Paddling Along the River
by Sandee Harraden
Canoeing or kayaking is exciting even for a novice paddler. Imagine yourself escaping into a wilderness of warmth and beauty, filled with wildlife and excitement, gliding silently along and coming upon a sunning alligator, a flock of ibis, or watching an eagle soar above you.
To experience the pristine wilderness of the Everglades take an adventure along the Turner River. As you load your canoe by the waters edge an alligator usually watches silently and then slips into the water without making a sound. Then with just a few strokes of the paddle you will enter into narrow mangrove tunnels where birds roost to get out of the afternoon sun.
Lucky, early morning, bird watchers may see osprey, red tailed hawks, a variety of egrets and herons, pelicans, and possibly a southern bald eagle. Sighting of manatees and dolphins have also been seen along the river.
The mangrove tunnels will lead your vessel along the saw grass prairies and into Turner Lake. If you look closely into the mangroves on the lower Turner River you may even be able to glimpse some shell mounds created by the Calusa Indians hundreds of years ago. From here you continue along the Turner River and come out to Chokoloskee Island and then into Everglades City. If you would like to experience some additional mangrove tunnels in a brackish ecosystem then follow Half Way Creek, pass Plantation Island and paddle into Everglades City.
The Ivey House and North American Canoe Tours offers daily guided trips including lunch and guided by a naturalist guide who can point out interesting things you might normally miss if you were on your own. The Ivey House and North American Canoe Tours also rents canoes or kayaks and sells maps if you choose to paddle on your own.
This trip begins on highway 41 at the old Turner River. Make sure you bring drinking water, a long sleeve shirt, a hat, sunglasses, and sun screen to protect yourself from the sun. You may also wish to purchase a map so you have a better chance of not getting lost. The entire trip is 10 to 12 miles, taking approximately 5 to 6 hours. It is also good to pack a picnic lunch.