Canoeing on the Crystal River

We set out early in the morning from Land O’Lakes to Crystal River on Florida’s west coast on a cloudless day to rent a canoe for two and a kayak for one at Crystal River Boat Center. We received our paddles and life jackets as we carefully stepped down into our boats. My granddaughter Catherine and I paddled somewhat awkwardly away from the dock as my grandson Patrick handled his kayak like a pro.

After fifteen minutes or so we got into sync as Catherine and I meandered downstream in a winding river with a dense shoreline of Mexican fan palms, Australian malaluka trees, with a few red cedars mixed in. Mockingbirds twittered from higher branches to serenade us with a variety of notes.

A pair of bright white swamp orchids caught or eyes as we floated past, and suddenly a mother manatee with her calf swam a few feet below the surface of Crystal River. How nice it was to be here in warm and lush Florida far away from the snow and cold of Colorado.

After going through a tunnel and under several bridges, we emerged into a wide-open body of water called Kings Bay. Patrick pulled up along side us to point out several large yachts, one of them from New Orleans. A couple of touring boats crowded with passengers churned past us as we waved back to them. But we did not wish to be among crowds of people and so paddled onward toward the distant Buzzard Island, a wildlife sanctuary lined with sawgrass and palms.

As we approached the island, we heard a distinct buzzing of insects and so we kept our distance. High atop a cedar tree a beautiful bald eagle perched itself on the lookout for any slight movement of fish. Surely, he was the king of Kings Bay! We looked down into the water to see fresh-water clams and dense patches of sea grass, food of the manatees.

Here and there were white sand beaches with overhanging palm trees reminding me of a scene from the movie “South Pacific” only without Mitzi Gaynor singing “I’m going to wah that man right out of my hair.” Paddling a little farther southward, we spotted a herring gull nest full of chicks atop a tall channel marker. And a bit farther along, a black cormorant dove for fish to surface again twenty yards farther along.

We checked our watches to see that we had to begin our return journey back up the Crystal River. Half-way back, we entered a sheltered cove of Three Sisters Spring with numerous bathers snorkling the surface in search of underwater creatures. Just as we departed, a large tanish-brown manatee swam under our canoe to surface a few yards away to breathe in some fresh air beneath the branches of a pink-flowered bottle-brush tree,

All too soon we arrived back at the boat-rental dock with thoroughly relaxed minds after three hours of easy paddling past so many palm trees swaying in gentle breezes.

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