Monticello Rotary Raffle Adventure

Finding our way through the braided channels

Tom Harmon guiding Paddle on WacissaMy friend Tom Harmon invited me to be his guest at a Rotary meeting. Well–knowing the food would be prepared by Mary Frances Dawdry, I said yes immediately because EVERYTHING she prepares is delicious. Besides that, the company at a Rotary meeting is always excellent and they invariably offer interesting speakers.

Another tradition at the Monticello Rotary meetings is a drawing. As their guest, I was asked to draw out a number. I scrambled the tickets around a little and grabbed one.  I didn’t have on my glasses (vanity) so I asked Tom to read out the numbers. He did and then checked my ticket for me and the numbers matched!

I won the prize! It was a canoe trip with Tom and Jeff Wilcox from the headwaters of the Wacissa to Goose Pasture.

The Wacissa is full of birds

This beautiful trip filled in a section of the Jefferson County Rivers I had never seen. I enjoyed the paddle to Blue Spring several times. Ed Green took me through the Slave Canal connecting to the Aucilla. David Ward treated me to a paddle on the north end of the Aucilla when it was in flood, entering at Snead’s Smokehouse landing.

With a larger group, David paddled so I could photograph a segment of the Aucilla from Lamont south to the site of a lost town called Cash Money. Back in 2010, Charlie Ward and Jack Carswell gave me a wonderful photographic tour of the lower Aucilla, Apalachee Bay and the Pinhook, entering the River at Mandalay in Taylor County. Someday I hope to photograph the section of the Aucilla referred to as the “Races.”

Another time I hiked the underground part of the Aucilla called the Aucilla Sinks. What are called “Sinks” are small and large windows into the underground river forming beautiful small ponds and lakes.  I look forward to seeing the “Races” and completing my photographic tour of the rivers.

Finding our way through the braided channels

Jefferson County’s Aucilla River

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By Anne Haw Holt

 

Today, in autumn, the river is dry under the Ashville Highway Bridge. In early spring I spent more than three quiet hours in the bow of a friend’s canoe, wandering among the channels, wide pools and small bays created by the overflow. I snapped photograph after photograph of water birds, the pale new leaves of rampant undergrowth and gently greening cypress forest.

In the hot Florida summer, from Lamont south to our landing near the lost town of “Cash Money” we paddled a wide, strong and full-flowing river. The water sometimes tumbled and rushed over rapids, cutting into high banks. We found fallen trees blocking our canoes, forcing a portage through the underbrush alongside the stream. Once we pushed lightened canoes across a partially submerged log. Wide-winged birds flew off into the forest at the sound of our paddles. The sun sparkled on water rippling over hidden stones and swirling around cypress knees.

The Aucilla disappears underground near Goose Pasture. Rushing, it dives into the depths of a limestone labyrinth for somewhere between four and five miles. The water intermittently surfaces through windows in the rock to create tiny ponds and graceful lakes, some with floating islands made of lily pads. The “Aucilla Sinks” are bordered by a well-known hiking trail.

Near Nutall Rise the water comes back to the surface where it is joined and augmented by the spring-fed Wacissa River. From there the Aucilla flows wide and deep to wander around Ward Island, curve into Apalachee Bay and race out into the Gulf of Mexico. On the far side of Apalachee Bay, hidden in the sawgrass, we found the narrow channel of the lost Pinhook River.