This is one of the must do kayak routes in the north section of the Everglades National Park. Turner River is characterized by stunning mangrove tunnels, small lakes, flora and fauna beyond belief. It is almost as if you were taking a step back in time to a moment when nature remained undisturbed by human intrusion.
When you leave the Turner River launch, you will paddle about a block before you turn right and go under and a low bridge and say goodbye to civilization as you know it. You will paddle past lush vegetation before entering the first of three mangrove tunnels. There will likely be alligators floating around on this part of the route. If you don't bother them, they will return the favor and allow you undisturbed passage.
Look up into the mangroves for giant bromeliads and even some Ghost Orchids. Birds are everywhere too. The first tunnel is about 2/10the of a mile long and the easiest to navigate. As you exit the tunnel look to the left for remnants of the old Turner Canal. This is one of the remaining vestiges of an attempt to drain the swamp. To the right the second tunnel. This are is known as four way junction. You'll see why when you see old airboat trails crossing the river. The second mangrove tunnel is slightly longer than the first and tighter too. Make sure you have a paddle that breaks down, or buy a cheap canoe paddle at your local retailer.
Don't get anything too long, the passage will be tight. Often, during high water levels, people will pull themselves through the tunnel. If you do this, please be cautious of the potential damage you may cause. After the second tunnel you enter the sawgrass praire. Here, the banks of the river are embraced by tall green sawgrass and open skies. The water in this area is primarily freshwater that turns brackish with increasing concentrations of saltwater as you get closer to Chokoloskee. This is where we will stop for a lunch break amongst the tall grass.
Approach quietly and Rick may take you to the gator spot. Large gators frequent the muddy flats to the west of the lunch stop. No need to fear, we do not plan on eating with the gators. There is a third and the most challenging tunnel to cross. This is my favorite part of the paddle by far. Look up and around or you may miss the microcosm that makes this place special. Bladderwort marks the way to the third tunnel. Hungry little vegetation with pretty yellow flowers; they feed on mosquito larvae.
The fish and plants change as the salinity in the water increases, eventually flowing into Chokoloskee and its oyster beds. The waterway opens as you reach the flowing river. High tide is at 12:51 p.m. so we should be able to float down this section without much resistance. We will paddle past several small lakes as the river steadily widens. As we approach Chokoloskee we'll encounter a noticeable opening on the route. Here paddlers have an option of turning right onto Left Hand Turner River (really, right to left hand) and Halfway Creek (near the end of the paddle) , for a longer paddle back to the ranger station. You can also turn left onto Hurddles Creek. The route to Chokoloskee is straight ahead though. Stay right as there numerous oyster beds and shallow water in the area. You'll see the marina across the bay. It can be very low at low tide. Keep an eye out for moving water and follow it across. This is also the best place to see dolphins. Look for them feeding in the deeper water of the river's mouth and in the bay.
TRIP RATING: This is an SK2/3 paddle. Total distance is about 10 miles miles.
THE HARD PART: Logistics people. YOU MUST BE THERE BY 8:30 AM The put-in is barely more than a drop-off zone with just a few parking spots. Vehicles will need to be placed in Chokoloskee for the drive back. We will meet at the Turner River Canoe Launch on Tamiami Trail. When you see H.P. Williams Park, slow down drastically. The Turner River Canoe Launch is less than a 1/10 of a mile away on the right. If you miss it, travel forth a little and make a u-turn back. Please watch for traffic. It can be heavy. We will drop off the boats at the put-in. Drive to Chokoloskee Island, park and carpool back in as few vehicles as possible. Remember that the folks driving back will need a ride for their boat as well as themselves. Turn-around time is usually about an hour to position the cars.
PARKING: Parking is $10 per vehicle at the Chokoloskee Island Marina.
RENTALS: Maybe, e-mail Esther if you need a boat. [masked]
DIRECTIONS: Go to http://maps.google.com, put[masked],[masked] in the search window, and click "HYBRID" in the upper right of the map to get a good overview of where you're going.
DIRECTIONS: BROWARD/PALM BEACH: Odometer set point: Alligator Alley Toll Booth 75 North (Alligator Alley) to US-29 South (54.5 miles) US-29 South to US-41 (Tamiami Trail) East (17.2 miles) US-41 (Tamiami Trail) East to the put-in point (6.1 miles on left) If you overshoot the put-in make a left and u-turn at CR-839 (Turner River Road) about 0.2 miles further on. DADE: Approx. 1 hour west of Krome on US-41 Odometer set point: Tamiami Trail & Krome Avenue US-41 (Tamiami Trail) West to the put-in point (51.9 miles on right) If you overshoot the put-in make a left and u-turn at the small loop road about 0.1 mile further on.H.P. Williams Wayside (US 41 just past CR839 )
WHAT TO BRING: Bring the usual, your boat, your paddle, your PFD (which you will wear at all times), your waterproof camera, sbacks, lunch, water, non-alcoholic beverage, and more water, safety equipment you see fit, sunscreen, bug repellent and whatever else you feel you need to ensure a safe day on the water. Don't forget your nautical charts and compass, or GPS. Rain gear is always a good idea.
DISCLAIMER: As with all of our paddles, we are a group of kayaking enthusiasts out for a good time. We helps each other, learn from each other and enjoy the privilege of being. By participating in any of our paddles you assume all risks and responsibilities for your personal health and safety and for your equipment. It is important for everyone that each participant be prepared for the trip. Please use your discretion and best judgment when joining a trip. Be sure you are up to the paddle -- physically, mentally and that your equipment is appropriate for the intended trip. The cliche: Always expect the worst and hope for the best. That means, be ready for conditions to change on a moment;s notice. We are out in nature, after all.