Calusa Blueway

I’ll be down in Fort Myers, FL for the whole month of February. I mostly paddle fresh water rivers in Upstate NY & SE Vermont in my Old Town & Pelican yaks. I’ve done some ‘Salt Life’ kayaking in Maine & Nova Scotia. I’m taking my newly acquired 14’ Necky Dolphin down to FL and planning to spend a lot of time on the Calusa Blueway ‘trail’ system. Anyone familiar with this area? There’s 190 miles of ‘marked trails’, I’m just curious about tidal issues, areas that might need to be avoided during low tides etc. I’ve requested the available maps / literature from Lee County Tourism, but would love to get some tips from any fellow paddlers who might be familiar with this area… Thanks, JH

Estero Bay is pretty shallow by Lover’s Key. It is still easy to get around and there are telltales when you approach a sandbar or oyster bar.

Most of the mangrove trails are deep enough to paddle most of the time. Some extreme low tides can expose roots and oysters but that isn’t all that normal. Most of the bays are fairly sheltered, but cold fronts sometimes stir them up.

Like all paddle trips you need to gather as much info as you can get, don’t go out there blind.

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I live in Sarasota but have paddled sections of the Blueway may times, the last being a circumnavigation of Pine Island. February should be a great time to paddle and escape the heat and bugs of summer. While some of the bays and mangrove tunnels can be too shallow to paddle during an extreme low tide, I haven’t found it to be a big problem when paddling the area. Just keep an eye on the tides and you shouldn’t have much of a problem.
One of the places you should visit while on the trail is Cayo Costa State Park. The island is primitive and only accessible by boat. I suggest you make reservations if you plan to camp as it is very popular in the winter.
This site has good info and maps of the Blueway:

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Thanks Craig & Doug, those links were very helpful… I still haven’t received the literature I requested from the Tourism agency, but cabin fever has set in up here in the North Country and I’m looking forward to getting back on the water!!

Here are a couple resources you may find useful:
NOAA map of area:
Slideshow and movies of trips to Pine Island and Cayo Costa (gives you an idea of what the area is like).

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I am NOT familiar with that specific area. A general note only when playing in tidal areas, mangrove swamps. Always have a couple ‘extra’ quarts of water or drink, and some bit of food, sunhats, towels to cover legs, even a paperback or two. If the tide goes out and strands you, those swamps are not for walking out. Sit, read your book, enjoy the day,wait for the tide to refloat you. If you have that basic ‘go bag’ with an extra Gatoraid and paperback in it, you are golden.

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“If the tide goes out and strands you, those swamps are not for walking out.”
Amen, thanks for the reminder, it’s been awhile since I’ve paddled through tidal marshes, inlets and such. I’d much prefer to read a book, play my harmonica - or even contemplate the marvels of my navel for a mere 6 hours… than attempt to drag my boat knee deep in muck for even 6 minutes! :wink: I’ll be mindful of the tides for sure, thanks!

Doug, what a great site- chock full of great slide shows and helpful info…

Stagelts…the longest I was ever stranded was four hours. That was also in a bigger boat that needed 18 inches.

I really don’t think it will be a problem with a little attention. Note that most boat ramps for trailered boats don’t turn into mud ramps at low tide. So launching and recovering there can be better than some “hand Launch” sites.

The area isn’t anything like the Everglades or Okefenokee where you have shallow freshwater swamp marshes, wet grassy savannas, exotic flowers, alligators, cypress and tupelo trees…
The Calusa Blueway is composed of navigable saltwater bays dotted with mangrove islands, a few sand beaches, oyster bars, and grassy seabeds. You really are rarely more than few miles east of the Guf of Mexico.
Having paddled the area more than a dozen times, stranded has never been a problem.

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I have never gotten stranded there either. First few times I was down there were when Lee County sponsored kayak races. If you hit a shallow spot you just moved off of it. Plenty of water in the marked trails.

copy that, thanks fellas!

stagelts I like your wintery picture, what’s the stream?

somewhere near Springfield, VT. It’s just my ‘go to’ photo I share, to depict a typical day up here in the North Country…

A couple of our local kayak shops love to help newcomers to our area. You can google Gulf Coast Kayaks in Port Charlotte or Estero River Outfitters in Estero, they provide any info you want, including maps, brochures, website links, etc.

Terrific, I was hoping I could get some valuable tips and info from some of the local outfitters / rental shops. I’m driving down with my own kayak, but I will be renting at some point when my daughter arrives next month…
(looks like I’m bringing some of my Adirondack weather with me too!)

That temp won’t last long. Should be back up in a day, but another front is coming by this weekend. It, too, will only last about a day.

I have had good luck with the folks at Estero Outfitters.

I’ve been up to Pine Island, Cayo Costa & Matlacha, down to Lovers Key- and this photo was in the 4 Mile Cove Eco Park / Calooshahatchee River… with all the snow we’ve had back home in the North Country, I should have some great Spring paddling on my local rivers when I get back too! Thanks again for the info & replies…

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