Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Florida Designated Paddling Trail’ Category

Summer vacation, here at last!  I headed to the Panhandle to paddle a few rivers.  These would be my first in this area, and first up—the Chipola River.

I rented a kayak from Bear Paw Canoe Rental in Marianna—a local outfitter with a good selection of kayaks. The owner, Ricky, drove me just north of Marianna, to the put in at Yancy Bridge on FL 166. I began my peaceful paddle (9.8 miles) at 9:30 a.m., the only person on the river—what could be better?

The Caves on the Chipola River

The Chipola River, located in the Central Panhandle, starts north of the Alabama border.  It runs 80 plus miles to eventually merge with the Apalachicola River, close to the Gulf.  As it passes through the Florida Caverns State Park, the Chipola goes underground for awhile and then re-emerges.  Along its journey, various springs (over 60!) and creeks flow into it. (Boning) The Chipola is an Outstanding Florida Water, and 51 miles of it is a Florida Designated Paddling Trail.

Indeed outstanding, the Chipola did not disappoint me!  Almost immediately, a great horned owl flew over the river in front of me, landed on an overhanging branch, and watched as I floated beneath him.  Belted kingfishers and warblers darted here and there as ibis and herons chilled on the riverside.

Even with the recent rains, I could see the sandy bottom through the beautiful milky blue-green water, thick reeds and eel grass moving with the current.  I paddled the cool waterway shaded by thick foliage of oak (several varieties), cypress (draped in long tresses of moss), maple, magnolia, and dogwood, plus many others that I could not begin to identify. How strange not to spot a single cabbage palm!  The landscape varied with low swampy woodlands on the east side and limestone banks, bluffs, and caves on the west.

I did encounter one strange phenomenon—a constant humming coming from the woods for much of my paddle, perhaps some kind of insect. Ricky later suggested locusts.  (I believe the Florida version is called cicadas.)  Regardless, I imagined that a magical wood nymph, attempting to keep the river serene and peaceful, placed them there to help cover the sound of distant traffic sometimes present.

Just Along for the Ride

I stopped to climb and play when I reached the limestone caverns on the west bank—what a great spot for a picnic! However, I stayed close to the entrance of the caves, not wandering into the dark depths.  Further downriver, I followed a short spring run to my left and paddled around Dykes Springs, trying to capture the swirling blues and greens with my camera.  Back on the river, I paddled further and passed Spring Creek.

The thunder had already started, but I made it back to the outfitter at 1:30 p.m., just before the skies opened up and the thunder, lightning, hail, and rain began.

(Outfitter: Bear Paw Adventures. 2100 Bear Paw Lane, Marianna, Florida 32448. http://bearpawescape.com/. (850) 482-4948)

Read Full Post »

The more time I spend on Florida rivers, the more I’ve come to feel that the river cannot be rushed, that the longer the paddle, the better.  However, with this paddle, I discovered that when time does not allow for a long, leisurely paddle, a “quickie” paddle can still satisfy the senses—at least for the moment. 

The Picturesque Spruce Creek

My sister, Missy, and I paddled Spruce Creek in Port Orange on a Sunday morning in May.  Now, although my guidebooks recommend putting in at the eastern end of the creek, near Strickland Bay and Spruce Creek Park, we opted for a location closer to us, and we put in on the upper, western end, renting our tandem kayak from Cracker Creek Canoes in the privately-owned Spruce Creek Preserve.

Spruce Creek originates not far from this point, in the freshwaters of the cypress swamps.  To the west, there is less than a mile of waterway that can be navigated.  To the east, it’s less than 8 miles to Strickland Bay.  We didn’t want to miss the wild section of the river, so we began our paddle by heading west on the narrow, winding blackwater stream.   

It didn’t take long to realize why this little creek is both an Outstanding Florida Waterway and a Florida Designated Paddling Trail.  We gazed upon the picturesque creek, shaded by overhanging oaks, maples and cypress reflecting in the dark water.  On the left, high banks led up to wooded areas and one, maybe two homes tucked away.  To the right, the water spread out, seeping into the low cypress wetlands.  Deep in the woods, the birds called to each other from the trees.  

The further west we paddled, the more we had to skirt around or duck under fallen trees.  It took us less than 30 minutes to reach a point where the narrowing creek and downed trees forced us to turn around and paddle back east.  

Now, heading east, past our put in, the creek widened.   Two great blue herons greeted us, flying up the river.  A cormorant sat atop of a pole in the water, seemingly unbothered by the company.  Woodpeckers tapped away, busy at work on an overhanging tree.  We could see and hear the mullet jumping around us, close enough to get us wet as they flopped gracelessly out of the water.  We saw schools of them below us, swimming in the dark water.

If we had paddled further, we would have noticed even more of a change in the creek.  As it nears Strickland Bay, the creek and its surroundings become more estuarine with grass flats, salt marshes, and mangrove forests.  But, alas, our time was up!  We turned around and headed back to our put in.

(Outfitters: Cracker Creek Canoes, Port Orange, FL 32128. http://crackercreek.com/. (386) 304-0778)

Read Full Post »

What a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day paddle! I kayaked Arbuckle Creek with a friend, Rick Murphy. (Rick paddled Fisheating Creek with me as well.) We paddled from the boat ramp in Avon Park on Arbuckle Road, north to Lake Arbuckle and then back, about five miles total. What a sweet river! I had read that it can get congested with vegetation in a couple spots when the water level is low, but we had no problems getting through.

The Enchanting Arbuckle Creek

Arbuckle Creek is a 23-mile blackwater creek that runs from Lake Arbuckle in Avon south to Lake Istokpoga in Sebring. Arbuckle State Park fishing and campgrounds border parts of the upper river with the U.S Airforce Base (which we never saw from the river) along the east side of the river. My guidebooks describe the 2.5-mile stretch from the Avon Park boat ramp to Lake Arbuckle as the most scenic, so I called the Sebring Kayak Tours (the only outpost I could find in the area) and made arrangements to meet up with Nelson. There isn’t an outpost on this creek, and Nelson was nice enough drop two kayaks at the boat ramp, so we didn’t have to pick up the kayaks in Sebring.

For the first two hours, we paddled north on the narrow creek, against a light current. It was a perfect day, sunny and warm but cool in the shade. Spring had sprung on the creek! The Cyprus, dressed once again in their greens (just in time for St. Patty’s), cast beautiful reflections on the water while cypress knees clustered like crowds of little people gathering for a parade. Oaks and red maples seemed to embrace the narrow, twisting creek, with a magical sense of a fairy tale. Lilies and irises were just beginning to bloom.

When we reached Lake Arbuckle, we stretched and snacked on nuts and fruit and watched a silly sandhill crane family grassing. The trip back, a breeze now with the current, treated us to a new perspective of the creek with great herons lifting off from the bushes and lots of baby alligators. These alligators ranged from one to three feet long, and at one point, we passed through a pool where little eyes poked out of the water around us—perhaps eight or ten sets. We kept watch for momma gators, but never spotted any.

The river had a lazy feel. We passed a few men fishing from the shore or from small, quiet boats and watched as one man pulled in a nice-sized catfish. Birds called to each other from the trees: ospreys, great herons, ibises, limpkins, great egrets, kingfishers, and hawks. Beautiful dragonflies and damselflies hitched rides on our yaks as we paddled.

Arbuckle Creek made my list of “awe” some Florida waterways. It captured me from its first twist and turn with its mystical charm; it took my breath away!

(Outfitter: Sebring Kayak Tours. https://visitsebring.com/partners/sebring-kayak-tours/ (863) 202-0815)

Read Full Post »

On Monday morning, I headed to the Tomoka State Park in Ormond Beach to paddle the Tomoka River.  I had attempted to paddle this river twice before, but I could never find the outfitter in—the drats for not bringing my own kayak with me.  This time, I spoke to Billy by phone, and he was meeting me there.

The Tomoka River
The Tomoka River

The Tomoka, a state-designated Outstanding Florida Water, originates in a swampy area just southwest of Daytona.  It runs north, picking up waters from the Little Manatee River, Strickland Creek, and Thompson Creek, until it eventually merges with the Halifax River.  As it nears the Halifax, it becomes tidally influenced and takes on more estuarine characteristics.  (Boning)

I wasn’t certain that I would like the Tomoka. The state park “put in” sits at the northern end of the river, at the basin, right where the Tomoka connects to the Halifax River. The river is very wide here, so I knew it wasn’t going to be a sweet, canopied paddle.  However, even with the cool winds on this morning, I could feel the sun warm me through my jacket.  It was a beautiful day to paddle.

From the put in, I had a choice to either paddle south, make a loop that would include Strickland and Thompson Creeks, and return, or to paddle north toward the Halifax.  Although I liked the loop option (the river would be narrower), Billy suggested that with the winds and the movement of the current, I head north toward the Halifax.  So, I took his advice, and I put in, staying close to the shore, and after about 15 minutes of paddling, I took a couple smaller waterways that headed back into the state park.  These were both still pretty wide—60 feet or so—but I was sheltered some from the winds and could see both sides of the river.

It turned out to be a lovely day on the river.  Being Tuesday, the boat traffic was light; I saw only a couple small motorboats on the river.  Within the first five minutes of my paddle, a dolphin graced the water a short distance in front of me.  Fish jumped around me, taunting the few people casting lines from the shore.

The state park brags a bird paradise, and I did see quite a few: herons (great, green, blue, and tri-colored), egrets, osprey, pelicans, kingfishers, and black-necked stilts.  Heading into the waterways, tall salt grasses with a backdrop of cabbage palms and pines trimmed short sandy beaches.  It turned out to be a quiet, lazy day on the river.

I would return to the Tomoka, but I would paddle south and complete the loop to include Strickland and Thompson Creeks as well, or I might even try to put in at the FL 40 bridge and paddle north, provided, of course, I bring my own kayak.  Either way, it’s bound to be a great paddle!

(Outfitter: Tomoka Outpost Inside Tomoka State Park. https://www.tomokaoutpost.com/index.html. (386) 846-0982)

Read Full Post »

The fog had begun to lift, as the sun struggled to peak from the clouds.  A few sprinkles of rain tapped my windshield, as I pulled into the Canoe Outpost.  I didn’t know what to expect from this river, and I realized how much I loved the anticipation and the “not knowing.”

Low Waters on the Little Manatee

The Little Manatee River starts narrow and twisting somewhere around Fort Lonesome and Wimauma in Hillsborough County and widens as it travels west approximately 40 miles to the Tampa Bay.  A blackwater river, it is designated as an Outstanding Florida River.  The five miles between the Canoe Outpost and Little Manatee State Recreation Area is an official state canoe trail. (Carter et. al)

Rather than paddle from the Outpost to the Little Manatee River State Recreation Area, I chose to paddle the upper river, the 9-mile stretch between CR 579 and the Outpost.  Here, the river is narrow, canopied, less traveled, and wild.  This time of year, the water level is low, and as I gathered my supplies, the folks at the Outpost warned me to expect a portage or two.

I chatted with Mike from the Outpost as he drove me to my drop.  “You probably won’t see many gators, if any,” he said, “the poachers got most of them.”  Mike added that since this section of the river would be quiet (me, being his only drop so far), I may be treated to some wild hogs, deer, and bobcats along the way.  I appreciated the “heads up.”

I began my paddle west, sheltered by steep banks and wooded forest.  I could see the fish scurrying beneath me and could have easily touched the river’s sandy bottom with my hand—the water was that low.   A great blue heron flew up the river toward me, its wing span magnificent—what a sight.

About an hour into my paddle, alone on the river and lulled by the sweet harmony of the birds in the woods, I suddenly became alert when the bushes on both sides of the river came to life.  Wild hogs, first one large black one to my left, then more to my right, and for the next 10 minutes or so I paddled through the land of swine with hogs racing up the banks as I approached.  I spied a couple wild turkeys as they quickly bobbled away, as well.

The poachers had apparently been successful, as I saw only one small alligator.  However, the turtles appeared quite large and healthy!  I spotted ducks, herons, hawks, cardinals, and even a few red-bellied woodpeckers.

The low waters had created high steep banks in some places and low sandy beaches in others.  I scooted over sandbars and logs and under overhanging branches trying to avoid all the obstacles.  My mantra became, “I ain’t ‘fraid of no bugs” as I checked my hair and body each time I emerged from the branches.  (I read that during the rainy season, this water rises rapidly, and with all the obstructions in the water, one must be quick to make it through without mishap!)  Grapefruits, oranges and tangerines added a splash of unexpected color against the green and brown backdrop of oaks, willows, pines and cabbage palms.

For nearly four hours, I paddled past undeveloped landscape—with few reminders of civilization except the Florida Power plant just about halfway and the abandoned railroad trestle further along. Oh, and then, of course, there was the small group of four-wheeling, beer-drinking rednecks who greeted me just past the trestle.  Other than that, it was a fabulous, peaceful day on the river.

(Outfitter: Canoe Outpost. 18001 US 301 South, Wimauma, FL 33598. http://canoeoutpost.com/. (813) 634-2228)

Read Full Post »

New Years Day turned out to be a perfect day, bright and sunny, not too hot.  I paddled the Estero River in Fort Myers, expecting to see a different landscape, as this river has a tidal influence.  The river’s flow begins as trickles on the west side of the Corkscrew Swamp in Naples.  As it travels west, it picks up more water, and eventually empties into the Estero Bay. Only about six miles of this coastal river can be paddled. (Boning)

Up River on the Estero

I put in at Estero River Tackle and Canoe Outfitters off of South Tamiami Trail in Estero.  By the way, I have never seen such a huge selection of kayaks to rent and buy!  I opted for the upgraded hard plastic model that supposedly moves faster in the water.

Before heading west to the bay, I took a quick paddle up river, and was treated to a narrowed river shaded by draping oaks, cool and quiet.  Heading down river, toward the bay, the river widened and the landscape changed from draping oaks to mangroves and spartina grass.  The influence of the tidal changes became evident.

Within the first mile, I passed the Koreshan State Historic Site on the south side.  Shortly thereafter, civilization emerged, and I passed a trailer park and another small development on the north side.  Along the banks, small motor boats and pontoons were lined up at docks like trinkets on a necklace.

Admittedly, I was disappointed with the development along the river.  At the same time, I was intrigued by much of the flora that I typically did not see, and I found myself wishing I could identify more.  Although the mangrove swamps dominated the landscape as I neared the bay, I also saw various pines and palms, bamboo, leather ferns, sea grapes, and swamp lilies (not yet in bloom).

Mangrove Swamps along the Estero

I imagine that the traffic on the river—small motor boats, pontoons, jet skiers., and, of course, kayakers—kept the wildlife away.   I saw only a few birds—little blue herons, great blue herons, and swallow-tailed kites.  An osprey sat on top of his nest observing the buzz below.  Signs warned boaters to slow down for manatees, but they eluded me; I saw none.

It did get a little confusing close to the mouth of the river.  I headed down a couple small waterways only to find that they dead ended, and I had to turn around and come back.  One time, I paddled up to the bank and asked a homeowner which way to the bay!  I thought afterwards that it would have been wise to time my out and back with the tide and paddle this river on a quiet weekday.  This is a river where one should take his/her time and meander around the mangroves, observing the scenery and looking for wildlife.  Apparently, there is a lot of history in this area and some interesting sites at the river’s mouth and into the bay.  Orr and Carmichael report that there is a population of exotic squirrel monkeys along the river as well.

(Outfitters: Estero River Outfitters. 20991 South Tamiami Trail, Estero, FL 33928. https://www.esteroriveroutfitters.com/. (239) 992-4050)

Read Full Post »

Between the dry spell we had in Florida and my summer travels, I had not been on a river since the Hillsborough in May.  I had hopes of paddling Fisheating Creek next, and I was watching the water level.  Feeling a bit impatient, I took a quick trip back to the Loxachatchee in Jupiter, to try out another section.  Previously, I had paddled the Riverbend stretch of the river.  When I arrived this day, I found that the Jonathan Dickinson Park run would not open until the following week (The outfitters shuttle you from Jonathan Dickinson back to Riverbend Park.), so I opted for their most popular paddle, Cypress Canopy.

The Popular Cypress Canopy

My trip began at the Canoe Outfitters in the Park.  I entered the cypress swamp and paddled the twisted waterway to the I-95 overpass and returned, apparently only 3.5 miles.  (It took me 3.5 hours.)  Along the way, I passed many other paddlers, an occasional turtle sitting on a fallen log, a limpkin, and an alligator.  Although the birds shied away from the busy river, I could hear them in the trees and spotted an occasional heron and woodpecker in flight.

This stretch of the river has two small dams to navigate–either over or around.  I was able to paddle over each.  (For the larger one, several paddlers below me promised to catch my gear if I capsized.)  I learned that the secret to success was not to pause at the top but to pick up some speed and shoot straight through!

The moderately swift current made stopping for pictures difficult, although the scenery was well worth the challenge.  Beautiful bald cypress shaded the river in canopy, their knobby knees decorating the river banks like some kind of medieval-themed chess pieces.  Ferns hung over the banks, and swamp lillies poked their blooms from the brush.

Cypress Knees on the Loxahatchee River

Admittedly, I like the serenity of a quiet river, one with fewer people on it!  That’s when the wildlife comes out to play.  However, on this hot Saturday afternoon, I enjoyed watching families spend time together, two or three to a vessel, paddling one of Florida’s lovely rivers.

(Outfitter: Jupiter Outdoor Center. Riverbend Park. 9060 West Indiantown Road, Jupiter, FL 33478. https://www.jupiteroutdoorcenter.com/riverbend-park/rentals/. (561) 746-7053)

Read Full Post »

The rain came in torrents the night before, and I woke to partly cloudy skies and a chance of more rain.    I called Canoe Escape in Thonotosassa for a weather report, and I was a bit surprised when the guy on the other end chirped, “Skies are clear here!”  So, off I went to discover the Hillsborough River.

The Wild Hillsborough River

Originating in the Green Swamp, the Hillsborough is a black water river and largely spring fed by the waters of Crystal Springs (south of Zephyrhills), accounting for its clarity—even after a hard rain.  Along its 54-mile journey, several tributaries feed into it before it empties into the Tampa Bay.  Throughout the years, this river has had  several names, but it was finally named Hillsborough River by the British in 1769 after the Earl of Hillsborough who served as colonial secretary of state (Boning).

On this Sunday morning, I rented a sit-inside kayak from the Canoe Escape outfitters and was dropped at Sargeant Park, where I had an option of paddling two hours downstream to Morris Bridge Park or four hours to Trout Creek Park.  I opted for the four-hour paddle, and was rewarded with a journey through a river wonderland.  This river was absolutely beautiful—an A+–with water often clear enough for me to see not only the eel grass swaying along the sandy bottom, but many bass, gar, and sucker fish as well.

And there were many, many alligators.  Within my first 30 minutes on the river, I  had already sighted 20 gators.  It appears that alligators are to the Hillsborough what turtles are to the Santa Fe.  By the end of my paddle, I had seen somewhere between 50 and 100.  It was obvious that these gators were at home in their habitat, and although they were not aggressive, they weren’t moving from their favorite spot just because I was there, either.

Beautiful, serene, and wild.  My paddle was—AWEsome.  I was in the midst of a bird paradise with a sweet symphony playing in the trees as the water pulled me gently along like a ride at Disney.  A great egret turned toward me, looking silly with white sand on the end of his bill, having just dug for some treasure.  A momma limpkin enjoyed a day at the river with her two young ones. Anhingas spread their wings to dry them in the sun.  Egrets, herons, limpkins, roseate spoonbills, woodpeckers, wood storks, and ibis were plentiful.  At one point in the journey, I passed Nature’s Classroom, and hundreds of vultures, seemingly wicked as they flapped their wings and congregated along the bank, took it all in.

The river was shaded, canopied for much of the trip by oaks, red maples, cypress, and an occasional sweetgum.  At times, the river was narrow and twisted and turned.  (I thought I had made a wrong turn at one point.)  When the river widened, water lilies and hyacinths decorated its edges.

It was impossible to see it all.  Watching a gator slither into the water to my left, I heard a huge splash to my right and turned just as an osprey lifted himself from the water.  An otter frolicked in the water, finally emerging with his hair slicked back, looking ready to don his smoking jacket.  The harmony and balance of nature amazed me.

I paddled just two small sections of this river, but there is so much more to it.  Other sections include a six-mile run from Crystal Springs to Hillsborough State Park (not for the beginner; there are three Class II drops/rapids and many portages in this section.)  The section from Hillsborough State Park to Sargeant Part where I put in, contains the Seventeen Runs with numerous deadfalls and carryovers. At this time of year with the low water levels, the Seventeen Runs section is closed.  However, for anyone interested, Canoe Escape takes a group out once a year in September.

Another beautiful Florida river, the Hillsborough is a wonderfully and surprisingly scenic and serene escape.

Outfitter: Canoe Escape. 9335 East Fowler Avenue, Thonotosassa, FL 33592. https://www.canoeescape.com/. (813) 986-2067)

Read Full Post »

My friend, Bill Belleville, and I headed to the Econlockhatchee River for a paddle the Saturday morning before Easter, pleased to find the river was quiet when we arrived.  A few sleepy campers emerged from the woods with blankets and pillows just as we carried our kayaks down to the launch area.  We finished loading our supplies, lathered on some sunscreen, and off we went.

The Intriguing Econ River

A state-designated canoe trail, the Econlockhatchee River originates in the Econlockhatchee River Swamp in northern Osceola County.  Its tea colored waters flow first north and then northeast for approximately 35 miles, eventually emptying into the St. Johns River (Boning).  Along its journey, the river passes through private ranch lands and state protected forests.  It passes through the Little Big Econ State Forest before emptying into the St. Johns River.

The Econ can be paddled in several sections; however, little rain in recent years has resulted in low water levels, in some areas, too low to paddle.  If we paddled the first section, between FL 50 and the CR 419 bridge, we would have struggled with numerous carryovers.  Paddling the next section, between the CR 419 bridge and the Snow Hill Road bridge, would have meant leaving our cars in a remote area.  So, we chose the third section, and we put in at Snow Hill Road between Geneva and Chuluota and paddled northeast toward the St. Johns River. 

I have to pause for a moment here and say, that there isn’t a better way to experience a river than traveling with a nature writer and conservationist, such as Bill Belleville.  He can identify most of the flora and fauna along the river, and is tremendously patient with all my questions.  In his most recent book, Salvaging the Real Florida: Lost and Found in the State of Dreams, Bill dedicates at least one chapter to Florida rivers and describes one of his previous paddles on the Econ after tropical storms had, as Bill writes, “filled its valley of paleo-dunes to overflowing.”  The river he described at that time was much different than the river we experienced on this day.

Intriguing rather than beautifully lush, the landscape of our Econ run varied from high sandy banks to low sandy beaches.   At times, towering cypress dwarfed us as we paddled past, water marks on their trunks evidence of higher water levels.  Of course, there were oaks and cabbage palms, and we even spotted a couple magnolia trees nudging themselves between the larger trees.  However, without the benefit of spring waters and with little or no rain in the area for a very long time, the water level was low, leaving the worn, depleted banks with trees clutching to their sides.  At times, deadfalls challenged us, as we were forced to paddle either through or over them. 

Amazingly, the low water level did not deter the birds as we saw many!  We spotted three bald eagles, one quite large, and we were treated to a great blue heron that seemed to await us at each river bend, flying off as we approached, to scout ahead.  We saw blue herons, swallow-tailed kites, vultures, and red- shouldered hawks.  Bill even spied a wild turkey just before it ducked behind a log.  Two alligators crossed our path—the larger one, about 10 feet long, slid into the water ahead of us, pausing while we paddled closer, and then disappeared slowly somewhere beneath us.

There never seems to be enough time when paddling a Florida river.  We had hoped to make it to the St. Johns, about a 12-mile run.  However, after two hours of paddling and a short snack break and nature scout, we turned around and headed back to Snow Hill Bridge.

I’d love to return to this river someday—after a tropical storm, when its “valley of paleo-dunes” are overflowing–and paddle the entire 35 miles.  It was a beautifully intriguing river with so much character.

Read Full Post »

New Year’s Day, a time for reflection and resolutions, and I found myself drawn to the Peace River in Arcadia.  Paddling the Peace seemed appropriate and reinforced a resolution I had already made to myself, to stay in the moment and to seek joy in living.

Clutching to the Banks of the Peace River

The Peace River is a black water, coastal river which originates with waters from Lake Hancock in Polk County around Bartow, and after 76, 106, or 133 (I’ve read all three!) miles, it ends as it expels its water into the Charlotte Harbor estuary.  At least two different stories explain how the Peace River got its name, but the one I hear most frequently is that the Spanish had named it Rio de la Paz, “river of peace,” way back in the 1500s (Huff).

So, on New Year’s Day, the Canoe Outpost folks put me in at the Brownville landing around noon just as the sky clouded over and the breeze picked up.  Paddling downstream into the wind felt more like paddling upstream until a bend in the river brought relief.  Brownville is north of Arcadia, where my paddling excursion would end.  The area is mainly agricultural and ranch lands, and at this time of year, everything was, indeed, brown.

Although Katie at the Canoe Outpost told me it was a slow day on the river, I passed a number of kayakers and canoers.  Some were simply enjoying the paddle while others were fishing or panning for fossils, shovel in one hand and strainer in the other.  I’ve heard that many find treasures such as giant sharks’ teeth, mastodon teeth, and other prehistoric fossils.  This river has so much history.  In the 1700s, Seminoles settled along its banks, and several conflicts took place there (Boning).   In the 1900s, barges traveled up and down the Peace to mine phosphate and harvest cypress logs (Huff).   I saw a very large hole at the top of one of the banks when I made a stop at Oakhill (owned by Canoe Outpost).  At first I thought this was a sink hole, but perhaps it was the remnants of a phosphate dig.

Lacking the green lushness of most of my previous paddles, there was still a beauty in the various shades of brown along the white sandy banks (think “golden brown meringue”).  The river was wide and varied ranging from high banks to low sandbars.   Live oaks draped in silver moss hung from the banks, their huge root systems twisting and reaching for something to stabilize them, the soil beneath them eroded away.  The cypress had lost their foliage.  Dead, fallen trees decorated the river like pieces of abstract art along a city street.

The dark water was cool and slow moving except for occasional shoals and incoming streams.  I saw turtles, herons, egrets, hawks, and vultures.   Carter et al. gave the Peace River a “B,” although she gave another section—Zolfo Springs to Garner—an “A.”  I would concur with the “B” on this segment (and as an instructor, I would add that it’s still a good grade!).  Keep in mind that my paddle was only 10 miles and one segment of about 61 miles and nine segments that can be navigated.  If you consider a paddle on the Peace, check out Huff’s guidebook and her descriptions of each of these segments.

(Canoe Outpost-Peace River. 2816 NW County Rd. 661, Arcadia, FL 34266. http://canoeoutpost.com/coicontactus.html. (863) 494-1215 or (800) 268-0083)

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: