Biscayne Bay to Elliott Key

Several members of our club will be traveling down from Jacksonville, Florida next Thursday to kayak camp for three night on Elliott Key. Can anybody tell us what to expect crossing the bay? Are the bugs bad? Are raccoons a problem? Once there and set up, what are the best areas to paddle? Any input would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you


Elliot Key
It’s been a few years, but the bay crossing is not a problem if the wind is reasonable. Going over it was blowing 10-12 kts. and no big deal. Coming back it was blowing 20 and still not bad, though I rememeber needing to make a course adjustment. Going over there are no good landmarks to hone in on, coming back you aim for the tall chimneys that you can see forever. The bugs (mosquitoes) were bad on the trail to the Atlantic beach, but not in the campground. I don’t remember any racoon problems at all. The biggest issue was the fact that alot of powerboaters from Miami like to boat over and camp on Elliot key and there was alot of noise from that group. Day paddling-wise, I paddled up to Boca Chica on the bay side and had a wonderful time.

problem on the bay. I have yet to see a coon more than 2-3’ offshore. Mosquitoes, around dawn & dusk, will find you perhaps up to a third/quarter mile offshore. Daytime, usually no problem more than 20’ off the mangroves, usually OK unless you actually disturb them.

Welcome south, guys!

Where, when are you putting in and then taking out? Won’t be able to make it Thursday before around 1:30 PM, as I’m already committed, er, I mean I already have a commitment, I already have something scheduled…;->

But perhaps I can meet you guys on the other end?

My guess is you’ll put in at BNP (Biscayne National Park) HQ east of Homestead, and paddle across the Bay to Elliot, venture out from there during your stay, and come back the same way. Paddle should be uneventful for experienced paddlers like Franklin, just check out the weather forecast -especially noting winds and tides, and beware of the N-S Intracostal route, where boats come through at speed, throwing wakes. Boats will also be coming & going in/out of the BNP The usual caveats apply…

To do…

You can paddle up to the old “lighthouse” on Boca Chica immediately north of Elliot, but take charts and watch depths -there are places where even we kayakers can get caught in exceptionally skinny water. You can circumnav Elliot, but beware of tides & currents in Sands & Ceaser’s Cuts -just holding on the a 30’ rope at the end of our anchored boat, I could get the 10’ or so down to the bottom just by angling myself pitched forward at mid-tide, when the race was at its highest. You’ll want to time your passage to go in the direction the tide’s flowing.

South of Elliot there are a number of smaller mangrove islands, and to the west are the Arsenickers (are-SEN-ikkerz, not ARSON-ickkers) which are nice, as are most of the mangrove shorelines.

You might want to portage across the island if the tides running in when you want to go out, and do a beach launch from the Atlantic side -but it’s a (coral) rocky put-in. Paddling the ocean, you should be able to see marine life below, maybe even dive the reefs not all that far offshore, and get a little reentry practice along the way as well.

As for camping: you’re semi-lucky, as it’s only the beginning of bug season down here. We’ve been able to sit around our back yard pretty easily so far this year without resorting to Yard Guard or Off… But nonetheless, make sure your netting is noseeum-proof, not “merely” mosquito-proof. Those things are real irritants to most folks -we had them over on the lower west coast back in November, so we retreated inside early after sunset; it may be the same here.

Go to the Biscayne National Park site and check out the info and the map -and get a copy at the Visitors Center on the mainland before you put in. Also, if you intend to paddle around the south end of the Bay and Card Sound, pick up a few USGS charts, and maybe see about a GPS and getting some waypoints from those with that gear -it will help with nav.

Drop me an email at my icon -call it Biscayne Bay Paddling so I know it’s not spamn.

And when you get here, I hope for great weather and fair skies and calm seas for y’all to enjoy Beautiful Biscayne Bay as you


-Frank in Miami