You gotta love a part of Florida called the Hidden Coast. Who doesn’t want to find something undiscovered by the visiting hordes?
Nick and Sandra Crowhurst spent the last two decades wintering in an Airstream travel trailer and sea kayaking the coastal waterways from Cedar Key north to the Aucilla River. Visiting each winter from Great Britain, they explored what they call “a magical playground for the sea kayaker.”
“Its charms lies in its remoteness, its peacefulness, its wildlife, the intimacy of its creeks, and the subtle beauty of its seascapes,” they write on their website kayakhiddencoast.com.
They could find no books to guide them — the region deserves its name of Hidden Coast.
“There is no sand beach along the coast. There is no road along the coast, and minor dead-end roads to the Gulf occur only every ten miles or so, leading to quiet backwater areas or small settlements. There are no hotels.” they write.
“We started to explore, and were amazed at the jewels we found.”
This adventure started when Nick and Sandra came to United States in 1989 for the wedding of their son to an American.
“We decided to see where one could best kayak in the USA in the winter. We looked at the map of Florida, and saw one area covered with a network of rivers and creeks, but without any urban areas. We traveled south, and discovered the magical Hidden Coast and the waterways of Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties. We’ve been visiting this area for several months every winter since then.”
Their enthusiasm led them to document 16 of their favorite sea kayaking day paddles, complete with details about launch sites and waypoints.
Then they produced a book they make available for free. (You can download the book here.)
The Crowhursts agreed to share an additional recommendation, a kayak trail along a river not included in their book.
Here’s Nick’s article:
The Gopher River, off the Suwanee River
Paddling distance: 7.5 miles on sheltered rivers and creeks. Crossing the Suwannee can be choppy in strong winds. You are more likely to starve than drown on this trip.
Launch site: Munden Camp. DeLorme Atlas page 69(B2). From the stop-light on US 19 at Old Town in Dixie County, County Road 349 leads south-west for 20.3 miles. Turn left by the sign for Munden camp, and follow SE 371st and SE 374th to the launch site on Munden Creek. The natives are very friendly.
Tidal information: Tidal data reference point is Suwannee River entrance. Leave Munden camp two to three hours before high water.
Trip Description: Do you like to explore? Do you enjoy finding your way through remote creek systems? If so, welcome to The Gopher River and its creeks, waterways known to very few.
From the above map you will see that the trip starts south-east down the creek, but the true creek soon takes a right turning which eventually leads to the junction with the Suwannee River. This beautiful section of Munden Creek has soaring trees on each side, and the feeling is of being inside a cathedral. If you stay silent, and paddle quietly, you may be rewarded with the sight of alligators sliding off the banks into the water as you come into view.
Look across the wide Suwannee. Across and to the right is the entrance to the Gopher River, which you follow for a couple of miles to the point marked “creek” on the map. Now it’s decision time. You can simply carry on up the river, and near the head of the navigable river is a possible “rest stop” on the left. It’s awkward to find (watch for a bat box on a pole), and awkward to exit onto the grass, but it’s the best there is. However, if you’re feeling adventurous, take a look at this enlarged view:
Spot the tiny waterway that leads from “creek” across to “end of creek”. Does that excite your interest? If so, we are fellow travellers. The creek is only two yards wide at some points, and you will feel, and will be, utterly remote from civilisation.
I could give you twenty waypoints to guide you through the maze of false leads, but that would reduce the adventure. Your best friends are your eyes, a compass, and lengths of ribbon tied on trees to mark your way back if you lose the route.
So, if you fancy an adventure, just Gopher it!
Thanks to Nick and Sandra Crowhurst for this guest post. You can find out more about them and their free paddling guide at their website kayakhiddencoast.com.
Nearby: Explore Cedar Key
Cedar Key: Historic, charming, off-the-beaten-path from Florida Rambler.
Notes from the editor:
The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning visits.
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The author, Bonnie Gross, travels with her husband David Blasco, discovering off-the-beaten path places to hike, kayak, bike, swim and explore. Florida Rambler was founded in 2010 by Bonnie and fellow journalist Bob Rountree, two long-time Florida residents who have spent decades exploring the Florida outdoors. Their articles have been published in the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, The Guardian and Visit Florida.