Trip report, October 10, 2011
This week’s paddle took myself and three friends to the shallow mangrove channels of the St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park. The wind was gentle and the water glassy. We found mosquitos, deceptive pathways, and an amazing lightning show.
St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park is accessible only by boat. The address is 4810 S.E. Cove Road
Stuart, Florida 34997. Paddlers can access the park by launching from a Martin County mini park located at the east end of Cove Road. The canoe/kayak launch is on the north end. There is free parking and covered picnic tables, no restrooms.
From the parking area, paddlers could paddle straight across the Intracoastal Waterway to the state park dock and beach area. There is a boardwalk that goes across to the Atlantic Ocean, as well as benches and restrooms. State Park staff are available on a very limited basis.
Our group elected to paddle north then east (first right turn). By searching carefully, we were able to find the opening to a channel (to the left) that leads to the St. Lucie Inlet. This spot is tricky to locate, look for moving water at the entrance. This narrow channel has a brisk current, is deep, and is loved by fish and wading birds. We took a few minutes to admire the view of the inlet. We could see very large waves crashing on the jetty.
We headed back south through this little channel, then south into “The Narrows”, a maze-like formation of mangrove islands. By making all right turns, it is possible not to get lost. We took a channel to the left which, while wide and inviting, eventually came to a dead end of red mangrove prop roots. This area is not passable at low tide. At all times it is too shallow for most motorized craft. This is known as “ideal paddling conditions”.
The light began to fade and we began our return trip. Bats came out in good numbers and we made our blood donations to the insect world. There was an amazing nearly continuous lightning show to the east. The sunset was soft pink and gray with heavy clouds. The nearly full moon peaked out bravely from behind clouds but did not make a full appearance until much later. We finished paddling in full dark and were rewarded with the sight of a meteor as we loaded kayaks.
If you go, take a friend or 3 or 4. ALWAYS WEAR A LIFE JACKET. Insect repellant, extra water, and a hankie are also good to have along. Coast guard regulations require the use of a light after dark.