Kayaking the Lost River

“It’s a perfect day to be on the water” I commented to my friends as we kayaked. Blue sky, light breeze, and low humidity made for a picture perfect day to explore the Lost River.

The Lost River is located in Stuart, Florida just about ¼ mile east of the intersection of I-95 and Kanner Highway (76).  Exit the interstate, go East and you’ll drive right over it.

Today, my friends and I put in at a little park just the other side of the river. This park has a boat ramp and a dock so it’s easy to load/unload kayaks and canoes.

We left from the boat dock and headed toward the west. At first glance, the river appears to be brown or even black in color. In the shallow portions, you can see the river is actually a tea color; which comes from tannins, a natural color caused by decaying plant material.

The first 20 minutes or so of leisure paddling takes us through the neighborhood and the view is mainly houses on the river. The homes are nice, but old style with an emphasis on enjoying the river rather than seeing who has the biggest home.

Once past that section, the river turns into the natural oasis.  The banks are thick with lush trees including oak, palm and other varieties of green vegetation. The bank is so covered with foliage in most places that disembarking would require hacking a path. So for our breaks, we ‘d find an overhanging tree and hang out in the shade.

Like most adventures, there are multiple paths and the river is no exception.  Staying left through a couple of forks takes us further down the river. One of the forks we went right and paddled  around a lush,  tree covered island that had a landing area. It appeared big enough to pitch a tent or just have lunch.  We all agreed that’d be a fun place to pitch camp with some friends.

We continued down the river for about half an hour and then turned around. The river continued on, but the afternoon was fading  fast.

As we paddled toward the launching area, we spotted a large alligator sunning itself on the bank. My kayak is nine feet and this gator wasn’t much shorter from snout to tail. However , it was high up and far enough away to paddle up and get a few pictures.

My friends thought it was asleep, but as I kayaked around I saw his eyes open. As they drifted closer for a picture, the large gator ran down the bank and dove into the water right in front of my kayak!  Can you say back paddle? I can and I did!!

The gator swam down the river for a bit, then went under and that’s the last we saw of him. Unless someone has been illegally feeding gators, they generally will run away first. However, when dealing with anything that can and will eat you, it’s best to err on the side of caution.

We made it back safe and dry and agreed that next time we’ll leave earlier so we have more time for exploration.  This is one of those cool places that is just a few miles from home. Next time you’re out roaming, check out some of those “forgotten” places that are just down the street. You might just have your own Lost River begging for exploration.

Here’s a short video of the excursion: http://youtu.be/QSP-DNUekoA

 

 

Apoxee Park

As I was soaking up the serenity of nature, I was amazed at how quiet it was considering the proximity to busy civilization.   Natural areas within the city limits are a great respite from the city, but they often can’t escape the noise of the city. Somehow this park did and it was nice to fully immerse myself in the surroundings without the distractions of civilization.  apoxee water

The park is named Apoxee Park.  Apoxee (pronounced Ah-po-ee) means Beyond Tomorrow in the Miccosukee language and is the first of the City of West Palm Beach’s urban wilderness parks. Unique to the park is they use the wetlands to provide a new water supply (maximum 10 million gallons per day) in order to achieve both urban and environmental water sustainability.

apoxee owlFrom the parking lot, the trail is paved and shortly after provides two options; a paved loop or a dirt path to the right.  The paved portion is a short loop through pine and oak trees.  If you go in the late afternoon, you’ll hear the calls of the Great Horned owls echoing through the trees.  I was lucky to actually see and photograph both of them.  It is amazing that such a large, majestic bird can fly so silently.

You can walk the paved path in about ten minutes or so depending on if the owls are there. The dirt path is a much longer trail that is suitable for hiking and biking.

The dirt path is narrow and tree lined with occasional openings to catch a glimpse of the water.  A boardwalk here and there provides unobstructed views of the lakes.  Benches are strategically placed along the way to sit and enjoy the view of the water or just enjoy the sunshine. One of these benches amidst some trees was the perfect lunch spot.

Shortly after crossing the power line road, the trail forks and fortunately there is a big sign and a map. I took the right loop and found a long L – shaped boardwalk that traverses one of the lakes. Throughout the water is a variety of plant life that provides a carpet like covering on the bottom. The plant life is so thick in areas, it looks like small canyons under water.  Most rivers in the area have tannin (decaying plant material) so the water isn’t clear. Here the water is crystal clear and all the fish, plants and other inhabitants were visible.

The boardwalk dead ends into another tree lined dirt trail which is flat, straight and the perfect place to ride a bike. According to the map this trail stretches for  few miles if not more.  On the other side of this trail is another lake full of lily pads, birds and trees.  The serene view, gentle wind through the trees, and warm sun made for perfect place to just relax.  A strategically placed bench was the perfect place to hang out and enjoy the view. apoxee trail

According to the map, the trails extend for many more miles so I’ll be back with my bike to continue exploring and will provide an update.   Apoxee park is a nice oasis for a gentle walk, a medium hike, biking, or birding all right in the middle of town.

Here’s a short video of the boardwalk: http://youtu.be/THrKrn9iRRg:

For more info on the park: www.wpb.org/park/apoxee-park/