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Kayaking Deer Prairie Creek for hours of paddle heaven

This guest post was written by Ed and Deb Higgins, authors of “Paddles In Paradise” and “More Paddles in Paradise,” who live in Punta Gorda and lead a kayak group within the Punta Gorda Boat Club. 

Deer Prairie Creek is a beautiful, scenic preserve especially suited to paddlers who want to go back in time.

This creek, a tributary of the Myakka River, is among our favorites. It is pristine, quiet and shaded, with loads of “Old Florida” charm.

Deer Prairie Creek is a pristine, quiet, shadded paddle with loads of “Old Florida” charm.
Deer Prairie Creek is a quiet, shaded paddle with loads of “Old Florida” charm. (Photo: Deb and Ed Higgins.)

Kayaking Deer Prairie Creek, you will meander through bends and turns at such a quiet and leisurely pace that you’ll feel like time has stood still.

Alligators, birds, wildflowers and the sounds of the breeze whispering through the trees will bring you several hours of paddle heaven.

It will be less than three to four miles before you run out of water or reach impassable areas. It is such a great paddle you will want to do it again and again.

Kayaking Deer Prairie Creek in North Port.
Kayaking Deer Prairie Creek in North Port. (Photo: Deb and Ed Higgins.)

Directions to Deer Prairie Creek Preserve

The unpaved road to the kayak launch at Deer Prairie Creek runs north off Route 41 (Tamiami Trail). The entrance sign is hard to spot.

If you’re coming from the north on 41, it’s a half mile south of River Road. From the south, you will pass “Warm Mineral Springs” on your right. From the Warm Mineral Springs sign proceed 1.5 miles and look for a white shell unpaved road. Once you turn into the road, the entrance sign is visible set back by the entrance gate. Follow the road all the way to the end to the parking lot. On the way in you will see a “canoe/kayak launch” sign. Do NOT stop there but drive on to the parking area at the end of the road.

Where to launch for kayaking Deer Prairie Creek

You put in through the gate at the left corner of the parking lot just above the dam into a small lake. If you put in at the canoe/kayak launch, you will be below the dam, and that is another paddle for another day.

This is an out and back paddle and it is impossible to get lost. Just head to your right after launch and expect to see luscious flora, wildflowers, birds and possibly a gator or two.

The biggest downside here is that there is only a port-a-potty for a bathroom facility and it is not always serviced very well. There is a nice picnic area near the lake where you start your paddle.

There are no kayak rentals at this site. 

Deer Prairie Creek
10201 South Tamiami Trail
North Port
(941) 377-3722

Hiking at Deer Prairie Creek Preserve

The creek forms one border of the 6,500 acre preserve, which has 70 miles of unpaved trails. The preserve has a variety of habitats including pine flatwoods, prairie hammock and seasonal wetlands. Some trails offer scenic overlooks along the banks of the Myakka River and Deer Prairie Creek.  

The trails are also popular with equestrians. Equestrian parking and trail access is from the north entrance at
7001 Forbes Trail, Venice FL 34292

Trail map for Deer Prairie Creek Preserve 

More kayak trails nearby

Near Fort Myers and Punta Gorda: 

Egret at Deer Prairie Creek
You’re likely to see alligators and wading birds when kayaking Deer Prairie Creek. (Photo: Deb and Ed Higgins.)

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james jordan

Tuesday 28th of November 2023

11.27.23: Directions were spot on, but stay watchful for the shell road. Launch at road's end is updated and perfect for kayaks. New portapottie. Nice fishing shelter. Plenty of parking.

Beautiful and quiet paddling location and very little current upstream above the dam, with lots of blooming turtle pond orchids crowding both banks of the blackwater.

However, there were a couple of overly curious gators that approached and took up too much of the narrowing creek for our comfort. (We have paddled for years among lots of gators, including scores at Fisheating Creek - see review). So we turned around and lazily floated back to the launch, enjoying the wilderness (& keeping a close eye out). Very few birds; no turtles.

Drove up to the Venice Pier to Sharkey's for the blackened grouper sandwich and sweet potato fries.

Bonnie Gross

Tuesday 28th of November 2023

Thanks for the trip report! I would have done the same thing. If a gator doesn't try to avoid me, I'm certainly not going to push it. That's unusual gator behavior, in my experience. We once had to wait 10 minutes for a gator who was blocking the way on a narrow section of the Loxhatchee to move on. But in decades of paddling in waterways with gators, I've never had one approach me as you describe.

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