Fitness on the Ocklawaha River, Cross Florida Greenway


For a great day of fitness on the Ocklawaha River, you can rent a canoe or bring your own canoe or kayak.  We usually canoe or kayak this river at least once a year.  But, be prepared…you are likely to see alligators on this remote Florida river.  I took this photo from a jon boat, but we always see gators when we canoe or kayak the Ocklawaha River.

Living History:  Who would have guessed Florida’s population would swell to over 20,000,000 people when the barge canal was halted in 1971?  My family moved to Palatka, Florida when I was in the third grade and stayed until I finished high school, so we lived near the barge canal property, during the 60’s and 70’s.  Back then, the sunshine state had just surpassed the 7,000,000 population mark and many people argued for growth and development over environmental concerns that were difficult to prove.  Back then, the damaging effects of dredging, filling, and rerouting the natural flow of streams and rivers were not as well known.  Back then, it was nearly impossible to prove a barge canal would damage Florida’s natural aquifer–the underground river for fresh drinking water.  But, it was also impossible to prove a barge canal would not pollute Florida’s aquifer.  With little scientific proof for the court battles to halt the barge canal because of pollution to the aquifer from barge traffic on a canal that cut across the state, environmentalists shifted their arguments to saving the Ocklawaha River for its natural beauty.  The shift in focus was a success and the barge canal project was halted forever in 1971.  Those of us, like me, who lived close to the barge canal property remember the history from blasting, reservoir disasters, and dam building in the 60’s to the ultimate success of the environmentalists to halt the canal know their victory did not come easily.  I took this photograph of an alligator, looking at me before he slid into the Ocklawaha River, near Palatka, on the short pristine section unaltered by the blasting and damming of the 60’s.  With this global photo story, I salute the current shift in focus of the barge canal property to a recreational greenway made possible because of the beauty of his home.

By Stacey Gerhart

Stacey Gerhart, DVM is a veterinarian, world traveler and children's book author. Her fun and inspiring stories will leave you cheering for nature, wildlife, and protecting the planet. Stacey believes fiction pairs beautifully with non-fiction for parents and teachers to share stories with children to raise awareness about wildlife, environment, and sustainability.