Looking at an old river in a new way

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Looking at an old river in a new way

Looking at an old river in a new way

Looking at an old river in a new way

One of the things I love about Daytona Beach is how easy it is to get away from the city when I am craving peace and tranquility. I usually find solitude in nearby DeLand, specifically in and around the St. Johns River.

And while I’ve been there any number of times, I didn’t really ‘see’ the river until I saw it through the eyes of Gary Randlett of Blue Heron River Tours at Hontoon Landing, or Captain Gary as he’s known in these parts.

Blue Heron River TourThe Blue Heron holds about 20 passengers, all of whom arrive with a thirst for knowledge. The St. Johns is one of only a handful of rivers in the world that flows north and it offers the best freshwater fishing experience around, but that’s not why they’re here. Today we are learning about the trees, plants, birds and wildlife that make up the landscape of the St. Johns River.

This is Florida the way it used to be. The river banks are lined with twisted Cypress trees and towering sable palms, an ideal environment for creatures of all sorts to spend their days. This is the quiet side of Daytona Beach. Aside from the occasional hum of a passing boat, all you hear are birds singing and gators honking their mating call.

Blue Heron River Tour- birdsDuring the two hour ride, Captain Gary will point out dozens of birds that call the St. Johns home. This, it seems, is a bird lover’s paradise. You will marvel as you watch the long legged egret stand stoically looking at the water for just the right time to dive for dinner. You’ll see a snake-like creature in the water that will turn out to be an anhinga, a bird whose wings don’t repel water like its more traditional counterparts. You’ll watch in awe as they spread their wings to dry so that they can take flight.

Gator-webDon’t be surprised to see deer lurking in the woods or the occasional otter or a panther. Turtles and alligators can be found sunning on downed logs. The alligators will allow you to get somewhat close before they disappear into the water. Turtles on the other hand, seem to scoot into the water if they even catch you looking at them.

Captain Gary will tell you about the flowers and foliage that bloom here. The natural beauty is the stuff from which great photos are made. If you’ve never done this type of tour before, be sure to bring a camera to capture some amazing photos to take home.

The Blue Heron is located at Hontoon Landing in DeLand. Captain Gary does two river tours a day: one at 10 a.m.; the other at 1 p.m. They are supposed to last two hours, but don’t hold him to that. If you have a beautiful day with lots to see, don’t be surprised if you are there longer.

~Deborah Boyd

Blue Heron River Tours at Hontoon Landing- 2317 River Ridge Rd, DeLand, FL

CLICK HERE for Blue Heron’s listing.

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