Monthly Archives: February 2016

W.P. Franklin near Fort Myers

Looking Down River

 

 

 

 

 

 

We arrived at the Corps of Engineers campground after our 2 hour drive plus a stop to grocery shop just as our sites current occupant left.

This campground is on an island in the Caloosahatchee River right at a navigation lock.

WPFranklinCampsite_ShoreView

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is a small campground and like the FL State Parks is almost impossible to get a campsite. You need to try 6 months in advance at exactly 10:00:00 AM. So last September after trying for 8 straight days, we snagged this site. All the sites are on the water with concrete pads and covered picnic tables.

WPFranklinCampsite_WaterView

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My back is starting to feel better but I had another camper help me get the canoe down, where it will remain until we leave.

When we looked across the river we saw these two bald eagles watching us set up camp.2EaglesatFranklin

This part of FL has gotten over 12” of rain in the past month, so all the rivers were up and Lake Okeechobee which is the source of the river is full and they are releasing a lot of water. But it is a big river and we didn’t think the current was that swift.

Paddling up CreekLLamas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But the little Telegraph Creek, where we had paddled in the past, was roaring. We remembered it as a 5’ wide creek running though some farm land. The last time we actually saw a rare Florida Panther laying on a tree above the creek. This time we did see a big group of Llamas at the farm. We only made it about halfway and the hanging branches and fast current made us turn around after 1-1/2 hours.

Llamas on Telegraph Creek It took us only 45 minutes to get back to camp and we barely paddled at all. The weather has finally warmed to near 80o F but it is still very cloudy. Our plans are to relax here for two weeks before heading to the east coast. We plan to paddle & bike around the area.

Calooshahatchee River paddling

Since our campground is on an island in the middle of the Calooshahatchee River we thought we would do some canoeing trips.

We tried an 8 mile bike ride looking at all the expensive houses in the small developments near our campground but doing so required us to bike along N. River Rd, which has no bike lanes and has some fast traffic. I thought we could make it over to Calooshahatchee Regional Park where they are supposed to have bike trails, but Peggy did not want to bike another mile down the road.

Canoe in CampsiteSo on Wednesday we paddled downstream on the Calooshahatchee River, paddling around the oxbow islands. It is a big river and a windy day so it was tiring. We probably paddled a little over 6 miles.

The Calooshahatchee River, which means “River of the Calusa,” was the main waterway of the Calusa people, who lived along the coast of southwest Florida and travelled in their dugout canoes until they were  eradicated by the European explorers in the late 1700s.

Paddling Hickey’s CreekOn Thursday we planned to paddle upstream about a mile to Hickey’s Creek but our campsite is on the downstream side of the dam and you are not allowed to paddle through the river lock. So we had two options, we could either carry the canoe through the campground to the upstream side of the dam or paddle over to the south side of the river where we could just slide the canoe up the grassy slope and down to the upstream side. This was much easier, no lifting required. I didn’t want to reinjure my back which is finally starting to feel much better.

The creek is about one mile upsream of the dam and is easy to paddle the 3 miles upstream to a park. However there are many homes along the creek so that it is not as pretty as I had remembered. But it gets much more scenic when you reach the park.

Hickey’s Creek Mitigation Park

Reading from their park description, “Hickey’s Creek Mitigation Park was established in 1994 as a gopher tortoise mitigation preserve. Hickey’s Creek is a shady oasis for paddlers and a picturesque spot for fishing and picnicking. Its dark waters are home to otters, alligators, largemouth bass and the occasional manatee.”

Hickey Creek Turtle

We did see a lot of turtles and a few scenic views along the creek. The weather was sunny and warm but very windy.

This past week has been partly cloudy with temperatures in the low 80’s every day but last night a cold front rolled in bringing a liittle rain, lots of wind and for the next week they predict the high’s only in the mid-60’s, with lows  around 50oF.

Cool, Windy Weather

Peggy Paddling Up the CreekIt’s not unexpected that even Southern Florida has cold spells. Well last week was one of them. Mornings were cold in the 40’s and daytime highs barely reached the 60’s. But what was worse was the wind, at times reaching 40 mph. On those days we stayed inside but finally the wind stopped, and we got out paddle again.

On Wednesday we got out in our canoe and paddled even further up Hickey’s Creek. The creek is much narrower and wilder beyond the little park that we got to last week. There are many low hanging branches and tight bends but has more wildlife. We paddled for 3-1/2 hours and even though it was only 60oF, it was sunny and I didn’t need a sweatshirt.

We saw a Alligator, a Limpkin, many Ibis and Egrets.

Franklin LockA few weeks ago they got 12” of rain in the counties around Fort Myers, but the rain had stopped by the time we got here. However, as we drove due south on the small local roads from Lithia Springs, all the farm fields were underwater. All this water is entering the Caloosahatchee River and has also filled Lake Okeechobee for the first time in a few years.

Boats in Franklin Lock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The local TV news people are going crazy; “It’s been terrible, all this brown water coming out of the river is ruining our beaches at Sanibel and Fort Myers. It’s all that dirty polluted water from that big bad lake”. Nothing could be further from the truth. First of all the lake is now full and whatever comes in must flow out. I guess the locals here just want the Lake to flood until the dam bursts. Don’t they realize this? Second, they are only releasing 5000 CFS from the dam into the river but here downstream at our campground there is 10,000 CFS passing through the lock. This means half the water is runoff from the record setting rainfall and of course with pine trees there is a brown color to the water along with the dirt and fertilizer runoff from the farms. Here at camp the water is brown colored but clear and the fishing is good.

Out of the Lock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But they are still complaining on TV every day. They want this freshwater stopped, the salt water fish don’t like it and some die.

I noticed that NBC was videoing in our campground so I walked over to talk to the cute reporter. I found myself on the 6 O’Clock News that day. I videoed this using my cellphone from our TV, take a look.

John at Visitor CenterFor us to paddle the river upstream of the lock it’s easy to paddle across the river and portage through the Corps. picnic ground and lock viewing area. Yesterday we decided to stop and view the boats going through the lock and visit the Corp. visitor center. The photos above are a view of boats passing through the lock.

They say that Manatees also pass through the lock everyday and wait around until the lock opens each morning. The lock is only in operation from 7AM to 5PM. So boats wanting to traverse FL from Fort Myers to Stuart on the waterway must wait overnight here, if they get here too late in the day.

Today is our last day at Franklin Locks. We leave Saturday morning to travel along the river to the East Coast and the city of Lake Worth. We will stay for a week at John Prince Memorial Park. on Lake Osborn.

John Prince Park – Palm Beach County Park

jpp

This large park is just part of the Palm Beach County Park System. It is located in Lake Worth, FL. This is the Link to the park & campground.

The camp has over 300 small campsites, jammed in between a private airport and the lake. However it seems to be very popular and most of the sites are occupied for the entire winter season. 68 sites are limited to 14 day stays and they are all along the shore of Lake Osborne.

Prices are similar to Florida’s State Parks but they only take reservations 90 days in advance, so it is much easier planning and getting a campsite here.

Muscovy Duck looking to come in camper

We got here last Saturday morning and will stay for a week. We were welcomed by this Muscovy Duck who looked like we was ready to come into our camper. It was a good thing we had our screen door closed. These ducks seem to roam all around the campground looking for handouts.

The weather has been back to normal temperatures, 60-75oF for this time of year, except on Tuesday morning. We awoke to a severe thunderstorm which had tornado warnings for our location. In fact, 3 tornadoes touched down south of here. The storm was gone in an hour and we had an 80oF day.

What we like best are the paved bike trails, shown on the map above. It is about a 9 to 10 mile ride around the park and lake. The weather has still been windy and since we could see the entire lake from the bike ride, we saw no reason to try canoeing around the lake.

Wood StorksThere are birds everywhere who seem to have lost all fear of anyone on the trails. We saw large flocks of Ibis, many kinds of ducks, including the 3 Wood Storks above. Lots of Herons, Anhingas and Egrets. There are supermarkets not far off the trail where we can do a little shopping.

Our vacation plans after this are a little loose. We had figured by now we would want to go north  to Ocala National Forest where it would be cooler. But we really have not had any really warm weather yet, and Peggy didn’t want to go very far North already. We agreed we both liked Lithia Springs, south of Tampa and Silver Lake, north of Tampa and wouldn’t mind spending a week or so back in that area before going north to Ocala.

Lithia Springs 3rd time

Lake Okeechobee Trail ClosuresAfter spending a week in Lake Worth, we were ready to move on. The weather has been cool all of January & February, which is actually good for staying active. We did a lot of bike riding as I had discussed in my last blog but we wanted to canoe again.

Most of the Florida rivers are very wild and isolated but we felt maybe it was too early to head north to Juniper Springs. It is due east of Ocala. We decided instead to head back to Lithia Springs which is about 200 miles away.

Peggy on Hoover DikeWe decided to see if we could see Lake Okeechobee from a bike trail along the Hoover Dike. There is a trail entirely around the lake but see the map above, the Orange Lines are trail closures. So we picked the 5.6 mile section in Clewiston to ride since it was on our way to Lithia Springs. But even though there was a great big parking lot, the trail access in Clewiston was closed, so we drove to the more northerly trail access point and found out that we could bike about 4.5 miles each way along the dike. However all you could see were the canals on each side of the dike, it turns out there is a grass island at that point which limits your view of the lake.

Peggy & John CanoeingI rewarded Peggy with a Prime Rib dinner at a nice restaurant in Avon Park. Peggy got a haircut at a Super Wal-Mart and it was getting dark so we stayed overnight there.

We left early and went directly to the put-in at Alderman Ford where I dropped Peggy off with the canoe. I had called the campground host who graciously shuttled us the last time, to see if campsites were available. We missed our favorite site #40 but got another big site. They gave me a shuttle ride back to the Peggy and the canoe. The river was still running at a descent level, about 280 CFS. There were 6 or 7 little class 1 rapids. I can never slow Peggy down, we finished the 4 hour trip in 2-1/2 hours.

Peggy at Fishhawk Ranch Trail

 

 

 

 

On Monday we headed back on about a 10 mile ride through a new section of bike trails east of Fish Hawk Ranch. We had a few hills that Peggy didn’t like along the main road but it was a perfect day for biking.

We plan to stay here at least four more days.

Starting to head a little North–Cypress Glen Campground at Silver Lake

Map4We spent 10 days here (#5 on map) in early December December’s Blog and all three of their campgrounds were nearly empty.

We got here at 10 AM on Friday morning. If it wasn’t going to be a cool weekend I think the two Class A campgrounds would have been full.

We drove to the second campground which is still on the lake but further from the I-75 traffic noise. There were a few empty sites and we picked one with easy access to the lake, which is just a wide spot on the Withlacoochee River.

Canoeing_Withlacoochee_wOur plan is to stay here for four nights and then, on Tuesday, go visit Helen & Paul who live just a few miles away in Inverness. We were going to visit them in December but it didn’t work out. We met them in Mexico where they camped at Xpu-Ha with us in 2013-14.

What we like about this complex is the big campsites with hookups for only $15/night, nice hiking trails, easy river access, and it is only 1 mile off the 46 mile long Withlacoochee State Trail, one of the longest paved trails in FL. Because this is a State Forest and doesn’t take reservations and limits camping to 14 days, travelers can usually get a campsite.

So even if it is cool there is still a lot to do. We took a short 10 mile bike ride on Friday and hike on Saturday. Sunday we plan to do some canoeing.