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Trip report: April 2016

Black Water Creek at Lake Norris...

Some Varied and Unique Scenery

Black Water Creek flows out of Lake Norris (in Lake County) for about 20 miles to the lower Wekiva River. Here we report on the Lake and upper Creek within the Lake Norris Conservation Area. We kayaked a short distance on the Creek upstream to Lake Norris and returned. Both water levels and wind speed are key. Too little water and the creek may be blocked by downfall. Too much wind and paddling on a large lake becomes a chore. When the elements cooperate, this is a unique and interesting trip. Note: just below the launch, the Creek becomes impassable for miles, opening up again a few miles above the launch in the Seminole State Forest (link below). (Detailed map, photos below.)

Black Water Creek, Lake Norris

Map link - Black Water Creek,
Lake Norris

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Distance: Optional; 3/4 mile on Black Water Creek; Lake Norris is about 8 miles around.
Location: Lake County (Paisley)
Difficulty: Easy to moderate (watch water level and winds)
Tidal: No
Launch points: Lake Norris Conservation Area (See map)
Nearby points of interest: Seminole State Forest, Mt. Dora, Deland



Paddling on Black Water Creek and Lake Norris... Comments and Photos

Paddling is out and back; from narrow, shady creek to large lake and return. Total distance is up to you. Most of Lake Norris' shoreline is natural, dominated by dwarf cypress trees, which provide unique scenery and some shelter from the wind. The south and west sides offer the best paddling. There's a Boy Scout Camp on the north side, and only a few homes on the east side. Aside from the hand-launch, there are no other public boat ramps. Thus, while close to Orlando, paddling here retains a quiet and remote feel.

Black Water Creek - Launch and Paddling to Lake Norris

Entering Lake Norris Conservation Area from Lake Norris Road, the launch is on your right, barely visible under tree canopy. Hand-launch, no gasoline motors allowed on Black Water Creek. It's less than a mile against light current to Lake Norris. (Downstream, it quickly becomes impassible to all but the most extreme adventurers.) On our first visit, the water was low and downfall blocked access to the lake, but we were hooked. The swamp exuded old age (later we discovered, one of the oldest in Florida). Photos will show you the difference in water levels. The water here is some of the blackest we've seen (sorry, our photos do not capture the color). A few orange blazes on trees help mark the trail. Some twists, turns, and partial obstructions; but normal to high water levels make these less of a challenge

Paddling on Lake Norris

Lake Norris is about 8 miles around, covering 1,100 acres. Much of the shoreline is ringed by "dwarf cypress," especially the west side, so that's the path we took upon entering the lake. Weaving between cypress along the shoreline made for some enjoyable paddling, as well as providing shelter from the wind. While the Lake is known for its large number of nesting osprey, on this day we didn't see a single one. We saw one pontoon boat cruising; most likely a local resident, or from the Boy Scout Camp on the north end, as there are no other public boat ramps. The wind started to pick up (less windy, the better on large lakes), so after doing most of the western shoreline, we paddled toward the center of the lake, which allowed the wind to do most of the work in pushing us back to the exit.

More About Black Water Creek and Lake Norris

From a geological perspective, this is one of the oldest cypress swamps in Florida. The water is exceptionally dark and the canopy above the creek is thick. As you paddle the creek, you'll see a rich variety of plant life, including ferns, air plants, and seasonal orchids. Sitting atop a layer of clay, nutrients are scarce, resulting in the stunted growth of old trees. This explains the "dwarf cypress" that ring much of the lake, especially on the south and west sides.

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