Prairie Creek, Gainesville, Florida (1987)

This urban creek is surprisingly attractive and natural looking, despite its close proximity to Gainesville. The creek drains Newnan's Lake (a 6,000-acre lake west of the city) from the south on its way to Paynes Prairie and Orange Lake. Historically, the river drained into Paynes Prairie state preserve, providing the Prairie basin with much needed water. But in the early 1940s, Camp's Canal was constructed by the Camp family to divert most of the water to Orange Lake in order to block Prairie Creek from flooding the Prairie. Today, bass fisherman and fish camp owners along the lake put pressure on the State to maintain this diversion to the Lake under the assumption that the diverted water is important for healthy bass fishing. Paynes Prairie enthusiasts, meanwhile, fight for more Creek water to be allowed into the preserve, as it had historically done.

After leaving the put-in point, the creek twists and turns through a floodplain forest. A water control structure is found on the west side as the creek straightens out into Camp's Canal. This structure lets some of the water to continue flowing into the Prairie.

I have canoed the creek several times, and am impressed by the large cypress trees that force the canoeist to wind around them, the large number of alligators in the adjacent marshes, the Great Blue Herons, and the two large hoot owls I saw in a tree just a few feet above my canoe on an early morning trip with my parents. That's me, canoeing down the Creek, in the photo above.

The distance of the run is 4.4 miles, and takes about two to three hours to paddle.



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