Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Hallowed Part of the River Is in Danger

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Hallowed Part of the River Is in Danger

Article excerpt

Byline: Ron Littlepage

On the wall of my office is a framed illustration done by Chris Armstrong, a talented and well known outdoors artist.

Armstrong was working at The Florida Times-Union at the time, and the drawing was used with a humorous story I had written about duck hunting on the St. Johns River.

It was in the early 1980s, and a friend and I would load a leaky jon boat, an old motor that with prompting occasionally worked, a black lab and a dozen or so decoys into my truck and then head south on State Road 13.

This was before development had devoured what then still looked like old Florida.

Just south of Orangedale, there was a dirt road - and that's a kind description - that led to the St. Johns River.

I'm sure accessing the river there was most likely trespassing - the remnants of a chain across the road suggested that - but no one was around and no one seemed to care.

In fact, one morning as we were unloading the jon boat in the dark, headlights were headed our way.

Oh, oh. Wildlife officers.

But they only checked our hunting licenses and then drove off after saying, "Stack 'em up like cord wood."

There was never any danger of that happening, but the many hours we spent on Hallowes Cove were spectacular.

It was there that I first fell in love with the St. Johns River.

The dense woods and wetlands surrounding the cove were beautiful.

And the cove itself was filled with aquatic vegetation that held thousands of fish that would break the surface of the water as we motored - sputtered was more like it - across the cove to a point on the other side where we would set out our decoys, hide the boat in some cattails and wait for the sun to rise.

We never shot many ducks, but we often saw hundreds of them rafted up in the middle of the river.

And we watched egrets, herons, ospreys and an occasional bald eagle.

More times than not, we were the only ones there.

That's not the story today. …

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