At first glance, the Peace River doesn’t seem like the place that would attract paddlers from all over the country. The river’s typically slow current, dark waters and lack of a “hold-on-for-dear-life” rush doesn’t catch the eye of the fast-paced outdoor types. But for those who cherish serenity and a steady heart rate, the Peace River provides an experience that’s hard to beat.
In January, I joined up with a group gathered at the Fort Meade Outdoor Recreation Area to take part in Paddle Florida’s second trip on the Peace River, a three-day, 43-mile journey held on the Peace River Paddling Trail. The official trail, designated by Florida’s Office of Greenways and Trails, starts at Fort Meade and extends 57 miles downriver to Arcadia.
For those wondering, Paddle Florida trips are fully supported, meaning that you don’t have to worry about all the planning (which can be a pain) that comes with kayaking for several days.
“I discovered Paddle Florida on the Internet when I was looking to go kayaking a couple of years ago,” says two-time Peace River paddler Susan Melton. “I found out that they will carry all your gear for you, cook your meals for you, and it just sounded perfect.”
Susan’s right: Don’t be the one boiling ramen noodles on your own – the catered meal option is heavenly after a full day on the water.
Over the course of the trip, the water levels varied from a moderate depth to a slow, easygoing current with a few near-bone-dry sections. While the shallow sections were a little challenging to paddle, they provided excellent spots for fossil hunting. If you knew where to look, you could literally pick up small shark teeth in a few inches of water around sandbars. In one spot, there were 10 or so of us scooping our hands in the water, all gathered around showing off our discoveries. It was like being a kid again.
From start to finish, the Paddle Florida Peace River trip was outstanding: incredible scenery, a fun group of paddlers and a logistical dream.
“This was my first kayaking trip,” says Fort Pierce resident Dennis Neff. “The Peace River is incredible – what a place.”
Do It Yourself
Want to go at it alone, or with a small, self-supported group? No problem. The Peace River Paddling Trail is one of Florida’s most popular canoeing and kayaking spots. Bring your own boat, or rent a canoe from the Canoe Outpost Peace River in Arcadia. They can provide maps, water level information and shuttles for your Peace River trip. Be sure to file a float plan with friends or family. Let them know where your put-in location is, your trip duration and where your take-out point will be. Pack your gear in durable, waterproof drybags – even on a day trip.
For more information on taking part in a Paddle Florida trip, visit www.paddleflorida.org - or if you’re going at it alone, check out www.canoeoutpost.com/peace. A great at-a-glance map with mileage markers and descriptions can be found at www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/guide/paddle.htm.