The kayak trails, the crown-jewel of the park (in my opinion, at least), were a result of a failed 1950s program by the Army Corps of Engineers. The plan was to cut down the mosquito population by cutting channels into the mangroves to provide birds, fish and other animals a path into the center of the island.
The evidence of this program is still easy to see from above. Check out this Google Earth screen shot (notice the checkerboard pattern on the island):
Some of these paths are maintained as part of the kayak trail, and that’s what makes this such a unique place. The south kayak trail is a four-mile loop. It goes in and out of the mangrove tunnels, through lagoons and ends with a half-mile haul over open water.
The mangrove tunnels are fascinating places to kayak. Many of the tunnels are so tight that a full paddle won’t work – I either break my paddle down or use my camera pole to push my way through these parts.
There’s also an abundance of wildlife along the trail. You’re guaranteed to see to all sorts of wading birds, sting rays and mullet. You’re likely to see mangrove snakes. If you’re lucky (and I’ve seen all of these things on multiple occasions), you’ll see dolphins, manatees, sharks and turtles.
A few important things to know if you’re planning a trip:
Check the tides
. Some of the tunnels are impassible at low tide.The kayak trail has markers to keep you on track, but the markers are far apart and can be hard to spot. If you’re eye sight isn’t great, binoculars might be helpful.Bring shoes. You never know when you’ll have to get out of the kayak, and the clam shells and barnacles make it impossible to walk around without them.Sun screen and mosquito repellant are a must.Admission is free, parking is free, the trails are free.Sweetwater Kayaks rents kayaks on-site if you need one.There is a kayak cleaning station right next to the ramp.
There IS a kayak rental place right there so EVERONE can come.