Blue Heron River Tours

Hontoon Landing
Resort & Marina
2317 River Ridge Road

Phone: 386-873-4843


8/29/2013 We have some alligators that are finally crawling out of the river and laying out on the bank and on some logs, and as things cool down out here we will be seeing more birds returning to Central Florida.  We also were able to show some folks their first manatee yesterday.  This is such a tough job!!!

8/11/2013 I guess it is the summer of twins.  We have been watching a female manatee in the Hontoon Dead River with two very small calves, and, also on the Dead River, a doe with two spotted fawns.  We don't get to view these every trip, but it is quite a treat when we do spot them!!!

8/2/2013   We watched some manatee mating today on the Hontoon Dead River (I know we should have looked away, but we just couldn't!).

8/2/2013   Lately we have viewed more than our share of pigs and deer.  We have located a spot just off the St. Johns River where some rather large feral pigs have been rooting, and we have been lucky enough to see a few on some of our morning trips.  We also enjoyed watching a doe and her two spotted fawns feeding on the bank of the Hontoon Dead River yesterday.

7/21/2013  We are still seeing quite a few alligators, the occasional deer and manatees more often than I would expect this time of year.  But today we also spotted a pretty large pig right on the side of the river.  Pretty cool!!!!!

7/12/2013  We have spotted two alligator nests along the river, and have seen the protective females either near or on each nest.  Kind of cool to see.  Join Blue Heron River Tours for a trip and see for yourself!!!

7/8/2013   Within the past few days we have seen manatees and deer on some of our trips on the Hontoon Dead River.  There is always something interesting to see on a Blue Heron River Tour!!!!!

7/4/2013    Happy 4th of July to all our friends.  We enjoyed a low-level fly by from a swallow-tailed kite on our morning tour today.  Also spotted a black-crowned night heron on the St. Johns River.  The Hontoon Dead River was spectacularly beautiful today; a photographer's dream!!!

6/29/2013  There has been a black-crowned night heron hanging around on the south end of the Hontoon Dead River for the past few days, which is kind of cool to see this time of year.  That, along with the beautiful, lush green of Florida summer makes this a fantastic time for a cruise. 

6/20/2013 Having a bald eagle fly across the bow of the boat yesterday was a highlight of our time on the river.  We also got a quick look at a couple of manatees on our afternoon trip.  There is also a black-crowned night heron hanging out in the dead river that we have spotted from time to time.  If you have never seen the river during the summer, you are missing a slice of wonderful Florida beauty!

6/8/2013   Well, the Hontoon Dead River has finally reopened.  The storm helped wash away the plants that were clogging the north end, and we can finally make our loop around Hontoon Island State Park again.  We have been seeing swallow-tailed kites almost every day for the past few weeks, and yesterday we watched some manatees feeding south of Blue Spring State Park.  It's just beautiful on the St. Johns River!!!!!!!

5/31/2013  We saw swallow-tailed kites everywhere today.  Also got to watch a deer and some turkeys.  What a nice morning!!!

5/23/2013  We are seeing deer almost every trip, and the osprey chicks are getting quite large.  We also found a pair of great blue heron chicks that are just about ready to leave the nest.

5/19/2013  So, the pair of osprey chicks turned out to be three rather than two.  Momma is doing a pretty good job of shielding them from the sun, and sometimes from our view.  Over the past few days we have seen a number of deer, both on the St. Johns River and back on the Hontoon Dead River.  These days our area is lush, green and quite beautiful!

5/15/2013  We are seeing a large number of fledgeling great blue herons, and are also able to watch a pair of osprey chicks developing in the nest.  Todd was lucky enough to view a black-crowned night heron on the morning trip today!

5/2/2013   Deer have been spotted on Hontoon Island over the past few days, and we are seeing a clutch of baby alligators in our canal on some of the sunnier trips.  There is also a female manatee with twin year-old calves who has been feeding on the Hontoon Dead River.  There is plenty of food there, so hopefully she will hang out for a while.

4/25/2013  The osprey chicks are slowly getting larger and easier to see. We are also still seeing manatees on the Hontoon Dead River.  Blue Heron River Tours at Hontoon Landing is the place to experience the "real" Florida!!!

4/23/2013  We saw our first osprey chicks about a week ago, and have a brand new great blue heron's nest with at least one chick.  There are also some manatees that have settled in on the Hontoon Dead River, including a female with twins.  Should be seeing more barred owls in the next few weeks as well.

4/13/2013 Yesterday we not only watched fawns and a raccoon, but we also saw a bared owl in the logging canal.  Manatees feeding were an additional treat in the afternoon!

4/6/2013  We watched a great blue heron eating a cotton mouth today.  The snake was striking at the neck of the heron as the bird attempted to make the kill.  Very cool stuff out here on the St. Johns River and the Hontoon Dead River.  What are you waiting for?  There is no better time to visit than now!!!!!

4/3/2013    We are seeing a lot of alligators, including large males and females with babies.  This activity will continue right through mating season in May.  Come on out and see for yourself!!!

3/23/2013   Today we saw wild turkeys fully displayed, American bitterns, many purple gallinules and a bald eagle.  And this was only surpassed by the Florida black bear we sighted yesterday.  I love my job!!!

3/20/2013  There are still a few manatees around, but the alligator activity has really picked up.  I think it is going to be an early year on the St. Johns river!!  We actually saw eight American bitterns today, and have also been seeing quite a few green herons.  What are you waiting for?  Your day will always be special on a Blue Heron River Tours!!!

2/28/2013  Wood storks, gallinules and bitterns, oh my.  It's just lovely on the St. Johns River and the Hontoon Dead River.  Isn't it time you saw this for yourself?????

2/23/2013  Wow, I've been busy and haven't been here for way too long.  We are starting to see great blue heron chicks on some of the nests on the river.  And although the manatees are moving out of the spring, we are still lucky enough to see some most days.  American bitterns have been spotted on both the Hontoon Dead River and the St. Johns River, and today we saw a number of purple gallinules and a bald eagle.  It's a great time to be on the river!!!!!

1/28/2013  Sunday we had an amazing manatee experience.  Just north of Blue Spring we were checked out by two manatees for about five minutes.  The pair ended up at the back of the boat, just gazing up at us, leaving us to wonder who was observing whom???  What are you waiting for?  We are seeing lots of manatees on almost every trip!!!  That along with a huge number of birds on the Hontoon Dead River should be enough to excite anyone!  How about you????

1/24/2013  I just don't ever remember the amount of migratory birds that we are viewing each day.  If you want to see the natural side of Florida, there truly is no better time than now.  Daily sightings include American bitterns, snowy and cattle egrets, limpkins, tri-colored herons, little blue herons, the occasional yellow-crowned and black-crowned night herons and more great egrets and white ibis than I have ever seen.  Daily trips are running at 10:00 am and 1:00 pm!!!!  Don't miss the boat!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

1/17/2013  Some of our birds are well into their nesting behaviors.  There even appear to be one or two great blue herons that are already on eggs.  It won't be long before we are seeing great blue heron and osprey chicks!!!

1/7/2013     Happy New year!!!!!!!!  2013 is starting out as a fantastic year on the St. Johns River and the Hontoon Dead River.  There are more birds and manatees around than I have seen in a long time.  Just in the past few days we have seen purple gallinules, coots, white and glossy ibis, wood storks, great blue herons, little blue herons cattle egrets, snowy egrets, tri-colored herons, red shouldered hawks, bald eagles and anhingas.  There are also many manatees and alligators around.  Come over to Hontoon Landing and see what you have been missing!!!

12/23/2012  I'm not sure that I have ever seen more on the river than we are seeing right now.  On this afternoon's trip alone we saw manatees, alligators, deer, purple gallinules, wood storks, bitterns, limpkins, and a black-crowned night heron, not to mention about two dozen great egrets roosting and hundreds of white ibis.  What are you waiting for?  There is no better time than the present to join Blue Heron River Tours for a trip!!!

12/8/2012    Sorry, it's been a while.  We are seeing manatees and alligators pretty much everywhere.  There are also a large number of white ibis that have just moved into the Dead River over the last few days.  Couple that with a wood stork or two and it is a pretty good time to visit Blue Heron River Tours!!!

11/19/2012  Yesterday on our afternoon trip we saw a limpkin, an American bittern, a black-crowned night heron and a yellow-crowned night heron.  And, if that wasn't enough, today we spotted a black-bellied whistling-duck, something I have never seen before on the river.  If you are a birder, or just enjoy the natural side of Florida, there is no better time to experience Blue Heron River Tours!!

11/13/2012  Over the past few days we have spotted both black-crowned and yellow-crowned night herons, American bitterns and a glossy ibis.  Also the population of manatees is growing in leaps and bounds!!!  Pack your camera and binoculars, and head on down to Hontoon Landing Resort and Marina to see for yourself!

11/10/2012  Enjoyed watching a black-crowned night heron on the dead river yesterday.  We also saw an American Bittern and an ever growing population of white ibis.  And if you enjoy seeing manatees, the population is increasing every day!!!!!

10/31/2012  Today was an incredible day.  We saw Manatees at Blue Spring, a river otter south of the spring and a young buck in the logging canal.  It is such a special time of year to see the St. Johns River.  What are you waiting for.  There is no better time to take a Blue Heron River Tour!!!!!

10/25/2012 We are still waiting for larger flocks of ibis to return to the river, but our customers have enjoyed sightings of black-crowned night herons, short-tailed hawks and American bitterns.  And if you have never seen climbing aster in bloom, from now until Thanksgiving is absolutely the best time.  It's always a good time to take a Blue Heron River Tour!!!

10/7/2012  We have been seeing a large group of manatees on the Hontoon Dead River over the past two days.  Along with that there have been some black-crowned and yellow-crowned night herons around, and some small flocks of white ibis are beginning to return to the river.

9/29 2012  Bitterns, green herons and limpkins, oh my!!!!!!!!!!  And a wood stork thrown in for good measure.

9/22/2012  Over the past few days we have seen limpkins and American bitterns, and we were pleased to spot a small flock of yellow-crowned night herons today.  In the mornings we are starting to see some alligators crawling out of the water, always a treat!!!!! 

9/16/2012  We saw some "firsts" of the season today.  Spotted a black-crowned night heron on our morning trip, and an American bittern right out in the open on our afternoon tour.  There has also been talk of a Florida black bear being spotted on Hontoon Island, so we will be keeping our eyes wide open over the next few days!!!

9/7/2012    On our 10:00 trip we spotted a pair of purple gallinules with six chicks.  Later in the day we were able to watch our first American Bittern of the season.  It must have just recently finished its southern migration.

8/29/2012  I had the most wonderful trip this morning with Donna and Duke from Cincinnati, Ohio.  We started the trip with manatees, saw some large alligators along the way, but the highlight was getting to watch a nest full of baby alligators with momma keeping a close eye!  Every day is special on a Blue Heron River Tour.

8/24/2012  Over the past few days we have been seeing many more alligators coming out of the water, giving us nice viewing opportunities.  We also saw our first bald eagle in about three months; a  sign of many good things to come.  Join us soon for a wonderful, natural adventure on the St. Johns River and the Hontoon Dead River.

8/11/2012 So, it's not that the manatees we watched this morning weren't wonderful, but the birders out there will understand how excited I was to see a least bittern on our 10:00 trip.  That with a couple off limpkins really made my day!!!

8/9/2012   We have been fortunate enough to watch manatees on every trip over the past few days.  Spotted a female with a calf in the Hontoon Dead River this afternoon, and had two manatees swim right up to the boat and "check us out" yesterday.  I can't believe this is my job!!!!!

8/5/2012   Watching half a dozen manatees feeding on the St. Johns River was a real treat today!

8/2/2012    Watching a manatee female with a calf was the highlight of a slightly wet tour today.  We also saw an aligator lunge out of the water in an attempt to grab a great blue heron.  Isn't it time to come down to Hontoon Landing and experience for yourself the beauty of the St. Johns River system???

8/1/2012    If deer, manatees, alligators and feral pigs aren't enough to get you excited about a Blue Heron River Tour, then maybe just the fantastic beauty of our wonderful river system will excite you.  I personally love a morning like today just filled with wildlife!!

7/20/2012  We saw the female manatee witth her calf again yesterday afternoon!!!!!!!!!!!!

7/19/2012  We are seeing manatees and deer almost every day.  This is pretty unusual in the hot summer months, but I'm not complaining.  It sure makes for a wonderful tour!!!!!

7/12/2012   There were manatees on the Hontoon Dead River again today.  We also watched a doe in the woods on our morning trip.  You should come out to see what you are missing!!!

7/11/2012   We got a quick glance at a feral pig today just north of Blue Spring.  It has been a while since I have seen a pig, so I was pretty excited!  The temperature on the water today was very comfortable; the coolest day in the past couple of weeks.

7/7/2012     It's five to ten degrees cooler on the water.  Our 10:00 am trip is the perfect getaway!  This morning we saw a deer, a banded water snake and some good-sized alligators.

7/6/2012     Have been seeing manatees on the Hontoon Dead River for the past few days.  Swamp hibiscus and scarlet hibiscus are both in bloom, and we are beginning to see glades morning glories.  It's a tough job, but..........

7/1/2012     Our canal is just beautiful right now.  The trees are so lush and green, and the canopy on the west end is spectacular.  Add to that the baby alligators on the bank and you have the makings for a wonderful experience!

6/29/2012   We enjoyed watching a doe with a spotted fawn today.  The water has risen quite a bit over the past few weeks, and the river is lush, verdant and beautiful!!!

6/27/2012   On a quick trip around our route today, while checking for snags and downed trees, we saw some rather large alligators and a black-crowned night heron.  We have also found a few alligator nests, which should be interesting as we track the activity from now until late August when the babies should hatch out.

6/21/2012   We are seeing some of the summer blooms appearing over the past two weeks.  Trumpet vines and glades morning glory are beginning to blossom, and the scarlet hibiscus are really stunning.  Manatees feeding on the Hontoon Dead River were an additional treat for our morning tour today!!!  Yesterday we were able to watch deer in a couple of spots on the dead river.

6/14/2012   One of the best things about June and July on the St Johns River is the ability to observe all three developmental stages of the little blue heron.  We just started seeing this year's hatch, adult size, but all white.  We are also finding last year's juvenile, with grey-blue patches developing throughout their white plumage, and the mature birds with their slate-blue plumage.  Sometimes it is the little stuff that is the most special!!!

6/10/2012   Had a wonderful tour today.  The thunderstorms held off until late afternoon, giving us the chance to observe a small herd of manatees feeding in the dead river.  In the winter months this is an every day occurance, but seeing manatees in the warmer months is just special!  Also saw turtles everywhere, and a few alligators.

5/26/2012   We saw a roseate spoonbill today, which is a fairly rare sight on the St Johns River.  Manatees and deer were an added bonus!!!  We also sighted five or six limpkins on our morning trip.

5/23/2012   It was just a perfect morning on the river today.  We saw lots of birds, including a black-crowned night heron, as well as a nice close look at a white tailed deer on the Dead River.  A twelve foot bull alligator on the bank of the main channel was a special treat. The light winds along with the mostly clear skies made for fantastic photography opportunities, always an added bonus!

5/20/2012   Had two very nice trips today.  We saw manatees both in the morning and afternoon, and got to observe a barred owl as well.  A bit of a breeze made it quite comfortable out on the water today.  We also watched a sand hill crane reposition her egg on the nest this morning, always a treat!!!

5/19/2012   Today we saw a wild turkey roosting, along with owls, deer and manatees.  It seems a small group of manatees have settled in on the hontoon Dead River for the summer; always a treat to see.  Still seeing yellow-crowned night herons, as well as the occasional white ibis.

5/18/2012  Another beautiful day.  Saw some very large alligators along with a nice assortment of birds.  It's always fun to watch deer feeding on the pennywort by the bank of the river.  The river is beginning to rise a bit with the afternoon showers we have been having.  I would expect the osprey chicks will leave the nest in the next couple of weeks, but a new hatch of great blue herons north of Blue Spring are just beginning to lift their tiny heads.  There is just so much to see!!!

5/16/2012  It was a little quiet on the river today with the showers, and that made for a wonderful trip.  We saw five barred owls, a doe, yellow-crowned night herons and quite a few purple gallinules.  Absolutely a beautiful morning!!!

5/13/2012  Got to watch the mother manatee with her calf again on our 1:00 pm trip.  Quite a nice mother's day treat!!!  Yellow-crowned night herons were on the Dead River again today.

5/12/2012:  Saw a manatee Mom with a very young calf today on the Hontoon Dead River.  Could be the same two we saw in late April.  Also saw green herons and yellow-crowned night herons.  All in all a nice day!

5/10/2012:  Flowering plants are beginning to bloom.  Saw swamp hibiscus and trumpet vine today.

On May 9 we saw deer everywhere.  Not sure what was going on, but it was really an incredible day!!!

The two osprey chicks that hatched out in April on Lake Beresford are now too big to hide.  They have developed feathers and have their dark eye bands.  Very cool to see!

 A small group of manatees have settled in on the Hontoon Dead River.  On Saturday, April 28 we were fortunate enough to watch a female with a calf that could not have been more than a few days old.  I really love my job!!!!!

It's always a great time to take a Blue Heron River Tour!

Hope to see you on the river,

Captain Gary S. Randlett