Florida Keys

Florida Keys
Florida Keys September 2014

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Kayaking the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge


Date: 2/16/2014

Location: Shell Mound Park, north of Cedar Key, FL

We had hoped to get out and do some camping this weekend, but for several reasons this did not happen. The weather on Saturday was cold (for Florida!) and windy, but Sunday turned out to be warmer and the wind had calmed down. So, we decided to get out and do some kayaking. One place that we had our eye on for awhile was an area just north of Cedar Key in the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge.  Checking the tides we found that low tide was at around 9:00am which would work out well with our timing. We had planned on putting in at the Levy County Shell Mound campground and heading north. This is a relatively small campground very near the water and has a boat ramp. We’ve even considered camping here at some point. When we got to the boat ramp we discovered that with it being low tide there was absolutely no water at the ramp and we looked out at about a quarter mile of mud flats. So much for that plan!!

We had checked out this location in the past and found that just a short way down the road was Shell mount park and another boat ramp. This one did have enough water to launch, although we did have to drag the kayaks across about 30 feet of thick gooey mud. Mud so thick that it would grab the shoes off your feet! But it was really no problem and we eventually made it to open water where we could get a paddle in the water.

This picture below this the boat ramp when we got done with our paddle. The water was much higher at this point and made for getting to shore much easier (and cleaner!). 



Our plan was to paddle north about 2 miles to Deer Island which is a good size island of about 90 acres and had some nice sandy areas on the gulf side. This island is privately owned, but if for sale at only $2 million. If you are interesting in making an offer, then you can read about it here at this link.



We were heading out against the tide and a little breeze, but the paddling was fairly easy. Plus we stayed on the east side of all the many islands in the area and the water was relatively calm. If you do paddle in this area it is probably a good idea to have a good map and/or gps since there’s many islands and different waterways that wind in and out of the marsh areas. It can get a little confusing if you are not familiar with the area (which we weren’t). Also keep an eye on the tide as there’s several shallow areas around.

After awhile we finally made it to Deer Island and found a nice crescent shaped sandy beach (picture below). We beached the kayaks on the south end and walked all the way to to the north end which was a little over a half a mile. We did notice that there were a few small buildings on the island and some campsites near the north end, but we never saw anyone. I don’t believe anyone lives on the island full time.



it was nearing lunchtime so we found a log to sit on and ate as we overlooked the Gulf of Mexico waters. It was a perfect weather day with the temp in the low to mid-sixties and not a cloud in the sky, 


Below are a few more pictures from Deer Island.




After lunch we headed back south but this time we stayed on the gulf (west) side of the barrier islands. The wind was picking up a little and it was getting a little choppy. We eventually found a way between the islands and found some calmer water as we made our way back to our starting point.



One of the nice things about kayaking in this area is the water is relatively shallow in most spots which keeps any large motor boats from traveling these waters. One of the bad things about kayaking in this area is the water is shallow which entices many who own airboats to use this area. Throughout the morning there were several airboats who passed us or could be heard off in the distance. Those airboats are extremely loud which kind of ruin the peaceful nature of the area.

But even with the airboats, Julie and I very much enjoyed kayaking in this area. It a very beautiful and undeveloped area of our state. There all kinds of birds around and we even saw a few bald eagles flying overhead. It’s definitely a paddle we plan on doing again sometime.



Because kayaking 5+ miles was not enough exercise, on the drive home we stopped at a series of hiking trails at the Cedar Key Scrub Wildlife Management Area. There’s many miles of trails that weave their way throughout the pine forests. Many of the trails are also equestrian trails and we were passed by a few riders as we hiked along.



After hiking for about a mile we came to a section covered with water. We decided this was a good point to turn around and get back to the truck and head back home.


Here’s the GPS track of our paddle:

Kayaking Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge at EveryTrail


Here’s our GPS track of the short hike we did at the Cedar Key Scrub Wildlife Management Area

Hiking the Cedar Key Scrub Wildlife Management Area at EveryTrail


And a short You Tube video of our day.

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