A Message From Our Director
Water is a focal point of most of our state parks. Freshwater springs, rivers, lakes, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean provide scenic vistas and opportunities for swimming or fishing.
Over the years, I’ve stood on the shore watching the water and keeping careful track of the wading birds, waterfowl and other birds. Frequently, I’ve thought to myself that if I had a canoe, kayak or standup paddleboard, I could get closer or I could see more, just around the bend.
In November, we observe Florida Paddlesports Month.
My good friend Tommy Thompson is a super kayaker. He often tells me about his experiences paddling along Florida’s Gulf Coast. One of his favorite destinations is the mostly undeveloped marshy coast of Florida’s Big Bend. Saltmarsh is the dominant feature rather than the white sandy beaches found farther west. He says it is one of the most beautiful and serene places in the world.
The other day I joined other leaders from the Department of Environmental Protection to visit Florida’s newest conservation parcel. Generally known as the St. Teresa Bluffs, the large tract borders two state parks and a state forest, creating an almost unbroken band of conservation land along the Gulf Coast from the mouth of the Ochlockonee Bay to the Apalachicola National Forest. The new land will join Bald Point State Park to Ochlockonee River State Park to Tate’s Hell State Forest. Just across the river and bay is St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.
It is truly extraordinary that one of the largest undeveloped coastlines in Florida has now been permanently protected. Almost all of the southern side of the bay and much of the northern side is now public land, managed for recreation and conservation.
The premier experience from our visit was standing on a bluff overlooking the bay and its vast expanse of estuarine marsh. From the overlook we could almost see Ochlockonee River State Park in the distance. Snaking through the marsh is Bear Creek, a tributary of the river and a remarkably beautiful paddling trail.
If you have the opportunity to canoe, kayak or standup paddleboard this month, you’ll enjoy a terrific upper body workout - toning your core, arms and legs. The brisk movements are good for increasing your heart rate and improving cardiovascular health. The quiet surroundings are good for reducing stress. Sunshine is a great source of vitamin D. Paddling adventures can be enjoyed alone, with a friend or in a small group.
This website features a list of state parks where paddlesports are available. In some cases, you may rent equipment. In addition, DEP's Office of Greenways and Trails has compiled a comprehensive guide to paddling trails in Florida.
For safety, paddlers should know waterway conditions and be aware of water levels and currents. Always wear your personal floatation device and bring a sound-producing device. Don’t forget food, water, bug spray and sunscreen. Remember the environment and observe the principles of Leave No Trace.
We hope you enjoy your next visit. Thank you for supporting Florida State Parks!
Eric Draper, Director