Tag Archives: Aquatic Preserves

A secret kayak trail on Florida’s Gulf Coast

Desperate to get away from the weekend warrior crowds, a friend showed me a “secret” kayak launch at Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve.

In some cases, the best way out may not be through. Thing is, you don’t realize that until you’re partway through. That’s not a metaphor; that’s a pretty good explanation of how our paddle at the Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve went yesterday. We thought (more than once) we’d found a viable tunnel, but each became impassable partway through.

In one instance, we all four – Barry and our friends Shelly and Marcris – paddled backwards out of the tunnel. In another, I attempted a three point turn to paddle out bow first. It took me a nine point turn, but I succeeded. Whether I paddled backward or forward, however, the view was breathtaking.

Did that make the tunnels less spectacular? Absolutely not. Instead, I delighted in exploring somewhere new, with the added bonus of paddling through an aquatic preserve where we four were the only humans in sight.

Mangrove tunnel at Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve. Photo by Cathy Salustri.

If you’ve never paddled a mangrove tunnel, perhaps Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve isn’t the best place to start, because the paddling trails aren’t clearly marked. In fact, it’s almost like they’re a secret, which they kind of are. That’s the main reason we went there.

Kayaking in Florida on the weekends usually means competing with other kayakers and boaters, some of whom can get loud. I much prefer weekdays, where often I have the water to myself. Not all my friends have the same latitude with their schedules, which sent me searching for out-of-the-way places to kayak. My friend Larry, who works with the state park service and spent years helping restore the Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve, showed me some unmarked put-ins.

I’ll send my Florida Spectacular newsletter subscribers the link to a map of where we launched later today; subscribe now!

Aside from the not-quite-clear-to-the-other-side mangrove tunnels, we saw a not-insignificant amount of mullet, a white pelican, blue heron, and white egret. We didn’t see a single other person.

We brought the dogs. Calypso is, of course, a seasoned pro at kayaking, and Banyan, while new at the whole thing, had no trouble falling asleep after about a half hour.

We stayed on the water for about two hours; we’d left later in the day to make sure we hit the tunnels at high tide, and by the time we emerged from the second tunnel, the sun let us know it was time to find our way back. The kayak trail wasn’t marked, and we didn’t want to be on unfamiliar water after dark. By the time we hoisted the kayaks back on the car and made our way back across the bridge, the sun had set and the temperature had fallen (not that the mercury acted too ambitiously throughout the day; I don’t think we saw 70º all day.) The whole trip, we didn’t see another human soul.

There’s something to be said for solitude.

Check out more photos from my paddle at Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve on my Instagram page.