Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail
Indian River/Pelican Island
Emergency contact info:
Indian River County Sheriff’s Office:
Brevard County Sheriff’s Office:
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission 24-hour wildlife emergency/boating under the influence
Begin: Ft. Pierce
Inlet State Park
End: Front Street
Park in Melbourne
Duration: 3.5 days
Boat traffic can be heavy along the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW),
especially on weekends and holidays. Paddling along the high energy East
Coast shoreline is not recommended due to safety considerations. While
some calm periods may make it suitable for paddling the coastal
shoreline, conditions can change abruptly and few inlets allow paddlers
to move to more sheltered waters.
Covering the middle section of the Indian River Lagoon, considered to be
North America’s most diverse estuary, this segment incorporates premier
state and county parks, federal land, numerous spoil islands, and a
traditional fish camp. Paddlers are almost guaranteed to spot sea
turtles, manatees, dolphins and a wide variety of bird life.
A highlight is the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, where
paddlers can cruise along the small island rookery that marked the
beginning of the National Wildlife Refuge System. For more information,
http://www.fws.gov/pelicanisland/. Two scenic state parks are
covered, Ft. Pierce Inlet and Sebastian Inlet. Both of these parks link
the Indian River Lagoon with the sparkling Atlantic Coast. Paddlers can
land in safe waters and visit sandy Atlantic beaches on foot if desired.
For more information, log onto
This segment also covers the Indian River - Malabar to Vero Beach and
the Indian River - Vero Beach to Ft. Pierce aquatic preserves. A purpose
of both preserves is to highlight the ecological and economic importance
of the Indian River Lagoon since the entire natural system is estimated
to generate more than $800 million in annual revenue to the local
economy. Preserve efforts have helped to reconnect mangrove marshes and
seagrass beds that act as nursery grounds to recreationally and
commercially important species, such as snook, grouper, snapper,
seatrout, tarpon, and lobster. Also,
many species of migratory waterfowl winter in the Indian River Lagoon.
special benefit to the paddling trail, aquatic preserve staff and
volunteers work from October through April of each year to enhance the
numerous spoil islands along the ICW by creating campsites, installing
fire rings and picnic tables, blazing trails, stabilizing shorelines,
removing trash and exotic species, and building informational kiosks.
Many groups have adopted spoil islands and regularly remove debris and
do enhancement work. Some of the recommended campsites in this guide
have been enhanced through these efforts. For more information about the
aquatic preserves, log onto
No Trace principles should be utilized for any primitive camping
outlined in this guide. To learn more about Leave No Trace principles,
log onto: http://www.lnt.org/
guide covers some of the spoil islands available for camping, but for
free comprehensive guides to spoil islands in the Indian River Lagoon,
call the Florida Inland Navigation District: 561-627-3386.
Also, for maps and information about current spoil island enhancement
projects, check out the Indian River Lagoon Spoil Island Website at
1. Ft. Pierce Inlet
State Park to Gifford Point, 15.5 miles
Once a place where U.S. Navy Frogmen trained for the D-Day invasion in
World War II, Ft. Pierce Inlet State Park offers a great rest stop and
beach. You can launch or land along a sandy stretch on the north side of
the inlet near Dynamite Point, named for the activities of the Navy
Underwater Demolition Team (see map). From here, you can access
restrooms, the picnic area, beaches and a short nature trail.
Several islands near the park along the ICW are available for camping.
Many local paddlers recommend Island #SL2, otherwise known as Run-a-Muck
Island. This is about a mile from Round Island, a popular place for
paddlers and a good place to spot bottlenose dolphins and manatees.
There is a county-run kayak launch at Round Island along with restrooms
2. Gifford Point to
Island #IR5, 11.5 miles
As you head north, you can follow the narrowing ICW on the east side of
Pine Island, or you can paddle on the shallower west side and avoid most
of the boat traffic.
North of the Wabasso Causeway, where you can take a rest break with full
amenities, hug the shallower eastern side of the lagoon along several
scenic islands. Eventually, you’ll come to tiny Pelican Island, part of
the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge. This island was the last
known brown pelican rookery along the east coast at the turn of the
twentieth century. Diligently defended by German immigrant Paul Kroegel,
he convinced President Theodore Roosevelt to formally protect the island
in 1903, helping to spawn the national wildlife refuge system. Today,
the system is comprised of 540 units in all 50 states and includes
American Samoa, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Johnson Atoll, Midway Atoll
and several other Pacific islands.
While you can’t land on Pelican Island, you can observe the birds from a
safe distance. Besides pelicans, you may also spot wood storks, anhingas,
cormorants, American oystercatchers and several types of wading birds.
From Pelican Island, curve around to the ICW where Island #IR5 is
located. A nearby boat ramp in the town of Sebastian will enable you to
access several restaurants within easy walking distance. Biologists have
noted that the area between Pelican Island and Sebastian Inlet is a
nursery ground for juvenile green sea turtles.
choice for camping, or a good rest stop, is Sebastian Inlet State Park.
If camping, the best place to land is opposite the boat ramp where you
can carry or wheel your kayak a hundred yards or so to a campsite.
Reservations are recommended, especially in late winter/early spring.
Call Reserve America at 1-800-326-3521 or log onto
1715, a Spanish fleet laden with gold and silver from Mexico and Peru
wrecked in the vicinity of the park. Most than a thousand sailors made
it to shore. Some died from exposure to the elements, but many more
would have perished if not for the generosity of Ais Indians. When
salvagers from Havana finally arrived, they recovered only half the
treasure. Modern-day treasure hunters found a sunken ship laden with
gold and jewelry. The McLarty Treasure Museum, located within the park
off A1A, highlights the shipwreck and treasure salvage.
Just past the state park is another campground with full amenities, Long
Point County Park (see map). For more information about reserving a
site, log onto
http://www.campingspacecoast.com/rv_tent/longpoint.htm or call
Yet another camping option in the vicinity is Donald MacDonald County
Park, less than two miles up the Sebastian River. Camping at the shaded
campground is on a first-come, first serve basis. Call
772-589-0087 for more information.
3. Island #IR5 to
island #BC38, 13 miles
Besides Sebastian Inlet State Park (see previous section) an interesting
stop along the way is the Honest John’s Fish Camp on Mullet Creek, one
of the last of the Old Florida style fish camps along the east coast. An
1890s pioneer home and a vintage train depot exist on grounds. Kayak
rentals, snacks and cold drinks are available. Fishing in the area is
The camp was named for Honest John, otherwise known as the Cracker of
all Crackers. He was best known for his fishing exploits and for his
aversion to wearing shoes. At his funeral, all of his pallbearers were
in bare feet.
For a grocery stop, your best bet is a Winn Dixie supermarket on the
mainland about a mile north of the mouth of the Sebastian River. You can
land along the shore, climb the bank to U.S. 1, and the supermarket is
across the road (see map).
The Island #BC38 campsite is on the southwest side.
4. Island #BC38 to
Front Street Park in Melbourne, 7.5 miles
In this stretch, several parks on the west bank offer good rest stops,
while a point of interest is the Melbourne Beach Park on the eastern
shore. Melbourne Beach was founded in the 1880s when Captain Rufus
Beaujean began sailing people to the island from the mainland. A
railroad was soon built from the pier to the beach. Several historic
buildings exist within easy walking distance of the park.
At the Front Street Park boat ramp in Melbourne, you can easily access
restrooms and water along with nearby businesses and restaurants.
For a scenic day trip, many paddlers enjoy wildlife-rich Turkey Creek in
Palm Bay. The upper portions of the creek wind beneath a hardwood forest
canopy and along steep sandy bluffs.