I had already set up camp at Nelson’s the night before (Friday night) and drove my car down to Mt. Dora where I left it and took the boat from the marina up to the river.
My camping site at Nelson’s Fishing Camp along the Ocklawaha River, near Ocala, Florida.
The next morning, which was Sunday, I set out early to head north on the Ock, with my goal to make it to the Silver River and Silver Springs.
The river before this point from where it leaves Lake Griffin is very wide open, but at the area near the camp, it begins to narrow and take on a more true river feel, but it is a portion that is not as it once was, having been graded and channeled in preparation for the building of the barge canal.
Views looking fore and aft, heading north along the Ocklawaha.
At this point–the river begins to take on another feel and look. In the photos above this one, the area around the river is a large restoration and wildlife management area. In this section, the river and surrounding area had less work done on it and it is more like the Ock of old, but soon you come to the settlement of Moss Bluff where a significant lock and dam complex sit and there are a number of homes located along the river.
Approaching the Moss Bluff, Lock and Dam Complex. To the right, that structure with the concrete and cross members, with rip rap works along the banks is the dam and spillway. Off to the left is the channel that leads into the lock.
Inside the lock getting set for the drop to down to what is some of the last remaining vestiges of the Ock River. For this part of the country–the rise and fall of this lock is quite significant, being approximately 23 feet, which is a lock rise and fall comparable to those you experience on locks on the Ohio River such as Markland and Meldhal Locks along the Ohio in the Cincinnati region.
The lock after the water has been released from the chamber, with the water lowered to meet the “real” river.
Once you exit the lock, after you pass a number of homes, you get into a part of the river where it begins to “go wild” and does have scenery that would have been what the passengers and crews of the old steam powered river boats once experienced.
While the river does run pretty straight here, it is a tight squeeze along this section. Before long, you reach the point where the barge canal would have been located.
This bridge marks the point that had the barge canal been completed, it would sit along what is now a cross state trail, called the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway in honor of the woman who became the public face and fiercest advocate for stopping the canal. The trail is still being constructed and at the time I made this trip, it was not yet open but construction is mostly complete of the bridge itself.
Some more information on this trail: http://www.americantrails.org/nationalrecreationtrails/trailNRT/Carr-Cross-Florida-Greenway.html
From this point forward, the river begins to get really tight and pretty shallow. I only made it a few miles north and as I got to where it really got “hairy,” I could not longer take the risk of trying to take photos and also run the boat.
I slowed way down as I got to the really rough spot, tilted the motor up and began to make contact with things in the water with my pontoon hulls and with more and more hits, I decided that my luck might fast run out and that was it, I turned the boat around–CAREFULLY, then headed back south to the campground.
As it always seems to be the case, the trip back seemed to take much less time than it did to get to the point I turned back. In the series of photos below, this is one of the houses that sit along the banks of the river at Moss Bluff. I found it to be really cool, done in the style of an Asian temple.
A few minutes later, I made my approach to the upriver entryway into the Moss Bluff Lock. These locks that sit along these waterways are very small and not too intimidating as the ones you find on rivers such as the Ohio, with the dam section stretching across a quarter mile wide of river, and two lock chambers, one 600 feet in length and the other, 1200 feet. Those things are kind of scary and many people just run their boats in each pool created above each lock and dam structure so they don’t have to “lock in.” While the Burrel Lock is pretty user friendly–seeing the lock from this perspective, is impressive to me.
In the next set of photos, I enter the lock, and get ready to hold on as the water rushes in the chamber and it was a bit rough–actually much more so than in the big locks on the Ohio I am used to. In the locks on the Ohio, you wrap a line along a floating bollard, and just hang on. In these locks, they hang handlines and you hold on—it is not easy to hold the boat still with all the in coming water. I did shoot some video of this, but at present, I am not capable of loading video.
After departing from Moss Bluff lock, it was a relatively short run back to the fish camp and my campsite, where I sat in the rest of the day, chatting with those in the park, and having a Memorial Day cookout in which I provided some pulled BBQ pork and Beef brisket I contributed, having smoked the day before after I had arrived back at camp by boat, in my portable electric pellet smoking rig you can see in the first picture at the top of the page, of my campsite.
A neighbor there, who had basically set up an almost permanent campsite, provided some fish he had caught both frying some and smoking others in my smoker.
It was nice to be able to meet and spend time with those I met at the camp.
In the last sets of photos in this part of the story, are some photos I took around the grounds.
My boat at rest, seen from the outside.
The end of the day and the end of Part 2, New Waters to Explore…..