My 10-Day Paddling Challenge 2021
From the Heart of the St. Johns River Basin 
Orange, Seminole, Volusia, Lake and Marion Counties
Gabrielle Milch, Middle Basin Advocacy Coordinator

After my first sunrise paddle of 2021 on Lake Wildcat (Lake County, Ocala National Forest), I decided to challenge myself and paddle every day for 10 days. Since the pandemic, and like most of us, I have gone through much sorrow and fear of the unknown. On the flipside, I have also expressed deep gratitude for all I have including, my ability to get out on the water. Getting outside in Nature is where I can heal my heart and reset my brain from the urban concrete jungle and machine noises surrounding us. Plus, it’s always fun when I can bring a paddling friend with me to share our love for our St. Johns.

As Central Floridians, we are blessed with mostly clean waterways, but have many challenges to overcome and protect our waters for future generations – like the pollution created by our homes, cars, and everyday practices that have impacted our human and River overall health. The darkside to my hobby of loving our River’s natural places like springs, forests, and lakes is the degradation in water quality and quantity I have witnessed over the years.

Join me on my journey! Each day, I paddled a new location on our River and capture through photos the good and sometimes the bad side to our River’s health. I left nothing behind except for my kayak wake, my footprints in the sand, and my reflections.

Day 1      Lake Wildcat – Ocala Forest, Lake County

Day 2       Lake Beauclair and Lake Carlton – Trimble Park, Orange County, Apopka Chain of Lakes

Day 3        Gemini Springs, Paget Creek to Lake Monroe – West of I-4 Widening, Mainstem St. Johns River

Day 4         Lake Minneahaha to Lake Maitland, Orange County

Day 5         Sweetwater Springs, Juniper and Little Juniper Rivers to Lake George

Day 6         Apopka Beauclair Canal to Lake Beauclair, Apopka Headwater’s of the Ocklawaha

Day 7         Lake Hiawatha to Palatlakaha River in Clermont, Lake County

Day 8         Econlockhatchee River – Snowhill Rd. to SR426 in Oviedo

Day 9         Debary to Lake Monroe in the mainstem of the mighty St. Johns River

Day 10       Silver Springs down the Silver River to the Rodman Dam

Upon completing my 2021 10-Day Paddling Challenge, I finished a journey out of my ordinary comfort zone and regularly scheduled week. A few reflections: we are so lucky to have many different places to experience and an abundance of public lands that are full of life. Paddling gave me a new way of exploring the natural world while pondering solutions for our water pollution issues.

Most importantly … steer clear of airboats and always wear sunscreen!