A partial list of the critters I have seen while kayaking would include, alligators, dolphins, water snakes, ducks (duh!) eagles, hawks, ospreys, anhinga and snapping turtles. Just listing all the wildlife makes it sound as if kayaking was a chaotic experience. In fact, it’s just the opposite.
There’s something so peaceful about moving slightly above the surface of the water; kinda in it and kinda not. The gentle slosh of the paddles is my only contribution to the sound track provided by nature.
Wekiva River, Florida
One of my favorite kayaking spots is the Wekiva River in Orlando, Florida not far from Walt Disney World and all that associated madness. The officially designated “wild and scenic” Wekiwa Springs State Park, lives up to its billing. It is wild. It is scenic. It is a world away from all the “worlds” and “lands” that populate this part of the state.
A few years ago, I spent an afternoon on the water with my friend from Chile, Elizabeth Rojas. We were about an hour into our trip when we spotted a juvenile-sized alligator sound asleep in the sun atop a log across the water from our boats.
We got all hammy trying to arrange our kayaks so that we could take photos of each other with the alligator in the background. Ohh we would have proof to show our friends how brave we were! The animal was asleep for the first 10 mintues or so, but all our ruckus roused him from his slumber and he started showing us his teeth. At this point we put the oars in the water and made tracks.
Econfina Creek, Florida
One October, not too many years ago, my brother Rafe and I had some family business to take care of near Panama City, Florida but we opted to goof off one afternoon and go kayaking at the natural springs at Econfina Creek. WOW. It’s a creek, it’s a forest, it’s a beach.
The creek meanders for miles and as it does, it passes over several natural springs. One minute we were paddling in shallow water and checking out the fish, the next minute a chasm would open up beneath our boats and we’d be looking down into a huge gully. A few times we just jumped out of our boats and went for a swim in these natural whirlpools.
Cobbs Creek, Virginia
My friends Anne and Neil have an old farmhouse in Mathews, Virginia that I call Paradise. It is perched above Cobbs Creek, an offshoot of the Rappahannock River. I don’t know what it is about this piece of the Chesapeake, but ospreys love the place, so kayaking here is a noisy affair.
Osprey are the ultimate worry-warts, making a distinctive, repetitive screech if they even think you’re approaching their nests, which they build high up in the trees. So you know and I know there’s no reason for them to be concerned but they are, nevertheless. One afternoon, my husband Jim and my sons, Joseph and Sam went kayaking with me. We paddled around a bit, then crossed the creek, beached the boats and went for a swim. Only when we were off the boats and in the water did the ospreys settle down.
My son Antonio and I worked a news assignment together just once, the opening of the new airport in Branson, Missouri. I was there writing for the travel section of the Dallas Morning News and Antonio was my photographer. What with all the activities; ribbon cuttings, first flights arriving, tourists to interview, we had just one free day. So early Sunday morning we drove northeast out of town to Bull Creek Outpost in Rockaway Beach, located on one of the leggy branches of Lake Taneycomo.
We were alone on the water because it was early May, tourist season had not yet begun. Perhaps that’s why the fish were so friendly. As we paddled around, we were accosted by large fish who scraped up against the side of our boats.
When we got over our astonishment at that, we had a leisurely paddle-around and a relaxed mother-son gabfest.
Aside from the chance to get back to nature, the other reason I love kayaking is how it opens up those kinds of opportunities.
When I think back on the great times I’ve had on the water, there are two constants, the nature that I see and the people with whom I share it.