St. John's River paddling

has anyone here paddled the St. John’s river before? I really want to everytime you go over the bridge it looks really fun if I were out there in my kayak. The only thing is the GATORS! there are tons of them esp. in Brevard county area. I mean gators are to be expected living here but when your in your car traveling at 60 or so you can still spot at least 3o4 on any given day of the year. How were you able to paddle it with all the gators? What part do most people paddle?

st johns is home
I don’t know where most people paddle the St. John’s. It’s definitely not the middle section here between Lake Monroe and Lake George. I train for racing 5-6days per week and I rarely encounter another paddle craft unless it’s the Stetson Crew team practicing on Lake Beresford up here in Volusia County. I think powerboats keep most folks off the river up here. The river is beautiful but the boat traffic is terrible. Most paddlers seem to stick to the tributaries like the Econ and Wekiva.

The upper stretch looks tempting to explore, especially the stretch between routes 50 and 520. There are public ramps at both locations. Airboat tours run out of both locations. The tours out of the Lone Cabbage recieve passenger from the cruise ships that dock at Canaveral and tend to be pretty busy at times. Get a tall flag so they can see you around bends if you paddle up there. Still the boat traffic isn’t nearly as bad as it is below Lake Monroe. The braided channels down there beg exploration. Don’t get lost in them. A great paddle would be to head upstream from 50 and come back with the current.

As for gators. Just keep your eyes open and don’t blunder into a big one. The vast majority of them will avoid you. Many will come flying off the bank to dive into the safety of the water at the last minute, even if you’re between them an the water. Just stay out of their way and you’ll be fine. Big ones will hold their ground though, especially during mating season. Give them some space.

Also, in January/February they’re not terribly active though they will be out and about on warm sunny days.

dangers do lurk in the river
Greetings Dunsky

We paddled over eighteen miles on the St. Johns River last Saturday (from Julington Creek under the Shands Bridge to N.A.S. to the Rudder Club to Doctors Lake back to Julington). Not one gator but we did see @ six manatees. One big one almost turned me over in what turned out to be two feet on water. Does that count as a dangerous encounter? Franklin

thats it
Thats exactly the part I was looking to try. The part between road 50 and 520. I always see tons of gators there. Even saw one rolled over one day having the sun beat on his belly. i thought their was a restaurant on the st. johns that serves gator and frog legs. hoping to try it. Not too interested in any of the lakes it seems pretty flat and boring. Put a river that flows north is really interesting to me. Thinking of putting in at the landing on 50. But the only thing is I don’t want to paddle my SOT.

Yep, I have eaten there.
Pretty good food. The only river I paddled in Florida is in Palm Bay. I paddled up Turkey Creek. You can view the report here.

Not a long paddle, but worthwhile. There are gators but they don’t bother you.

If you really want to paddle with some gators. Go out to Merrit Island north of 520. There are backwater areas there that are gorgeous. Watch the launch areas. Lots and lots of gators. I paddled one backwater that had a small island in it full of birds. The gators were thick circling the island waiting for something to fall in the water.

Stay away from edges, if you spook one on shore they dive for the water. If you are close, they will hit you instead.

Sloop thats just it. I DON’T want to paddle with the whole army of gators. I see them all the time while i fish but wouldn’t want to actual be in the water with them or on the water. What did you eat at that place?

And shows a bunch of trip reports of different sections of the St. Johns. I would rather have the gator on my plate then running into my kayak.

Lone Cabbage
Lone Cabbage at route 520 might be the place you’re thinking of. There’s a restaurant and airboat tours that run out of there. Downstream from the Lone Cabbage is many braided channels with marshes, pasture, and Sabal Palms. Upstream is Lake Poinsett, shallow and muddy.

The lakes are flat and boring. The stream sections are prettier.

The stretch between 50 and 520 is interesting but slap full of gators. When the American shad run was coming to a close (American shad in the St. John’s die after making the spawning run from the ocean like Pacific salmon), some stretches at route 50 had as many as 8-10 fairly large gators within a couple hundred meters of one another chowing down on dieing shad. Just don’t paddle right along the edge and if you pull up somewhere for lunch, don’t dawdle right at the waters edge or near thick vegetation. Find some high ground.

The gator that was floating belly up probably wasn’t sunning but was likely dead. Dead gators bloat and float upside down. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a live one upside down, willfully.

I have on lake Jessup in florida, its actually a wide spot on the St-Johns… no problems with gators…

are you crazy?
Are you crazy? Lake Jessup is loaded with gators. Anybody in central florida can tell you that.Ever been on the 417 bridge over it? You see them everywhere!

And Lone Cabbage is the place I was thinking of.

Here is their website:

I am still not convinced yet about kayaking the st. johns with so many gators. maybe someone who has paddled can share their experience where they made it out alive.

Jessup? Not me.
Jessup has the densest gator population in the state. Probably no real danger but I’m still not to keen on the idea.

Not to mention that during low water Jessup averages about 2-4’ of water over several feet of anoxic muck. Nasty water body. Good bream and crappie population though.

Hurrcane Charley caused a massive fish kill there just by stirring the anoxic muck into the water column.

up to 150km per week
I average about 120km per week on the middle section around Hontoon Island and haven’t been harmed yet and we’ve got a lot of gators here. I did 10k this morning and saw 6 ranging from 8-11’. Gators mostly leave me alone. They’ve been interesting in the flood. They’re really on edge having their territories shifted all over the place. But they’re also pretty spooky which is cool because they make themselves scarce.

I’ve been chased twice this year. One was a large aggressive male during mating season. He charged, turned broadside, lifted his body and tail to the surface, and bellowed. That was an impressive display. The other was one that had been fed regularly by a tour guide. Both occurances were at dawn in low light conditions when gators are pretty darned bold to begin with. I’ve never been bothered during high daylight.

I did get knocked out of my sprint boat once when I broadsided a whopper that I didn’t see just below the surface. Scared both of us good. But, I was tracing right down the edge of the spadder-dock avoiding a power boat. Not tracing down the shoreline would have avoided that encounter.

I can attest to the muck!!! I once was trying to be cool and help a beached Pontoon boat that was loaded with partying chicks off the bottom, I was in my canoe. I hopped out of it and sank up to my chest!! that’s some stinky stuff!! I did manage to help the chicks out by getting them to all walk to the far side of the boat as I pushed & rocked it off the muck it was stuck on. I used to Canoe from the “Environmental center” located on 419 it has a small creek that runs out to lake Jessup. I ve also canoed from the various landings below and above Sanford. Never had any problems. Had my boat rocked by a big one once but that’s about it. Heck up here in SC where I paddle now the gators seem to be worst. Meaning I see more of them. of course the ones in Jessup were generally pretty big. I wonder if hunting them has helped decrease the populations? At the Environmental center a big 9 footer would lay across the trail to the landing, I would chuck branches and even a big log at him to get it to move, “from as far away as I could get” they had no effect, needless to say I found a different launch point. The Wekiva is also a neat river to do as a day trip.

I like
the section by Blue Springs in Orange City. You can avoid the fee in the state park by going to the public boat ramp, just down the road from the park entrance. Its busy in this section with power boats, house boats, but not many air boats. There are a lot of nice side trips and you can loop around Hontoon Island. I’ve been the only boat on some of the feeder creeks. There are always gators but…let’s face it, we are NOT their food source. Thank goodness, they are scared of us.