I recently had one of
the most exciting adventures of my life. The afternoon
started with a plan to drift lazily down the Loxahatchee
River taking pictures of wildlife, as I would be blanketed
by the shade from the 500-year-old Cypress trees. That
plan was suddenly exchanged with an adventurous kayaking
trip that I would never forget.
Canoeing and kayaking on the "Wild and Scenic"
Loxahatchee River is
day full of adventure and beauty that is a must do for
anyone in the Jupiter, Florida area.
That afternoon I met Eric Baily who owns the canoeing
and kayaking outfitter. We spoke briefly and he sent
me out to meet Mike, his assistant, at the river's edge.
Mike set me up with my kayak and life preserver, gave
me some brief instructions and pushed me off to experience
I started down the river
and was in awe at the magnificence and massiveness of
the cypress trees that surround the river. These trees
gave refuge to all forms of wildlife that I began to
see immediately. Osprey and woodpeckers could be seen
and heard in the trees above while plenty of river otters
and Florida Red-Bellied turtles relaxed along the fallen
branches along the river's banks. The river's name,
Loxahatchee, actually means "the river of turtles."
As I cruised down the river I realized the appropriateness
of the name.
the sun peaked through the tress at the wider parts
of the river, I was able to observe the fish that inhabit
the river because the water was crystal clear. I saw
Large Mouth Bass and Mullet swimming and feeding in
the deeper sections of river.
After I led my kayak
down the first of several dams, I came upon a narrow
"S" in the river that led to another opening,
this is where my adventure began. I came to the open
area and saw three baby alligators sunbathing on a log
protruding from the water. I paddled toward the three
small gators only to notice the eight-foot mother gator
sunbathing next to her babies! I was able to drift slowly
and quietly to within ten feet of the mother and babies.
I slowly pulled out my camera to get a close up shot
of the family. I got the several pictures off before
I felt I was drifting too close for my level of comfort.
I snapped my last shot within ten feet of the family,
and quickly turned and reached for my paddle. The quick
turn and poor balance made my kayak lean just enough
to allow water to rush into the boat causing it to flip
and send me into the water right in front of the family
of alligators! I FREAKED!
I franticly gathered my kayak,
paddle essentials and dove for the nearest fallen branch,
the whole while keeping a petrified eye on the family
of gators only a few feet away. As I hung onto the branch
I was able to pull my kayak, half-filled with water
but right side up, underneath me. I dropped into the
kayak only to have it sink with the combination of water
weight and my added body weight. Now I am sitting in
a sunken kayak in the middle of the river with a family
of gators staring at me. I was very concerned. Again,
I FREAKED! I ran across the shallow waters to the river's
bank pulling the sunken kayak and whatever was in the
kayak behind. The whole while the family of alligators
did not move an inch, watching me as if I was entertaining
them. I finally was able to empty the kayak and get
upright again. When I got back in and paddled away from
the gators, it looked as if they were smiling at me
and wanted to clap for the entertainment I provided.
After I gathered myself
and got my senses back I had noticed that I was missing
my sunglasses, sandals and camera. At the time it was
a small price to pay to have all of my limbs. I did
leave that experience with something extra, an education.
I learned that the gators along the river are not like
those that are seen on television shows. The gators
were not out to get me and were probably more afraid
of me than I was of them.
I continued down the
river until I reached the second and larger dam. The
dam had an approximate four-foot drop, and this is where
I decided I would turn and head back up the river. The
trip down to the second dam took about 45 minutes, including
my gator encounter. My trip back up the river took about
an hour due to my paddling upstream.
Outfitters of Florida offers three trip packages
for the different adventure seekers. I choose Trip #2,
which is a two-hour ride that wraps slowly around the
scenic river. Trip #1, is a five to six hour trip that
takes you approximately eight miles down the river through
Jonathan Dickinson State Park. This trip requires a
little bit more effort and offers return transportation
to the starting point. The third trip offered is the
Guided Trip. This trip provides you with a guided tour
and information about the various wildlife along the
river. The tour also explains some of the river's historical
Seminole War battle sites.
The trips are offered
five days a week (closed Tuesday and Wednesday), and
the hours are from 8: 00 AM through 5:00 PM. The headquarters
are located North of West Palm Beach in Jupiter, just
West of I-95 and the Turnpike, off of SR 706. You can
book on-line at www.canoes-kayaks-florida.com or by
calling (561) 746-7053. Almost all forms of payment
are accepted. The owner, Eric Baily, informed me that
the best times to visit are in April and November when
the river is most active. For a great lunch after the
trip Eric recommends "Duffy's", a restaurant
about a mile West on SR 706. I may bring my wife up here and try this again and stay at one the finer hotels in the area, like the PGA National Resort and Spa or the Breakers. This way we can play hard during the day on the river and get pampered at night at these resorts.
If you are a river adventure
seeker and love nature in it's natural environment,
you must canoe or kayak the Loxahatchee River. You will
enjoy an adventure through the most beautiful area Florida
has to offer.
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