On my birthday yesterday a few mates and I decided to visit some limestone outcroppings along the Waccasassa River in north Florida that Brack had found during his paddle-for-pay excursions. The Waccasassa is one of my very favorite rivers due to its small and intimate size, variety of tributaries, small springs, wilderness character and wonderful absence of humans. Except us, of course:
Brack took us first up a trib known for its relict bald cypress trees, Taxodium distichum. It is not unusual to find an occasional hollow, 2-meter diameter ancient giant in Florida’s mature floodplains, but this little trib has a half-dozen or so close to our landing where we could wander around to admire them all. Their hollowness is what saved them from the logger’s saw a hundred years ago; they may be five or more centuries in age. Bats and rat snakes hide in them by day, but none were seen in the two that we entered and explored:
At this stop we found a marvelous caterpillar, neon green with bright orange spines. Does it look poisonous? It does to me! It was about 5 inches (13 cm) in length. The Discover Life website has a quick picture key leading me to the hickory horned devil, Citheronia regalis, which grows up into the regal moth.
Wikipedia states that it is the largest caterpillar, moth pupa and moth (in mass) north of Mexico. In Florida, these caterpillars prefer hickories, of which the Waccasassa floodplain has one species in wet areas (water hickory, Carya aquatica) and another (C. glabra) on low rises in the floodplain. Wiki also states they will eat sweetgum and persimmon leaves, both of which are abundant in this floodplain:
Our second stop was beside the karst outcrops that Brack had promised. Covered with ferns and greenbriar, the rock stands above saturated and flooded ground to open laterally or down into about a half-dozen small caves. Like the Withlacoochee riverside caves I wrote about a few weeks ago, the Waccasassa River caves are forming at the water table with occasional high-erosion events associated with river floods. These caves also flood to the ceiling, have no calcite formations, are low and wide but smaller, and generally have multiple entrances. Appx a quarter-mile (third-kilometer) away is another karst feature, a karst pavement.
Afterwards we rinsed off at Harry Beck County Park in a spring run, then retired to Sleazeweasel’s place for stir-fried catfish and veggies. Below are a few pics of the place.
Our next adventure out there promises to be an epic. Sleaze and Brack are talking about a circum-navigational route up the Waccasassa from Williams boat ramp, crossing westerly over to Otter Creek via Hickory Horned Devil Creek, paddle back downstream to Williams boat ramp via Otter Creek, and finally back upstream the Waccasassa to the boat ramp. One of our members thinks we will lose a man or two in the depths of Otter Creek Swamp, but it’s a price he’s willing for someone else to pay for the glory of it all, so I’m going to go along to help keep that from happening.