Last updated on January 14th, 2020 at 10:36 am
Punta Gorda river is easy kayak outing into authentic Florida
Most Florida kayakers and canoeists know the Peace River at Arcadia, but less than a half hour away, there’s a little-known river with appealing scenery and wildlife — Shell Creek.
Shell Creek is easy to access via Hathaway Park, a county park with picnic tables, rest rooms and a boat launch
From there you can kayak eight miles east up Shell Creek as it twists and reveals new vistas at every turn. If you head west, you can paddle five miles to the dam near where the creek meets the Peace River.
We’ve paddled Shell Creek twice a few years apart, both times heading east, which is described as the most scenic section. The first time, we saw almost no paddlers. This time, we passed several small groups of kayakers.
The scenery was unchanged and lovely: Live oaks decorated with Spanish moss arch over the creek. Gnarly cypress trees poke out of the the river and line the shores. Turtles sun on fallen logs and shy alligators stretched out on shores and branches — until we approached. Kingfishers, egrets and hawks shared their piece of Old Florida with us.
The clear water of Shell Creek is the source of drinking water for Punta Gorda. A dam maintains the water level and thus there is only a slight current. The banks of the river at times are five and six feet high, often embedded with shells left from a prehistoric sea that covered the area.
Despite the higher banks, we did find an attractive sandy bank where we had a picnic, and we vowed to return another time and see more of the creek as it gets wilder as it winds east.
Planning your kayak trip
35461 Washington Loop Road
- There are two side-by-side entrances to Hathaway Park. Kayakers are supposed to use the concrete boat launch. We saw some paddlers aso using the closed kayak launch, marked with signs warning you away, in the second parking lot, which also serves the picnic area.
- This is an easy paddle perfect for beginners, and even long touring kayaks can handle the turns. You can make the trip as long or short as you want. Just turn around and head back when ready.
- Fishermen say there’s good fishing for pan fish and crappies upstream. As you head downstream, they say they catch bass.
- Need a boat? It’s Time! Kayak outfitters offer regular tours of Shell Creek.
Make a weekend of visiting Punta Gorda
Punta Gorda is a cool little historic town. Here’s a Florida Rambler roundup of things to do in Punta Gorda— from a great car museum to good bicycling trails to one of Florida’s most classic crab shacks, Peace River Seafood.
Kayakers will find this a good destination because you can paddle fresh water like Shell Creek on Saturday and then spend Sunday on salt water in the gorgeous mangrove-lined Gasparilla Sound, with dolphins, white pelicans and roseate spoonbills to delight you. Here’s a report on sea kayaking in Gasparilla Sound.
The Charlotte County Blueway Trails map lists 57 trails!
Find accommodations near Shell Creek
Find a campsite near Shell Creek