Wednesday, September 03, 2008
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Irwin came up with the idea: paddle down the Wacissa River from a popular launch site at Goose Pasture... but this is the put-in for the Slave Canal paddling trail?!
After the Slave Canal branches off to the right, the Wacissa-River-proper divides multiple times and fades into 'the braided swamp'. Stories of paddlers who MISSED the turn into the Slave Canal -- getting stuck, finding their way back to Goose Pasture after dark, losing their way, needing rescue -- swirled vaguely in my memory, as I said "yes, I'd love to go."
As we paddled down the open Wacissa, marveling at the giant cypress, wild rice, and wildflowers, Sue asked why this wasn't a regular paddling trail.
Swallow-tailed kites circled over us at our lunch stop as the clear cool water beckoned us to swim. We saw a nest of freshly hatched alligators (where's mom?).
There WAS a stretch of 'braided swamp' where the walls closed in. I put my camera away as we felt our way along, tried several dead ends, and crossed a few downed trees, but it was not so challenging or mysterious as I'd imagined.
What I hadn't imagined was the reward at the end of the swamp: the confluence of the Wacissa and Aucilla Rivers. The clear waters of the Wacissa poured down over huge boulders into the dark tannic waters of the Aucilla. Tall palms stood on the banks over pools and mini-waterfalls.
We hung out there for a long time and soaked it up. Then we paddled upstream along the half mile stretch of the Aucilla to the landing where Irwin's truck awaited.
Rain was lightly falling by then and the limerock bank glistened against the tea-colored water. I made one last river photo and promised I'd be back.