Silver River Paddle — April 21st

When I suggested to Tom Morris that he lead a paddle on the Silver River, my reasons included: The River is beautiful, historic, and threatened by low flow rates and high nutrient loads. In addition, Tom together with his longtime friend and colleague, Pete Butt, has been doing studies on the river for the past several years. (In 2010, Pete survived a love bite by an 11 foot alligator that nearly tore his head off.) Even though a number of our group backed out at the last minute because of the fear of thunderstorms and heavy rain, eight of us headed off on the morning of April 21. While the typical tourists pays more than $30.00 (not including the glass bottom boat ride) to enter the Silver Springs Theme Park, we put our canoes in the water at Silver River State Park, which is located on State Road 35 a mile south of State Road 40. While this option is a much better deal financially, you pay by having to lug your boat a half mile to the water. Fortunately, Tom had put together a couple of rigs to make this task easier. On the paddle we enjoyed viewing cormorants, anhingas, great blue herons, limpkins, and wood ducks overhead and longnose gar and beautiful blue glossy shad below. While the trip was delightful, the quality of the water is obviously compromised from earlier times. All you have to do is compare the clarity of the water in photos taken in the 1950’s (which can be seen in the Blue Path Exhibit at the Doris in Gainesville) with the abundance of epiphytic and benthic algae now blanketing the eelgrass. Globs of algae are floating freely in the water reducing visibility to about 10 feet. You don’t need an advance degree in ecology or environmental science to see the difference. If you want data, Bob Knight’s H. T. Odum Florida Springs Institute excellent website has his Adena Springs presentation, where he notes that the nitrate load has increased from 47 tons/year in 1955 to 529 tons/year in 2005, the discharge has been reduced from an average of more than 800 cubic feet/second (cfs) during the 1931-1970 time frame to 282cfs on April 1, 2012, and a 3,700% increase in algae biomass from the early 1950’s to the middle of the last decade. At Tom’s suggestion, we visited the Silver River Museum (located next to the parking lot), which contains a multitude of cool stuff including mastodon bones, dugout canoes, and arrowheads. When asked, the lady at the desk remarked that the flow rate on the River was now 260cfs, a significant change in three weeks. As we got in our cars to leave the park, the thunderclouds moved in and the rains descended. Maybe the Springs would get a bit of relief from the drought.

Vibeke enjoying the river.

A slider and a great blue hanging out together.

A touch of slime.

A couple of wood ducks perched on a branch.

An anhinga drying her feathers.

Karie and the cormorant.

A bonsai palm.

Paul and Sarah enjoying the paddle.

While we weren’t able to paddle back in this area, this is near the spot where Pete got his love bite.

Tom and his wheels.

Martin instructing the ladies on how to transport the boat.

Paul and Tom haul two boats.

The stopover at Orange Lake to check out the sink.