The park’s kayaks had been carefully aligned in orderly rows, shining bright yellow and orange under a layer of morning dew. My friend Margaret and I picked up life jackets and paddles from the ranger station and then picked up our watercraft.
The land within the park is made up of multiple islands, including Fat Deer Key, Deer Key, Little Point Key, and Little Crawl Key, where the campground and most park amenities are located. In addition to mangrove stands, the park also protects seagrass beds and other unique ecosystems. The strong winds that can spring up offshore also make the waters on the Atlantic Ocean side of the park popular with windsurfers and kiteboarders, and we saw quite a few visitors pull up into the parking lot and begin assembling their gear.
Large, crashing waves driven into the shore by the stiff breeze prevented us from paddling along the ocean shoreline, but the small inlet between Little Crawl Key and Long Point Key was calmer as Margaret pushed off in her golden kayak for a quick paddle. The launch sloped gently into the water, sand meeting shallow waves.
Red Mangrove roots stretched up from the surface, their green leaves leaning over the smoother saltwater. A pod of dolphins surfaced as one, gray dorsal fins cresting above the water in a set of splashes before disappearing. Brown Pelicans and impressive Magnificent Frigatebirds soared on the stiff breeze above our heads. None of the creatures minded that Margaret paddled among them, her swift strokes making her appear like a marine creature herself. If I close my eyes and think of Florida, this exact scene often passes through my mind’s eye!
After the paddle, we chatted beneath the picnic shelters. These seats gaze out at one of the most impressive views one can find in coastal Florida! Only wispy cloud crossed the sky as we watched the sea from the wooden picnic tables, the only sound the whistling of the wind and the gentle swinging of the park’s playground equipment. With nearby restrooms and a small sand beach, I can easily imagine relaxing at this high point all day, watching the light on the water change.
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About Erika: Erika Z. is a writer, birder and photographer living and working along the Emerald Coast of Florida. Her love of the outdoors and sense of adventure leads her to explore Florida’s state parks, state trails and historic sites in her free time.