Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Kayaking and an old-rig activation of Florida's Ichetucknee River

I've found my new favorite park and I think it will remain so for a very, very long time. 

Ichetucknee Springs State Park is located 40 miles northwest of Gainesville in norther Florida. The spring outputs 8 million gallons of water per hour, forming a 12 mile river that empties into the Santa Fe and then the Suwanee rivers.

The water is crystal clear and supports a unique and interesting ecosystem.

A few days ago, I made arrangements to kayak 4 miles of the river.

I arrived early and had the river to myself on a cold-for-Florida morning of 45F/7C, with my Insta360 X3 camera for the river and my old Index Labs QRP+ for later.

Otters and turtles were numerous but it was the manatees that stole the show.

The river varies in depth from 2 to 20 feet, and is about 200 feet wide. The wider spots contain the deepest water and it is in these pools that manatees congregate and feed.

And to investigate kayaking visitors.

The manatees are temporary visitors to Florida, roaming through the year from Louisiana to Massachusetts, chasing their preferred temperature.

Some other manatee factoids:

  • Typical weight of adult males: 900-1500 lbs (400-700 kg)
  • Length: 15 feet long (5m)
  • Life span of 50 years
  • The come up for air every 3-5 minutes unless sleeping, then every 20 minutes
  • Calves spend 2 years with Mom before going out on their own
  • 6100 manatees spend the winter in Florida

The activation went well and I exercised the QRP+ on several bands.

Activity was lower than usual; few hunters and not many other activators either. I worried that I might have to bench the QRP+ if multiple signals were present (I brought the KX2) but such was not the case this time. The KX2 has a much more capable receiver than the QRP+.

Sweden and France went into the log with good signals from those stations; Steve K9IS and Paul KJ7DT were there on multiple bands.

Here's the kayaking and activation video:

Directly on YouTube




  1. Good morning John great underwater video of the Manatees. They seem very peaceful and calm also allowing you to touch them.

    1. Yes, they are very "chill" animals alright. Inquisitive, slow-motion curiosity without an ounce of aggression despite their size. I can't wait to go back.

      73 - John