Florida Distance Paddle

I am planning a paddle across the Okeechobee Waterway from St.Lucie Inlet on the east coast, across Lake Okeechobee, to Ft. Myers and the Gulf of Mexico on the west coast. Has anyone ever done it? I feel it will take me 3-4 days, maybe less with more nighttime paddling. I am going to use my Tarpon 160, with a Primex sail, for assistance where possible. With my planned stops in major areas, there should be adequate motel rooms/restock points available, or camping is another option. (An east to west route should allow for use of prevailing winds, along with current on the last half of the trip). My plan is to go in the fall/winter , sometime between Sept and Dec. Anyone interested in joining me? I plan to write a account of the journey, with pictures, and have possible news coverage, as my accounts will focus on the environment.

Cross Florida Paddle
I haven’t paddled but do know some Fort Lauderdale lifeguards that did it or part of it in dory’s and surf skis. I don’t have any close contact with them these days so I can’t quiz then very well. My Florida Gazetteer shows at least one camp ground way west of the lake, there also is one at clewiston (sweetest city in america) on the southwestern edge of lake. Coast to coast I imagine 150 miles. Peddled the distance a couple times 176 miles in one day, young and dumb.

Might check under florida water management and lake ochechobee for further details, Im not aware of any guide books. covering the whole trip.


2 routes
Looks like there are two designated routes or channels, both starting mid east, one huggging the south rim and the other about a third up from the south rim of the lake. Hugging the rim of the lake may prove to be bone dry.


sort of off the subject, but
how do you like that primex sail? At that time of year there’s not much wind, though the sail thing has always intriqued me.

152 miles surf to surf
But don’t know what route through lake was.

Aren’t there locks and such?

first to admit to being a yankee and as such am naive on the subject but i did go to college in st pete…night time paddling…fresh water…16 foot boat (is that right?)…hmmmn. you’re a braver man than i am!

a park ranger once explained that there were 2 things in the water at night in florida. gators and gator food.

YES, I am aware of the different routes, and plan to drive the route first to check out my stops. I hope not to have to camp, as the area is very remote, and would rather be inside four walls. I will have a tent just in case.

There are a number of locks, which should not be a problem, as I have been through some of them in boats. The south route around the lake looks like it would give me the most comfortable route, as it hugs the coast in case of a problem. Just had this idea , and want to see it through. AS far as the sail, I have it on order, and have not used it yet, but having been a sailor for many years, I will modify it as much as I can, to allow me to use it as much off of dead down wind as I can.

I agree,
Don’t plan to paddle to much before or after dark if I don’t have to. Although from what I can see, the gators seem to stay to themselves for the most part.

A woman just lost part of her arm and butt to a 12 footer on Sanibel yesterday. She was just pruning some bushes.

been trying to get my mother
to try kayaking for years and as she puts it,“you’d better be off the water before the sun goes down”“the gators will get you in that little plastic boat” Advice well given,listen to my mom.

good advice,
But I think your mother is like many others who are very protective, with out knowing all the facts. Gators are only agressive if you are threatening their nests, or during mating season. Sort of like hitting on someone else’s girlfriend at a bar.

I’m a recent move-in to Florida. I paddle the St. Johns mostly. The last couple of months I’ve been on the water 6-7days per week before and after work, dusk and dawn, dodging gators.

I paddle at night on the St. Johns only in the winter when gators aren’t terribly active. This time of year there is a serious pucker-factor during my dawn and dusk workouts and I’m definitely off the water by dark. I broadsided one that was just below the surface. The collision knocked me out of my sprint boat. Fortunately a pontoon boat fished me from the drink and fortunately the gator I hit was small and fled. Some of the big males will not flee but will turn and fight if disturbed.

When they were mating I had a couple of big ones bellow at me. One 12’7" male chased me every morning for a month as I passed in my sprint boat. He started harrassing other boaters and anglers around Hontoon Island State Park so he was removed. Jackasses had fed him so he had learned to associate humans with food. There are several gators in that stretch that have been fed and are now nuisances/dangerous. There are a couple of gators up Hontoon Dead River that tourists in rental houseboats and pontoon boats feed. These are dangerous to kayaks as they will approach any boat looking for food.

Yeah, gators mostly keep to themselves and aren’t dangerous unless:

  1. The gator has been fed and associates humans with food.
  2. You blunder into the gator and it retaliates.
  3. It’s a female guarding a nest.

I am sure that I will not agitate any gators on purpose. But, having said that, part of the allure of the trip , is to paddle across some of the most natural areas of Florida. You have to asses the risk, and know what you are getting into. I am prepared to do this , knowing that I could encounter various types of wildlife. I plan to keep my distance from any possible nesting areas. They are a fact of life here. I definitely will not be dragging any bait bucket, I can tell you that.:-))

For "Natural Areas"
Might I suggest the Wilderness waterway (99 miles), anywhere Florida Bay/Keys, or some of the beautiful central Florida rivers.

I suspect all are sight prettier than a navigable manmade trench through flat swamp/reclaimed agricultural land and a featureless shallow 50 mile wide lake…

I would agree, that would be more appealing, but I think that this would be challenging for a lot of reasons: no one has probably done it , due to some of the points you make, and that the coastal areas are paddled all the time.

Some of the most critical environmental issues exist across that area, and it will be interesting to me to be exposed to them first hand. I have paddled in the Keys, and have sailed from Naples to Miami, by the 10,000 islands a few times. I can’t explain it , but this trip is just calling me.

Next Year
This is a bit off topic but if I am up to it I am thinking about a 2-4 month expedition trip in Southern Florida next winter.

How does one start planning for a trip like this? Any good books on planning expeditions? Anyone know of clubs or members here that could be networked with for part or all of the trip?

Florida Bay Outfitters
I would contact them, on their site, Kayakfloridakeys.com. They would be a good place to start. For sure , you would want to spend a good deal of your time in the keys.

Books on Paddling S. Florida
Does anyone have any suggestions on books on paddling South Florida including waterways, and campsites?

What is the real risk from gators and other wildlife?

neo SC
I believe Grayak is our local expert,he’s sure to notice as post soon.

the newly-minted Florida Keys Paddling Trail to help you along. The trail is still in its infancy, and Monica Woll (of ‘Frank & Monica’ who own FBO) was instrumental, along with several of the Paradise Paddlers Kayak and Canoe Club, in getting the trail recognized and in plotting it’s actual routing (which has yet to be completed, BTW).

The books have been out there a while and denote not only Point A to Point B travel, but various Keys’ circumnavs, etc. I actually think there’s 3 standard (relatively well-known and recognized) texts on the Keys that cover paddling.

Florida Bay Outfitters:


Florida Keys paddling texts you can order from FBO:

SEA KAYAKING IN THE FLORIDA KEYS By Bruce Wachob Contains thirteen detailed trips in the Lower Florida Keys. Also includes insider information such as directions to remote launch sites, listings of nearby campsites, dining and lodging. Great information on keys wildlife and marine ecosystems. 5 ½ x 8 ½ pbk

THE FLORIDA KEYS PADDLING GUIDE This new guide by natural historian Bill Keogh is your signpost to the paddler’s paradise that is the Florida Keys. Those who think of these islands as only 150 miles of sandy beaches have much to learn about the archipelago visited by 4 million people every year - and theres no better way to explore it than by kayak.

ADVENTURE GUIDE TO THE EVERGLADES AND FLORIDA KEYS By Joyce & Jon Huber Contains info on paddling, biking and hiking in South Florida. Good info and maps on the Wilderness Waterway. Also info on diving, snorkeling, restaurants, resorts and much more. Great traveler’s guide. Maps and color photos. 5 3/8 x 8 pbk / 186pp

And here are some other general Florida paddling texts you can also order from FBO:

GUIDE TO SEA KAYAKING IN SOUTHERN FLORIDA By Nigel Foster Let world-renowned sea kayaker Nigel Foster guide you through one of his favorite kayaking havens. In Guide to Sea Kayaking Southern Florida, he leads kayakers of all skill levels on 40 trips, with many additional route alternatives,in some of the most spectacular and wildlife-rich marine habitats on the planet. 5 ½ x 8 ½ pbk / 227pp

EXPLORING WILD SOUTH FLORIDA By Susan D Jewell Susan is a wildlife biologist for the US Fish and Wildlife Service in the Everglades. She has spent over 11 years studying wildlife in Florida. This guide to Florida Wildlife is also a guide to finding the natural areas and cnoeing in Southern Florida. 5 ½ x 8 ½ pbk / 340pp

SEA KAYAKING FLORIDA AND THE GEORGIA ISLANDS By James Bannon The Coastal Regions of Florida and Georgia tempt sea kayakers with more than 2,000 miles of beach, barrier island, estuary, and mangrove key to explore. You’ll find 30 coastal paddling destinations, maps, directions, camping, launch sites and more. 6 x 9 pbk / 175pp


This guide to the fastest growing watersport in Florida by David Gluckman is for both novices and advance paddlers. This books gives specific Florida tips on camping, clothing, weather, gear, boats and paddles.

All are useful. some are better than others, and you MIGHT be able to check one out of your local library if it’s a) a big enough institution; b)it has has a relatively complete Florida section; c)it has has a relatively complete boating section; d) the librarian is a Florida paddler; d) the library is on the interlibrary loan system.

The Castasways Against Cancer paddle the length of the Keys every year, and an account of their travels -and travails -is ususally published in the Paradise Paddlers newsletter. This is useful as the articles susally note put-ins & take-outs and routes and conditions, much more current than the books.

You can even be a Florida Keys Paddlingh Trail contributor! -PADDLING TRAIL GUIDEBOOK RESEARCH

Work on the Florida Keys Overseas Paddling Trail guidebook continues. Bill and Mary Burnham invite club members to join them as they research sections of the trail. This is your opportunity to share insider tips that will help make the book a true club project (not to mention a chance to serve as paddling models in photographs!) Look for weekly email updates on work as it progresses from Key Largo south, in 15-mile sections. Bill and Mary paddle every Wednesday and/or Thursday. As they venture farther and farther away from their home-base in Key Largo, they will also need help with shuttles. Please contact Bill or Mary at Burnhamink@bellsouth.net

Well, that’s enough for now, methinks…

But contact these folks and check out your library -and do a little internet research as well, for Florida Keys (and maybe even Florida Bay) paddling, canoeing, and kayaking as well!

We look forward to y’all coming down to Sunny South Florida, Beautiful Biscayne Bay, and the Fabulous Florida Keys to

Paddle On!

-Frank in Miami