Jeff Russell was kind enough to allow me to copy this paddle venue on the Peace river, which I did with his group in Dec 2013... I wanna do it again, leaving a bit more time for fossil hunting..his planned trips are on my weekends to work...so I'm inviting overflow from his trips to join me on this beautiful paddle. We'll follow his posted venue! Thanks Jeff!
We will be putting in at Pioneer Park in Zolfo Springs and taking out at the Gardner boat launch. We will camp Friday night at Pioneer park campground (optional), and meet at the boat launch in the park at 9am where we will pack our gear and then shuttle our cars to Gardner. We will camp along the river somewhere near the halfway point...actual location is precisely at 9.5 miles(correct me Annie if this is erroneous!) This area is known for fossil hunting. We should have plenty of time to stop along the way. See highlighted section of the Peace River overview map below.
Pioneer Park camping is $15/night w/o electric. Overnight parking at Gardner is free. Pioneer Park Info: Click Here (http://www.townofzolfo.com/Visitors/Attractions.aspx)
Peace River Canoe Trail Info: Click Here (http://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/education/interactive/peaceriver/canoetrail.php)
This is a 19 mile run, and although this section can be paddled in a single day, that would do it an injustice. It is ideal for camping. Fine campsites are so numerous that you can be virtually certain of finding one. The majority of the land along this section is private property, owned by the Ben Hill Griffin Peace River Ranch, and they have a policy against campers using the eastern shore of the river. This policy will be made strikingly clear by the countless "No Trespassing" signs stationed along the left bank. The western shore, except for a few posted areas, is open for camping. The launch area at Pioneer Park is down a concrete ramp. Below the ramp on the river, a V-formation of rocks creates a small shoal. Half a mile from the put-in, the river passes beneath the FL 64 bridge, the last such structure you'll encounter until a wooden bridge at 13 miles. Tall bluffs support a forest of palm, oak, and cypress. Small streams flow into the river at intervals. In the cool, dry winter season which is also the prime time for kayak camping, the river will run nominally low. This will expose numerous sandbars and create shallow pools. In addition, deadfalls and normally submerged logs will surface. Several bigger side streams intersect the river along this section. Troublesome, Hickory, Oak, and Limestone creeks enter from the west, and Charlie Creek, the largest contributor, comes in from the east. Limestone Creek is a very descriptive name. It flows into the Peace about 16 miles from Pioneer Park, and its presence is announced far in advance by the appearance of limestone rock formations along the banks. The banks of Limestone Creek are also lined with rock and, at low water, the undercutting due to erosion is clearly visible. This is a popular area for hunting fossils, most notably shark's teeth.
The Peace River rates doubly as a peaceful river and a place of excitement. Its tannin-rich waters run through ancient limestone, dissolving fragile sediments and releasing fossils that have been trapped there since the time of early mammals. Never was fossil identification easier than here. The fossils all date from a single period after dinosaurs died out, when mammals such as the mastodon and mammoth roamed this area. Some of the most commonly found fossils are shark teeth. One shark species now extinct, the giant version of the great white shark, had teeth the size of a human hand. When I sift through handfuls of river gravel and find myriad shark teeth, it makes me wonder about how densely populated with shark the seas may have been back then, before the days of sea kayakers. The Peace River winds through palms and live oaks draped in Spanish moss, over rough limestone bedrock shallows and dark-stained gravels beds, passing groves of citrus trees. You are as likely to see a river otter as an alligator.