Last updated on October 4th, 2019 at 09:57 am

Live oaks arch over Telegraph Creek
Live oaks arch over Telegraph Creek near Fort Myers, providing shade on sunny days. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Telegraph Creek near Fort Myers is the sort of kayak destination that gives me hope for Florida.

Sometimes I worry that there are no unspoiled rivers left for me to discover – so much natural beauty has developed into suburbia.

And then along comes a river I had never heard of —  Telegraph Creek, a route on Lee County’s Great Calusa Blueway, which was suggested to me by the Blueway’s coordinator Mike Hammond.

Telegraph Creek near Fort Myers
A llama watches us paddle by on Telegraph Creek near Fort Myers. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Telegraph Creek, a tributary of the Caloosahatchee River located between LaBelle and Fort Myers, is all the things I love about kayaking destinations – out-of-the-way, uncrowded, scenic, quiet and full of wildlife. As a bonus, it’s the only place I’ve kayaked where I’ve seen zebra, llamas and big horn sheep along with alligators, turtles and a variety of birds!

Llamas along Telegraph Creek near Fort Myers. (Photo: Mike Hammond)
Llamas along Telegraph Creek near Fort Myers. (Photo: Mike Hammond)

It’s an easy paddle. You head upstream until you run out of time, get tired or come across more snags than you want to deal with, and then you paddle back. There’s a minor current and the river is deep enough to be do-able during the dry season. We paddled at a very leisurely pace for 90 minutes and then turned around.

Telegraph Creek is also a shady paddle. Our day there had temperatures in the 80s and we were comfortable, thanks to the large oak trees that arched over the 20-foot-wide creek. The landscape is decorated with airplants, Spanish moss, cypress knees and swamp lilies.

Where else can see both an alligator and a llama in the river? It's Telegraph Creek near Fort Myers. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Where else can you see both an alligator and a llama in the same river? It’s Telegraph Creek near Fort Myers. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

The first section of the river passes through an area with homes visible along the river. The houses, though, are surrounded by trees and set back from the water so they don’t detract from the beauty of the surroundings.

It’s in this very first section that you pass the farm that raises exotic animals. From the water, the most visible animals are the llamas, who sometimes set contentedly chewing their cud right along (or in) the water. In a shady area on a higher bank of the stream, we spotted the big horn sheep. We had to peer into the property to get a glimpse of three zebras in the distance.

Eventually, homes give way to a county preserve and the creek gets wilder. The banks also get higher and some feature limestone outcroppings.

The wildlife along Telegraph Creek is plentiful. We saw uncountable turtles, a half-dozen alligators, kingfishers, heron and egrets.

On our weekday visit, there was not another boat or person on the creek. On the Telegraph Creek, you are immersed in a Florida you might have thought had disappeared. It hasn’t, but you have to seek it out.

Where to launch your kayak at Telegraph Creek

Telegraph Creek near Fort Myers
Telegraph Creek near Fort Myers. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

To reach Telegraph Creek, take the rural and scenic SR 78/North River Road, which runs along the north side of the Caloosahatchee.

Paddlers can launch from the Franklin Locks on the south side of the river and paddle to the mouth of the creek. You get to Telegraph in a little under mile. There is an oxbow island to paddle around on the way there.

Renting kayaks: There is no outfitter at the location. GAEA Guides runs guided tours here periodically.

Camping near Telegraph Creek

Camping at WP Franklin Campground, 17850 N Franklin Lock Rd, Alva, is ideal for this kayak trip, as you can put in right at the campground. Located on a peninsula in the Caloosahatchee adjacent to the lock and dam, it is a beautiful, quiet location with every campsite having a water view. It is clearly designed for RVs, offering standard electric, though tents are allowed. (There are “cruiser” sites designed for boat campers.)  Details about WP Franklin Campground.

Camping at Caloosahatchee Regional Park, 19130 North River Road, Alva, is also very convenient. It’s three miles from Telegraph Creek. Primitive tent camping is available and here are details.

Lodging: I-75 is about a half hour away, with the usual hotel options along its exits in the Fort Myers area.

Things to do near Telegraph Creek

Kayaking: Another recommended kayaking river is Orange River and Manatee Park, an excellent place to see manatees in the winter and another beautiful kayak trail on the Calusa Blueway.

The recreation-rich Fort Myers area is 20 minutes away.

Places to explore near Fort Myers

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  1. Avatar
    Janice Klingensmith

    I live on the water near Telegraph Creek. Canoeing is our thing.
    Having the parking and boat launch by the bridge was great for families and church groups.
    If you have not been there for 2 weeks, then you are unaware that it is fenced off completely with absolutely no parking/ no trespassing signs.
    Have you ever seen a fence that connects to a bridge?
    No more access! 🙁
    Any idea how we can change this?

  2. Avatar

    It’s been a number of years since I last paddled Telegraph Creek and some changes surely have been made. I remember that a new “development” was being built on the “left” shore, across the little bridge up the creek from the launch you used. My girlfriend and I paddled it quite a few times and have seen otters and Bald Eagles on the creek. About as far as you can paddle upstream (before the creek turns into two drainage ditches), there was a fairly good sized spot where you could put ashore, picnic, “catch a snooze”. We would like to have camped but we weren’t about to try that without permission from the (unknown) property owner. I hope to get back there again someday. And Fish Eating Creek. And the Loxahatchee. And Juniper Springs Run. And… and… and….., sigh.