EcoTourism: Aug. 2021

By Capt. Chris Thalmann Contributing Writer

“Loxahatchee Glistening” by M. Dubiner

The last couple months I’ve offered some tips and details on exploring the Loxahatchee River. It is a fun boat trip that easily can be done over a morning or afternoon and reveals how much the river changes over just a few miles. The ocean-blue water at Jupiter Inlet quickly transitions into a brackish water estuary in the lower section of the river, with lots of beautiful homes along the shore. Moving further upriver the homes fade into the background, replaced by natural shorelines and a sense that you’re entering an older Florida. The “wild and scenic” portion of the river runs through Jonathan Dickinson State Park and Riverbend Park and makes a nice addition to your boat trip – or an entirely separate trip. The state park waters are boat friendly and entirely no-wake. As you transition from the scenic portion into the wild portion, the river narrows and shallows. There are lots of submerged stumps and logs here, most of which are unmarked and some of which you’ll probably “find” along the way. Even people with lots of experience on the river bump into stuff here – going slow helps. If your boat draws more than 2 or 3 feet, I highly recommend tying up at the state park’s dock to rent a small skiff, canoe, or kayak. The state park has all the gear you’ll need, including easy to understand maps so you’ll know where you’re headed. A paddle from the state park docks to Kitching Creek and back offers a sample of what the “wild” section further upriver looks like in an easy 2 hour trip. Or you can paddle all the way to the old Trapper Nelson homestead and back in about double that time. If you prefer to explore a little more quickly, the park’s motorized skiffs will help you cover more water. Despite the buzz of a small outboard motor, you’ll be so close to the water in a skiff it still feels like you’re immersed in nature. If you’re up for a longer adventure, explore the uppermost river – the “wild” section – starting from Riverbend Park. Riverbend rents all the gear you’ll need – and only paddling is allowed in this section. No skiffs, no motors, just you, your canoe, or kayak and some of the most beautiful cypress stands you will find in Florida. I like to plan on 6 or so hours from Riverbend to the state park docks, including portages around Lainhart Dam and Masten Dam. Be sure to ask at Riverbend about how best to get back from the state park. Organized paddling tours often include shuttle service or carpools. But if you’re not part of one of these groups, you’ll want to figure this out before you leave Riverbend. Paddling back against the current might not be the best way to end your day. Happy exploring – hope to see you on the water!

Captain Chris Thalmann

Owner | Aqua Adventure Tours, Inc. •