soon, will last. Perhaps I may never get to the Silver River again either. I have a reservation for next year, but will I be able to keep it? I admit that since David has died I feel the pressure of running out of time. Happiness to you my friend.

  5. Great Post!!! There can never be too many photos of a Silver River Paddle...absolutely my favorite place to explore. We spent many hours with you and David enjoying and exploring this beautiful place. Some of our favorite memories are of our times on THE RIVER!!!

    1. Thank you Nancy. You are always so enthusiastic. It just puts a smile on my face. perhaps you'll come up and join me next year at the river if we're all able to go.

    2. That would be fantastic...just have to work out the kayak thing. We got rid of our blow-up. But we'll find a way!!!!

  6. I'm glad you got two full weeks there and didn't have to move. We used to camp there all the time and the sites were all nice and level. I guess that was before they redid the campground, but the full hook ups do sound nice. We did a LOT of kayaking on that beautiful river

    1. Yes, I didn't remember the sites before they redid the campground being so unlevel as this one was. Where do you kakyak now? The keys??

  7. Great photos, as we'll probably never get there this is the closest I'll come to paddling the Silver River-thank you.

    1. Thank you for the comment. Never say never. The river is for sure worth the trip. Do you guys kayak there where you are?

  8. What wonderful animal and bird pictures! The heron's legs are out of proportion to his body. I'd never seen a black crowned night heron. The anhingas fascinate me in the same way that vultures do. If Edgar Allan Poe was near water in Florida, his stories would have included anhingas. The limpkin, I'm sorry to say, would be the kid with the dunce hat on sitting in the corner. Manatees remind me of spoons with their shape. I would love to see one. If I had a choice, I would be a bird like the cormorant so that I could fly AND swim. xxxooo

    1. Love your detailed comment. You need to come to Florida and see all this in person. Had to laugh at the Poe reference! You're the best!

  9. Those wood ducks are beautiful! No thanks limpkin...why must you sound like that?! Such a beautiful river indeed! I can just imagine being scared by manatee breathe :) You look great in pink and those chips look delicious!

    1. Limpkins can be pretty scary after dark if you are canoe camping. The chips were delicious. Love you

  10. Great photos as usual - there can never be too many! I like the herons and the alligator with the evil eye, but I LOVE the wood ducks! Some of those trees are gorgeous - I like to paint and have just finished a painting of some trees in a pine wood near where I live. I think if I were at Silver Springs my sketch book would be forever open!

    1. Oh how I wish I could draw or paint. It's not for lack of trying. Glad you like the photos.

  11. Please keep the pictures coming!! Especially now it is so wonderful to share all the natural beauty through your eyes. The Wood Ducks are definitely stunning, and the immature Blue Heron is so delicate. The gators are impressive. For some reason I've always been a fan of the Anhinga. Maybe it's their majestic wings, but there's something about them that always make me smile. That pic of the turtle between the mama and young gator is amazing!! Great catch. I love your connection with this place and how you're such a seamless part of it. Such a relaxing time on the water.

    1. It has actually been very nice to go back through my days before being locked up. I'm glad you are enjoying going along. I am an Anhinga fan too. Love their markings.

  12. Thank you for the wonderful paddle. So many gorgeous birds, but the gators are huge, so great that you were able to find the manatee still in the area

    1. I was so happy to see the manatee and that one gator was SO long. I wonder how you can tell their age. It was a wonderful paddle.

  13. Your pictures are stunning! I think you top even the best of National Geographic photographers. As I sit in home in boring isolation you certainly brightened my day.

    1. So happy to brighten your day but I don't even come close to the National Geographic photographers. You are a great friend to think I do.

  14. Sad days can come and go yet you carry on. I so hate getting ripped off by mechanics but their hourly wage is what we have to pay without those skills. Staying in a place for two weeks is perfect, level once and go play. Sure am glad you could paddle any day. I love going with you and seeing all the birds. I've only seen Wood Ducks once. Though I'd be nervous about the close by gators I'd dearly love to see the manatee. You should volunteer here and offer bird kayak trips. I learn so much from you.

    1. All you say about sad days and mechanics is so right. Clearly we are in the same mind. For some places two weeks is good and for others I'd love to stay a month or more but they won't let me. No worries about the gators. We're too big for them to consider. They are after water birds and dogs and little children if their parents aren't careful. Come to Florida and I'll take you to see wood ducks and manatee. Would LOVE to have your company.

  15. Beautiful post Sherry. Love all the pictures.

  16. The plethora of pictures is quite welcomed, as are your myriad thoughts as you observe nature, and intertwine the photos with your own feelings.

    Virtual hugs,


    1. This is a beautiful compliment Judilyn. Thank you so much. Hope NOLA boy is doing well. I envy the two of you.

  17. Your pics of the wood ducks are absolutely spectacular!

    1. Thanks Janice. This river is so abundant with wild life it is easy to take wayyyy too many pictures as I do.

  18. I'm sorry I am late in reading this and next post. Life has been a bit busy for us as you will read in my post from today. Love the soothing pictures of the Silver River.


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