Saturday, March 12, 2016

Paddling Hatbill Park to Orange Mound

Mo at launch pointThe shallow shore at Hatbill Park, off Hwy 46, is a nice spot for launching a kayak but airboats are probably seen more frequently here.  To avoid the traffic, I aim for a weekday when paddling this part of the St. Johns River. River grasses

The river itself offers some unique challenges – traveling between islands of river grasses reminds me of navigating through a hedge maze.  I really like using my GPS app through here because it makes it easier to stay on track. 

View of Orange MoundLaunching from the park, we traveled about three quarters of a mile to the west, across the south to north flow of the river, and then about half a mile to the south against the current before arriving at Orange Mound.Closeup of shell remains

At about 175 yards across the widest part, this is one of the larger mounds that I’ve visited.  I am still trying to find what I can about it, but I suspect that this one is more than just a midden.  The shell remains are visible from the shore and inland from where we landed was an old campsite near a fallen tree that had even more shell remains in its roots.

Snapping turtle-2While we were looking around, we saw a snapping turtle coming out of the trees, heading for the river.  It wasn’t shy, or aggressive, just intent on making it to the river’s edge.

By the public for the publicFrom here we headed back to the east for about three quarters of a mile towards a campsite along the river where we stopped for lunch.  From Google Earth, this looked interesting, and when we arrived, there were enough shell remains visible in the soil and along the bank that I suspect that it was a shell midden.

Wide river back-2On the trip back we had both the current and the wind at our backs for most of the way, so about all the paddling needed was to keep from drifting into the grasses. 

The river current wasn’t too strong today, but the wind was blowing in the same direction so any traveling to the south required some reasonably strong padding to keep moving forward.  Other than that, this was an easy trip, and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in visiting some of Florida’s pre-historic sites.  If you would like to download a gpx file, or see where the photos were taken, click on the “Trip Details” link at the bottom of the map.

Click a photo for full size, or hover for a description.
(More photos in the Photo Gallery)

River view Mo drifting Snapping turtle-1
Shell remains at Orange Mound Airboat and kayaks at campsite Snapping turtle coming out of the woods

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