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Archive for the ‘Southeast’ Category

Having spent the last two months moving and renovating my new condo, I have not had time to take my usual summer

Barb Paddles Riverbend Park

Barb Paddles Riverbend Park

paddling vacation to the far corners of Florida. However, I have made a couple return trips to some of my favorite paddling destinations closer to me—one of them Loxahatchee River in Jupiter, Florida. This time, I brought along a good friend, Barb.

We’ve had a rainy summer in Florida this year, and the rain started as Barb and I drove I-95 to get to the park. We vowed then to paddle rain or shine! Magically, the sun poked through by the time we arrived at the park, and the rain stayed away for the next few hours. All this South Florida rain did have its benefits, though, as the Riverbend trip is not always open at the park as it relies on the higher water level.

What I like best about the Riverbend paddle (besides the beautiful scenery and safe location) is that the scenery changes every few minutes. It’s a 5.5 mile paddle that begins and ends in the Loxahatchee River but travels through various sections of the park in between. It passes through fun-sounding places such as Picnic Loop, East Slough, Cow Pond, West Lake, Hunters Run and South Pond. Within the paddle are two portages—easy enough. Along the way, we spotted bikers, walkers, and even a painter! We stopped along West Lake for a stretch and a snack before moving on. I had looked forward to our paddle through the large culverts and the cypress knees, but dang if we made a wrong turn somewhere and ended our trip without passing through them!

Even without the culverts and the knees, we had a great paddle and a fun day at Riverbend. We ended our outing with lunch at Guanabanas in Jupiter—what could be better?

(Canoe Outfitters at Riverbend Park. 9060 W. Indiantown Road, Jupiter, FL 33478. (561) 746-7053).

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The Popular Cypress Canopy

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.

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-

Cypress Knees on the Loxahatchee River

themed chess pieces.  Ferns hung over the banks, and swamp lillies poked their blooms from the brush.

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.

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The Alluring Loxahatchee River

The Loxahatchee River was the first of two Florida rivers designated as a Wild and Scenic River (the second being the Wekiva River), a well-deserved designation.  Its name comes from an old Indian name which means, “river of turtles.”  This area has historic relevance.  During the Second Seminole War in 1838, the Battle of Loxahatchee was fought in the area now known as Riverbend Park.  I saved the Loxahatchee River for a Sunday in September because I wanted to paddle the Riverbend Park section which had been closed in August due to the low water level.

From the beginning, I knew this would be a fun paddle.  The man at Canoe Outfitters pulled out a map–which had been copied way too many times–and with a line forming behind me, he very quickly outlined the five mile run.  It went something like this: “After you put in, go to the left and paddle about three quarters of a mile.  You’ll see a small sandy beach on your left where you need to drag your kayak out and to the other side.  From there, you will turn right and head toward West Lake.  On the south side of West Lake you exit to Hunter’s Run which will take you under Reese’s Bridge to South Pond.  Continue on Hunter’s Run to the East Grove Bridge.  You’ll see a spot where you can beach and stretch your legs, and from there you will paddle to Cow Pond Lake and exit to Gator Slough run.  Here, you will paddle through the cypress knees and then reach a portage where you will have to drag your kayak up and over the path again.  After paddling through two culverts, you will exit to your right…” you get the picture.  I felt as if I was embarking on an obstacle course!

So, I headed south as directed, paddling along the slow moving, tannin river, yellowed lily pads floating atop the water.  The Loxahatchee was the narrowest river I had kayaked to this point.  I had to keep paddling to keep from drifting into the sawgrass along the side.  One moment I was in the wilderness, preparing myself for an alligator or wild cat sighting, and then suddenly, I floated under a walkway, a reminder that civilization was nearby.  I spied an occasional turtle, great blue herons, hawks, and anhingas.  Cabbage palms and cypress were plentiful.  I continued my paddle along the edge of a small, marshy lake, tree islands testing my skills until I came back to the narrow twisty river.  With the low level of the water and the thick grasses on the bottom of the river, I found myself, at times, pushing my way through the water.  And just as quickly, I was back in the open, paddling across a lake, the wind challenging me.  My trip ended with a zig and a zag through the cypress knees and a paddle through the culverts.

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