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Paddle the St. Johns River from East Orlando

Christmas, Florida


Added by Christian Murillo

Grab your Kayak, Canoe, or SUP and enjoy a beautiful Florida day on the water. Let the gentle flow of the St. John's river guide you into the heart of Central Florida.

Paddling along the St. Johns river is the perfect relaxing escape that lets you see the real Florida.  Bring your Kayak, Canoe, or SUP to explore on one of the few rivers worldwide that flows North.  Just 45 minutes from Downtown Orlando, this adventure is great for someone who either wants to see the real Florida, or simply wants to get away from the crowds of the city and its theme parks. The current in the St. Johns is very mild, so if you decide to paddle down stream first (which you should), paddling back upstream is almost just as easy.

First things first, you have to get there.  Trust me when I say that the boat launch here might be the easiest thing to drive past.  You will be going about 65mph on Route 50 East if you are coming from the Orlando area, and there is hardly a sign that will tell you a boat ramp is coming up on the right. After you drive on 50 through Christmas, you have about another 5 miles before you get to the St. Johns National Wildlife Refuge, and you won't see signs for that either. There is generally ample parking, even on the weekends, but the earlier you go, the better. If you really want to treat yourself, beat the Florida heat and go for a beautiful sunrise paddle.  

Once you launch your paddling vessel, you will hang an immediate right to head back west and then another right in about a quarter of a mile to head under the bridge.  This journey north will take you downstream for the first half of your paddle.  I highly recommend that you do not head downstream from this boat launch.  Not only is the waterway not very clear, but the wetlands south of 50 are prime Air-boating playgrounds.  The grass can be tall in places and they are traveling much faster than you can paddle, so if they cannot see you, paddling in these parts can be a real safety hazard.  

Once you pass the bridge, you will be on the main flow of Florida's longest river.  How long you decide to take your journey is entirely up to you, but I would suggest about a 1.5-2 hour paddle in each direction to be able to see everything the St. Johns river has to offer.  The river is pretty curvy, but does not require any tricky maneuvering besides dodging the occasional fallen tree.  Note that the banks of the river are mostly marshy areas with tall grasses so spots to land your paddling vessel for a break are few and far between. 

If you want to do one activity in Florida that really encompasses Florida wildlife in a nut shell, this is it.  When it comes to Florida wildlife, there are few places where you can see such a range in species.  It is common to see alligators, turtles, Manatees (in late Fall/Winter), Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Blue Herons, Anhinga, Bald Eagle, Owls, Wild Hogs, and Cows.  

Some wildlife is more shy than others, so don't be afraid to venture up any side-creeks to see what you may find.  The Winter is a great time to see Manatees in the St. Johns river, as they make their journey inland to the warm 72 degree natural springs that are scattered throughout Central and Northern Florida.  

Besides the airboats, the other warning I have for you if you choose to embark on this adventure is only go in the summer if you plan on starting your paddle before sunrise. If you do this, make sure you bring plenty of bug spray as well. Bug spray is a safe bet pretty much year-round on this adventure. 

Enjoy this paddle and come to find what makes the Orlando/Central Florida area so much greater than just what the theme parks have to offer.  

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