47 photos

Snow Hill Road
Oviedo, Fla.
Coordinates: 28°40′40″N 81°06′50″W
No facilities, unpaved, no ramp

The cool, dark serpentine Econlockhatchee River (a/ka/ the Econ) which twists and turns for miles, is a north-flowing blackwater tributary of the St. Johns River that flows through Orange, Seminole, and Osceola counties. It serves the eastern portion of the Orlando Metropolitan Area (east of State Road 417).

Believed to have been named by the Muskogee tribe, and translates to "earth-mound stream," (according to William Bright's book, Native American Placenames of the United States), this river is designated as an Outstanding Florida Water, and flows north from its source, Lake Conlin, through the Econlockhatchee River Swamp south of State Road 528.

Near Oviedo, the tributary, called the Little Econlockhatchee River, joins the Econ and turns east. The Econlockhatchee eventually joins the St. Johns River near Puzzle Lake. The river's flood plain is forested for its entire length.

The river supports abundant and diverse wildlife including sandhill cranes, bald eagles, ospreys, hawks, wading birds, wood storks, roseate spoonbill, waterfowl, shorebirds, deer, and turkey. Natural communities include cypress/hardwood swamp, bottomland hardwoods, and freshwater marsh.

Some reports say the best paddling on the Econ for more casual paddlers, or those not familiar with the river, begins at County Road 419 near Oviedo where the river opens up to reveal 15-foot high sandy banks lined with oaks and cabbage palms. There may be weed jams in this area and portages are difficult in some sections due to the high banks. There are places along this stretch to pull out and picnic and plenty of wildlife to be seen. This is considered a classic Central Florida paddle. Take-out for this section is Snow Hill Road.

We put in at the bridge on Snow Hill Road and paddled east, away from the first section – no weed jams here, water level allowed for constant gliding, and while there was the occasional deadfall adding adventure to the flow, this was most certainly a beautiful journey. The banks are lower here than the first section (though in spots, still pretty substantial), and are lined with cypress trees and clusters of cabbage palms. As the river winds, the tree-lined banks give way to pasture land and the marshes of the St. Johns River. Much of the land is in private hands, so be conscious of this if making pit stops.

We paddled just beyond the power lines, turned around and paddled back to Snow Hill Road bridge (first image in this gallery) Roundtrip was about 6.5 miles. If you prefer a one-way paddle, continue passed the power lines and turn left once entering the St Johns, then paddle 1.5 miles to the State Road 46 bridge, which is clearly visible from the mouth of the Econ. The take-out is at the northwest corner of the bridge. From Snow Hill Road to the take-out at State Road 46 is about 11 miles. Care should be taken on the St. Johns due to the possibilty of heavy powerboat and airboat traffic.
The put-in at left to the turn-around point @ right took about 2.5 hours, including a brief lunch.Besides adding dimension to the canvas that was our pleasure to paddle, the deadfall made for some fun navigation.My paddle pal, Dan, joined me on his very first yak trip. I do believe he now prefers kayaks over canoes – of course! ;-)He took to yakkin' like a duck to water......and was quickly flashing that dapper smile!I see art in the wreckage of nature.The water was wonderfully cool, black in the deepest parts, tannin in the shallowest, glass-like before the wind picked up.Signs of civilization were few and far between in this section (joyfully) and this bird house was the first along the way.The chance to "go under" was always a treat, though sometimes, there wasn't a choice.We hit the water around 10:45 a.m., and it was blissfully tranquil. Between the clouds and the canopies of trees, we were never long without shade.I tried to get Dan to relax...he seemed so tense... ;-)Though fallen, many of the trees continue to show signs of life.Acknowledging the splendor.Lookin' good!Nothing is wasted in nature.It was a glorious day to be in a kayak.First spotting of a 'gator turned out to be very disturbing......as it was decapitated and just one of many we would see being scavenged by Turkey Vultures.Because it was clear these alligators hadn't died naturally, this display of the "order of things" provided no consolation.Fortunately, the grotesque was swiftly followed by the exquisite...