Kayaking Dead Lakes

By: Kevin Mims


Everyone has a bucket list. Maybe yours includes zipline adventures, or spending time in the Florida Keys. Heck, I know a dude that wants to skateboard the entire Sunshine State. Here in Florida, bucket lists are closer to the size of a 55-gallon drum.

Just recently, I had the good fortune to cross an item off of my personal bucket list. Having dipped a paddle in a good portion of Florida's waterways (I still have a few that I need to explore) I've somehow never had the chance to kayak the Dead Lakes in Wewahitchka. Crossing off bucket list items is one of the reasons why I'm on this grand full-time RV adventure, and I've wanted to spend a little more time doing things around the Apalachicola National Forest and Tate's Hell State Forest area. For lovers of outdoor adventure, this section of Florida is filled with hiking trails, bike paths and more paddling spots than just about any other place in the state.

I got some time on the water at the Dead Lakes Recreation Area with my friend John Keatley from Florida Hikes!, one of the best resources for trail-related information for those interested in outdoor recreation. Together, John and I put in at the boat ramp at Dead Lakes Park, located on West Arm Creek. From there, we paddled we paddled the creek (just as scenic as the Dead Lakes themselves) into the Dead Lakes and through a wonderland of bald cypress and tupelo trees. 

The Dead Lakes are part of the Chipola River, and were formed when a sandbar on the Apalachicola River (the Chipola flows into the Apalachicola) caused a blockage, creating the Dead Lakes. With the flooding (and perhaps some saltwater pushing up into this area from a storm), a lake was formed, killing off thousands of trees in this section. The remaining live bald cypresses and the dead stumps from others have created a unique landscape that's perfect for photography. I hear the fishing is pretty good, too. Kayaking? Believe me, it's fantastic.

Ready to go? Grab your gear and head to Dead Lakes Park, where you can set up camp – both tent and RV sites are available – and spend a few days paddling the creek and lakes. Bring a GPS, plenty of water, and dress appropriately for the weather. I'd recommend getting on the water early in the morning and hang out at your campsite in the afternoon. 

Of course, you can always make it a single day trip, but I think you need a few days to really get a feel for the area.

If you don't want to lug all of your gear, hook up with Off The Map Expeditions for a guided trip of the Dead Lakes. 

On a side note, if you spend too long playing on the water at Dead Lakes, swing by Smiley Honey in Wewahitchka and grab some Tupelo honey to bring home. It makes the perfect gift to smooth things over. 

For more information on the Dead Lakes Recreation Area, visit http://www.visitgulf.com/article/dead-lakes-recreation-area.

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