Kayaking is a way for me to disconnect and enjoy a world we are lucky to be living on. It reminds me that we are all here temporarily, and should stop and enjoy life. Sunday morning I decided to spend time on the water and headed off to Ray Wayside Park 9564 (camera used Canon T7i and Go Pro 7, I don’t bring my full frames unless it’s an assignment)
The official description of Ray Wayside Park (Ocala Boat Basin) is located in eastern Marion County, just off State Road 40. This state-owned property leased to the Marion County Board of County Commissioners, which has managed the facility since 1976. Facilities offered include boat ramps, bank fishing, volleyball, a playground, picnic pavilion, and restrooms.
Now, this is a great place to launch because it opens at Sunrise. I’m one of those people who likes to get started early. Usually, I’m not fond of kayaking on the weekends, so when I do, I do my paddling on Sundays. There are fewer people in the morning, and when the traffic builds, I’m usually on my way back to the launch point.
Ray Wayside Park kayaking trip JT-Pros & Cons:
Launch point Pros: Bathrooms, Easy access, plenty of assigned parking, a launch point designed for canoes/kayakers, two huge concrete motor boat ramps. Opens at sunrise
Kayaking Location Pros: A tons of wildlife which includes wild monkeys, open leisurely paddle, Gets visible water once you get closer to the springs. No fishing is allowed on Silver River and it is all idle speed only for motorboats. (use caution many boaters don’t seem to know what this means)
Launch point Cons: Can not launch before Sunrise, gets busy on weekends, only one dictated area for canoes and kayaks. (not that big of a deal really) the launch point for pacdlers has a picnic table right in the way. (again just being picky)
Kayaking Location Cons: no fishing, Motorboats are permitted can get congested, for the complete novice paddle-board, canoe, or kayaker. Launching from here going upstream can be a tough trip. Swells in the river can turn you unexpectedly but there are not many of them.
The day was almost cloudless once the morning sun burned away the fog. As usual, the Florida humidity was also up and messing with the day. I don’t mind it because once on the river it is not an issue. I paddled down the channel where I had a choice of going right to Silver Springs or heading left to the Ocklawaha River. Since I wanted to do some test pitching from my kayak, I chose to go left because there is no fishing in the park. A short paddle later to exit the park waters and after passing a couple of gators still roaming around looking for a meal, I emerged onto the surprising swift Ocklawaha River. I as always turned right to head upstream but was not going far since I just needed a place to park and do some test pitches. (rod and reel casting) The testing would soon show me that I suck and need a hell of a lot more to practice, but hey give me slack it has been years since I went fishing.
I headed back and began my trek upriver to the park section and as always it is a fun paddle. There are not too many people at this time of the morning so the journey it quite peaceful. My first animal photo of the day was of course my favorite the American alligator. It was crossing the river but put applied water breaks when it saw me.
It was trying to lurk past me but I had already set up a camera and could not leave it. It was weary and not sure what I was up to so it kept a close eye on me. A smart one so it will probably live a long life if it does not lose that fear. Now after about 15 minutes I would continued on and would get some scenic shots and more video. Again this was a personal trip so I was not too concerned with taking pictures. Along the way, I would see manatee (mom and baby), gators, an osprey, anhingas, cormorants, hummingbird, a red shoulder hawk, and a ton of fish. The water level is high so the current is a bit swift but for anyone with any experience it is still an easy paddle.
As the day unfoldedd it got busier and busier, which is always great to see. This always happens on the weekends as I get closer to the Silver Springs ”the park”. (where the glass bottom boats are) I noticed a young inexperienced couple struggling with paddling in their kayaks. I had them pull alongside and showed them the proper way to sit and paddle. As usual, it takes a bit to understand but once you also know how to use the feet pegs when paddling it is a bit easier and can save you some soreness later. I had them come closer to the shoreline so I could show them both how to properly control themselves when trying to get out of vegetation. They caught on quick and also took the time to help their parents and once they all had the basics down, I let them go and moved on with my trip.
The park area of the springs is gorgeous as always and I paddled though the side areas where the old movie set is. You do not have to get out because you can see it all from the water. I got some more video footage and then headed back down stream. I was born and raised in this state so I know in a few hours some afternoon storms we’re bound to roll in. The trip back is always easier because well that’s how it works going downstream. More gators, birds, and people enjoying the water. I even saw the wild monkies, which is normal for my trips here. I spend so much time on the water that I have always seen them and have been on this river many times since 2006.
The trip back was just as fun and once I got loaded up I headed out stopping to grab a soda from the local store. After drinking water all day it is a welcome change.
I came out…it was raining Lol… I know my state.
Thank you – JT