Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail
Emergency contact information:
Miami-Dade Police Department:
Broward County Sheriff’s Department:
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission 24-hour wildlife emergency/boating under the influence
Begin: Oleta River
End: Hugh Taylor
Birch State Park
Distance: 16 miles
Given the narrow Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), lengthy stretches of
seawalls, and sometimes heavy boat traffic, this is a challenging
segment and recommended for paddlers who have sufficient expertise in
paddling over large and high energy wakes that often rebound off sea
walls. Boat traffic is higher on weekends and holidays and should be
avoided if possible. Paddlers should take special precautions in passing
large ships moving and docking at Port Everglades.
During favorable weather,
paddlers may opt to paddle along the Atlantic, with rest stops at area
beaches. Both routes are included in this guide and on the maps.
After the primitive
campsite at Oleta River State Park, there is no camping in this segment,
so advance motel reservations are recommended in Fort Lauderdale or
From a quiet area where
Tequesta Indians lived for thousands of years, the Miami-Dade/Broward
County region began its boom in 1896 when Henry Flagler’s East Coast
Railroad reached Miami. New towns and cities sprung up, quickly
encompassing the small settler towns of Coconut Grove and Lemon City.
From an 1890 population of about 2,000 people in Miami-Dade County,
which then included most of Broward County, today’s combined population
for the two counties is around four million.
Even though this is a
short and urbanized segment, paddlers will enjoy several scenic state
and local parks. State parks include Oleta River, John U. Lloyd and Hugh
Taylor Birch. For more information on these parks, log onto
www.floridastateparks.org. In addition, Oleta River and John U.
Lloyd have visitor services providers that rent canoes and kayaks and
offer restaurant food. Hugh Taylor Birch State Park rents canoes on an
A highlight of the segment
is the West Lake Park/Anne Kolb Nature Center, among other Broward
County parks. For more information, log onto
River State Park to Holland Park, 7 miles
If choosing the ICW route,
proceed north from Oleta River. Seawalls may prevent opportunities for
rest breaks until you reach Hollywood, where there are places to land
near the Hollywood Marina and at Holland Park. Holland Park would make
for the better lunch break since it has picnic shelters and a viewing
tower that offers impressive views of the area.
One luxurious overnight stop in
Hollywood is The Westin Diplomat on the ICW. The high-rise motel has a
floating dock and storage space for paddlers. To learn more, click on
An option to taking the
ICW is to paddle along the Atlantic shore, but only in good weather with
mild winds. To reach the Atlantic from Oleta River State Park, you’ll
need to backtrack to the Baker’s Haulover Canal, then proceed north.
Your next opportunity to reenter the Intracoastal Waterway is the busy
entrance to Port Everglades.
Several city and county
beaches along the Atlantic offer opportunities for restroom breaks and
picnicking. You can land anywhere at the Hallandale City Beach, but be
watchful of swimmers. There, you can witness Italian-Americans playing
their traditional bocce ball games. At Hollywood Beach, you must land or
launch at the east end of Meade Street (see map for coordinates) and
remain 100 yards offshore when traveling north or south.
Park to John U. Lloyd State Park boat ramp, 4.5 miles
A must stop is the Ann
Kolb Nature Center. Here, you can land at the canoe/kayak rental area,
parking your boat to the side so it won’t be confused with the rental
craft. You can’t launch a boat here, but kayaking visitors are welcome
to land. For a $1 dollar admission, you can tour the exhibit center,
viewing displays of art, sculptures, marine ecology and aquariums.
Several trails and boardwalks run through the park, and you can climb a
three-story viewing tower.
Proceeding north, you have
the option of taking scenic Whiskey Creek through John U. Lloyd State
Park, a quiet refuge for birds, manatees and paddlers. The tidal creek
was believed to have figured prominently in “Prohibition Era” liquor
running from the Bahamas. Some shallow areas in the creek may not be
navigable at low tide, however.
The park’s 2.5 mile beach
was part of the 68-mile route of the “Barefoot Mailman,” named for the
carriers who walked barefoot at water’s edge from 1885 to 1892. The
almost week-long route consisted of 28 miles by small boat and 40 miles
by beach from Palm Beach to Miami. Prior to 1885, a letter from Palm
Beach to Miami would first make its way to New York and then Cuba, for a
total of 3,000 miles and up to two months. The barefoot service was
discontinued in 1892 when a rock road was completed from Jupiter to
3. John U.
Lloyd State Park boat ramp to Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, 4.5 miles
Take special care when
proceeding past Port Everglades, where gargantuan cruise ships and other
boats frequently dock. Fort Lauderdale boasts of being the “Yacht
Capital of the World,” and if you’re paddling on a weekend or holiday,
you might realize why. Be wary of large ships in the ICW and their
A good rest stop is the
Fort Lauderdale South Beach Park. The kayak launch spot is located at
the northern end of the park across from the Oasis Restaurant (see map).
A point of interest just
south of the park is the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens, the former
home of artists Frederic and Evelyn Bartlett. For a fee, you can tour
this 1920s era oceanfront estate with its elaborate architecture, art
collections and 35-acre green oasis. A quote from Evelyn Birch Bartlett
reveals how much the surrounding area has changed: “When I first came to
Fort Lauderdale in 1931, it wasn’t a town, just a village. When we drove
up the long driveway to Bonnet House, we might see a wildcat,
raccoons,...even a panther was seen on the property...” Mrs. Bartlett
was determined to preserve the estate and donated it to the Florida
Trust for Historic Preservation in 1983. To learn more about Bonnet
House, log onto
. The estate is closed on Mondays. From Bonnet House, it is
possible to access Hugh Taylor Birch State Park through the main gate.
If paddling on the
Atlantic side, there is no access to the ICW until the Hillsboro Inlet,
roughly 12 miles north of Port Everglades.
For overnight lodging, you
can stay at the Ft. Lauderdale Backpackers Beach Hostel along the
Atlantic only a block north of the park (
). The address is 2115 N. Ocean Blvd. You can make a reservation
two days prior to your arrival by calling 954-567-7275. There is free
Internet access. This would be your least expensive overnight option.
can also stay at a motel along the Atlantic in Fort Lauderdale or
Lauderdale-By-The-Sea 1 to 2 miles north of the park. You can find
several accessible motels to choose from through the Greater Fort
Lauderdale Convention and Visitor’s Bureau website. Click on
http://www.sunny.org/static/index.cfm?contentID=4 and select
“beachfront” and “Fort Lauderdale” or “Lauderdale-By-The-Sea” for a full
listing. Since most motels do not have secure storage space for
paddlers, you may want to secure your boat with a cable to a fence or
The Doubletree Gallery One
Motel is along the ICW near the park on the west side (954-565-3800). If
staying at the Doubletree, the dock can be 3-4 feet high at low tide, so
landing at high tide is preferable. After landing, make sure to pull
your kayak completely out of the water as large wakes can swamp your