Florida is a beautiful place to be on the water. And, in Florida, there’s plenty of water! Kayaking in Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia offers some of the most striking scenery and abundant wildlife available to paddlers anywhere. With the Atlantic Ocean, the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), tidal estuaries, Black water creeks and a variety of lowlands and swamps, Northeast Florida provides paddlers with practically every imaginable type of watery playground to paddle in.
Here’s a list of some of the most popular paddling trips Northeast Florida has to offer ordered from least to most difficult:
1.) Lofton Creek – Located in Yulee, Florida just under 5-miles from I-95 on A-1A, Lofton Creek is a Black Water Creek fed from swamps on the South side of the St. Marys River. Lofton Creek is full of fish (fresh and salt water species can often be caught in the same area as tidal influences from the Nassau River push brackish water up the creek), Alligators, Turtles, and a wide variety of birds. The creek is lined with Bald Cypress, Pines and Oak Trees, primarily and is filled with Pickerel Weed and Spider Lilies, among other aquatic plants. The current in this creek reverses with the tide, but is very mild and kayaks have no trouble going in either direction when paddling north of the A-1A Bridge. Put-in at the Melton O. Nelson boat ramp on A-1A and go right, paddling north until you first reach a train trestle, then the Page’s Dairy Farm Rd. Bridge – which marks the turnaround point for most commercial outfitters and makes the round trip approximately an hour-and-a-half to two-hours.
2.) St. Marys River – The St. Marys River represents the Florida-Georgia State Line for essentially its entire length as it leaves the Okefenokee Swamp heading South before briefly turning East and then North again until reaching Folkston, Georgia and turning East on its journey to the Atlantic Ocean. At its head, you can almost step across this river; but 120-miles downstream, the St. Marys River is approximately a half-mile wide as it empties into the Cumberland Sound. There are several put-in’s along the St. Marys, and each one gives paddlers access to what seem to be completely different rivers. The lower-third of the river is influenced by tides which change directions every six-hours. As the river widens and you enter the marsh, tidal currents and winds can create difficult-to-treacherous paddling conditions, so check with local experts for information on tides, winds and weather. Wildlife frequently encountered in the St. Marys includes: Alligators; Manatees; Dolphins; Loggerhead Sea Turtles; Manta Rays; and all of the larger coastal birds among many, many others.
3.) Egan’s Creek – Located on Amelia Island, Egan’s Creek is a tidal marsh creek that flows along the boundary of Ft. Clinch State Park before entering the Amelia River on its way into the Cumberland Sound. As such, you can see the entire range of marine life common to Northeast Florida as well as the many large coastal birds this area is known for – including the Roseate Spoonbill. Put -in at Egan’s Creek Park (at High Tide!) on Atlantic Avenue (A-1A) and either paddle straight down the main part of the creek, or follow the roadway over to the tree line at Ft. Clinch State Park and then follow the tree line to any of the first 5-left turns you can take back through the marsh and into the main body of the creek. Once back in the main part of the creek, turn right and continue to the take-out at the 14th Street Bridge (on the left before the bridge), or continue under the bridge and into the Amelia River following the outgoing tide to the right until reaching the Bartles Boat Ramp – approximately 2.75-miles if you stick to the main body of the creek and 3.5-miles if you follow the tree line. To avoid the turbulent confluence, swifter current and boat traffic at the Amelia River and Bartles Boat Ramp, take out before you go under the bridge. Taking out at the bridge shortens the trip by about.8-miles. Be careful regardless of which take-out you use, as currents are swift and there are many obstructions in the water.