Sunday, May 19, 2013

We Find "The Crack"!


One of our goals at staying at the Chassahowitzka River Campground was to kayak to a spring called "The Crack". I'd seen photos of the spring and it got its name for obvious reasons. It looks like a giant crack in the limestone substrate. The guides I'd read said that it was a simple matter of leaving the boat ramp and paddling upstream for a while to the tributary on the left and then another paddle of about forty minutes or so to the spring.

As we headed out on the river, we saw that the weather was looking iffy with some ominous looking clouds gathering in the distance and drifting in off the Gulf of Mexico. But it didn't look all that bad and there was no lightning and thunder. It looked like a safe bet, so we headed downstream.

In quick order we found what appeared to be the tributary on the left and took off in that direction, away from the main channel. However, we soon realized that it was a dead end and was, in fact, a spot called "Grouper Hole" that has its own submerged spring and is just mainly a backwater. Okay to look at but nothing special. We tracked back out and headed into the main river again and continued on.

Then we saw the actual tributary that held our goal. It's easy to spot because the channel is split in half by a very tiny island that sprouts a few trees and sits in the midst of the pure spring water emerging from that stream. We turned again and headed that direction.

This was a very fun paddle. The scenery is excellent and there is a tremendous amount of wildlife, including enormous schools of fish, both freshwater and saltwater. The Gulf is only about ten miles away at this point and some saltwater species will come this far up the rivers to congregate in big groups. Especially the striped mullet which you see darting about everywhere in gigantic shoals of fishflesh.

We also got a huge kick out of the trip because the channel narrows along one section to not much more than the width of your paddles! When you dip your paddle into the water on either side you tend to encounter at least some of the marsh grass that presses in on either side. It feels like living in the setting of a Johnny Weismuller TARZAN movie; which is fitting because some of those films were shot on Florida's big freshwater springs (and the spring runs produced by them).

After we'd pass through these narrow areas we would come to some vast, open pools. These were always packed with fish, so the fishing has to be great here. I'd like to come back next time and try my hand at angling.

We had been told to watch for a street sign that some mischievous paddler had erected. This would mark the final approach to the spring. From here on in, we were told, the tributary got very shallow and that the last 100 feet or so required you to leave your kayak on the bank and walk the rest of the way to the spring. In fact, the information was exactly correct and we did this, wading through shin-deep water to see our destination.

The Crack is what it looks like: a huge linear break in the limestone rock. Emerging from it are millions of gallons of clear water. The pool itself is not very deep--not much more than waist-high. That is until you reach the Crack itself. Then it plunges down very deep indeed. It might be a good cave diving site, but I'm not sure. I do know that even in the crystal clear water the depths fade to black.

All the while we were kayaking to this point, the clouds kept gathering in greater volume; thicker and darker. Not ten minutes after we arrived at our goal they opened up in a tremendous downpour. If it had just been some mild sprinkles or a light rain, we would have stayed. But this was a soaking, pounding gusher of a rain. So we packed up our stuff back into our kayaks and headed back out. And, of course, as soon as we got back to the main channel of the Chassahowitzka, the weather broke and the rain stopped.

Oh, well.

We plan to return to see The Crack again. We'll do as we did on that paddle, and visit it on a weekday when there are no crowds. Because we actually did have it all to ourselves.

See the tiny island in mid-stream? You're on the right track!
There were Spider lilies in bloom along the banks.
This was actually part of the wrong turn we made. Still beautiful.

One of the points where the creek begins to become very narrow, indeed. This was a lot of fun!
Emerging from one of the narrow sections.

When you get to this last, big pool, you're close to the goal. If you look in the center of the photo you will spy the street sign that some jokester nailed to a trunk.

Closeup of the sign.
The shallow stream leading to The Crack.
I love kayaking in these places! They are gorgeous.
We arrive at the aptly named "The Crack". Doesn't look terribly deep due to the amazing clarity of the water, but I assure you that the area at the headspring (top of the photo) is extremely deep.

Carole wading out in the pool. We were just about ready to go swimming when...
The clouds opened up! It was a gusher of a storm. All of our stuff that we'd brought with which to sit around the pool and have lunch was getting soaked, so we packed up and headed out.

Back at camp, Carole whips up a dinner of grilled potatoes/onions/peppers and barbecued chicken wings.


MarkGelbart said...

I think if I would have made it that far, I would have crawled around the spring feeling for fossils, rain or no rain.

James Robert Smith said...

The floor of the pool seemed to be mainly soft sand except where the limestone was jutting through. I'm sure there have been fossils in there. I probably should have stuck around and looked (I always make at least cursory searches for fossils), but we just weren't having any fun with the rain pouring down on us. We'll go back in a year or two and have another shot at it.

The Crack itself is really scary-looking when you look down into it. I don't know how deep it is, but it looks VERY deep. And its pretty narrow, so diving down even around ten feet or so would be more of risk than I'd be willing to take.

Kent Tankersley said...

Those look like great places to explore. When you're photographing from the kayak, what kind of precautions do you take with the camera? Water-proof case?

I've never taken a camera with me when I go paddling -- too afraid I'll drop it or just get it really wet.

James Robert Smith said...

I finally solved the big camera problem by buying a waterproof digital camera. I kept waiting for them to make them. The first one we bought kind of sucks--it's a Kodak. Then we bought a used Pentax from one of Carole's friends. Takes really amazing photos.

I will take a regular camera on a kayak trip, but not one of my high-end cameras.