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Kayaking St. Lucie River waterways: Many kayak trails to explore

The St. Lucie River was all over the news a few years ago because of the toxic blue green algae that resulted from water dumped from Lake Okeechobee during the summer rainy season.

So it may surprise you to learn that kayaking St. Lucie River waterways is terrific in winter, with a number of beautiful kayak trails to paddle through natural forested land.

We’ve enjoyed kayaking St. Lucie trails on several occasions over the years and still have several more to explore.

Here are three of our favorite St. Lucie River kayak trails, including one we’ve just paddled recently, Ten Mile Creek.

St. Lucie River South Fork
Scene from kayaking St. Lucie River South Fork. (Photo: Erin Blasco)

St. Lucie River South Branch is lovely

We discovered this outstanding kayak trail by accident – it was too windy to kayak another trail I’ll describe below. A helpful person at the launch site suggested we go to Hosford Park, further west and protected from winds, on the South Branch of the St. Lucie River.

What a find! The St. Lucie River South Branch is wild and gorgeous  — a jungly forest of old live oaks thick with air plants and Spanish moss. There are a few small islands that inspire the imagination and, after paddling about two hours, you reach a remote area where you can picnic and take a hike reachable only by boat. At that point, you turn around and head back.

The river has minimal current so paddling is easy. It is full of birds and, at times, manatees are seen.

This kayak trail has a great launch site at Hosford Park. Here’s a Florida Rambler report on St. Lucie River South.

St. Lucie River South Branch
Hosford Park, 7474 SW Gaines Ave. Stuart
Park is just five minutes off I-95.

Kayaking St Lucier River waterways: Driftwood at hidden beach at St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park in Florida
Driftwood at hidden beach at St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park. A Stuart kayak trail leads to a hidden beach cars can’t reach.(Photo: Bonnie Gross)

St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park trail to a hidden beach

On that windy day, this is the trail we were heading for – crossing the Intracoastal/Indian River at Cove Road in Stuart. This is about a third of a mile of open water, so it is not a good choice for high winds when the water is choppy.

We returned another day, and we’re glad we did. Once you cross the waterway, you reach a little slice of paradise: the wild northern tip of Jupiter Island, with narrow twisty mangrove channels and eventually a spectacular deserted beach. The beach at St. Lucie Inlet Preserve is 2.7 miles long, but the southern boundary is with wild and wonderful Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge, and thus the beach actually continues uninterrupted for more than five miles. There are no houses and no roads leading here.

On the trail through the mangroves, you are likely to enjoy wildlife above and in the water. After paddling to the end of the kayak trail, there is a sandy pathway to the beach.

It’s a great combination – a remote kayak trail and a secret beach. This trip should be done around high tide, as some of the trail gets too shallow to paddle at low. Here’s a complete Florida Rambler report on kayaking to St. Lucie Inlet Preserve.

St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park
Across from the east end of Cove Road on Jupiter Island
(772) 219-1880

Ten Mile Creek view, one of the places for kayaking St. Lucie River waterways. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Ten Mile Creek view, one of the places for kayaking St. Lucie River Waterways. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Kayaking Ten Mile Creek, a St. Lucie tributary

Ten Mile Creek, 25 miles north of these previous two trails, offers a pleasant kayak trip. There are some gorgeous old oak trees laden with air plants and Spanish moss and a good variety of birds and gators to enliven the trip.

But if you’re in the area and you haven’t paddled the St. Lucie South kayak trail or St. Lucie Inlet Preserve, I’d recommend you do those first. They’re a bit more special.

Ten Mile Creek was dredged and straightened in the early part of the 20th century and while the county is removing exotics and trying to return it to its natural state, this mud-colored stream still feels a little canal-like.

Ten Mile Creek Preserve, where you put it, is a small park along the creek adjacent to the turnpike. It has a few picnic tables overlooking the water, a nice half mile interpretive trail and a kayak/canoe launch. Because of the dredging and filling a hundred years ago, the banks along Ten Mile Creek have some small hills and pleasant variations in elevation.

Kayaking the St. Lucie River
Air plants decorate the old oak trees along Ten Mile Creek, a tributary of the St. Lucie River. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

From Ten Mile Creek Preserve, paddle upstream. (You have no choice. There’s a dam just east of the park.) From here, you can paddle for hours. We went just beyond Highway 712B/11 mile Road, about 3.25 miles, and back. There is very little current, so you never really feel you are paddling “upstream.“

Some of our favorite experiences were exploring small dead-end tributaries and ponds off the main creek.

We saw a few gators – very shy, they lurched underwater with a showy splash before we got a good look at them – and several osprey and various types of herons.

Ten Mile Creek Preserve
3401 Gordy Rd, Fort Pierce
Amenities: No restrooms, but there are picnic tables. There are additional trails 10 minutes east at George LeStrange Preserve.
There are no kayak rentals at the park.

Oak trees overhang Ten Mile Creek, one of the places for kayaking St. Lucie Waterways. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Ten Mile Creek has scenic spots where oak trees overhang the waterway. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Other spots for kayaking St. Lucie River waterways

BONUS: Here’s another great little kayak trip to the barrier island in the region. You launch from Jimmy Graham Park, 8555 SE Gomez Ave., Stuart, paddle to Peck’s Lake and then cut through to the beach. Here’s the map of that route.  It’s a really beautiful area and the from here you reach a pristine beach with almost nobody on it.

OTHER IDEAS: This kayak club in the region outlines a good variety of possible trips, including useful route maps.

Here’s a Florida kayaking trail guide for the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon prepared by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

More things to do around St. Lucie River

Notes from the editor:

The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning visits.

This page may include affiliate links from which we earn modest commissions if a purchase is made. 

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tummy tuck

Friday 21st of August 2020

This is a really good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere. Brief but very precise info… Thanks for sharing this one. A must read post!

Lynne Basileo

Thursday 14th of May 2020

Thank you for your wonderful post. I am relocating to Hutchinson Island, Fort Pierce, and I'm looking for kayaking clubs and/or Meetups. I have not been very successful in locating any, yet it seems like such an amazing place for paddling. I have to believe that there are kayaking organizations. I have been a sea kayaker for 9 years.


Saturday 29th of February 2020

Thank you for researching places to Kayak and places to explore. Looking forward to trying out these places.

Lisa S

Saturday 29th of February 2020

Good morning everyone I Just moved here from California up till now I’ve used kayaks of friends to enjoy waterways there but now I’m looking at I expect a whole new experience here in Florida I sure would record appreciate recommendations for where to buy and what kind of kayaks do best here I prefer sitting on top and I would describe my skill set as about medium thanks forward to the responses

Bob Rountree

Saturday 29th of February 2020

Lisa, there are hundreds of excellent kayak retailers all over the state. You won't need or want a white-water kayak in Florida, but everything else will work. Then it comes down to whether most of your paddling is in the ocean or on inland waterways, fishing or recreational paddling. In my opinion, the small mom-and-pop kayak store is the best place for advice specific to your needs and to make a purchase. Many big box stores, such as Dick's Sporting Goods, are OK if you know exactly what you want, but I still recommend your local kayak shop for the best advice and service. Most of these small shops will let you try it before you buy it. Good luck and good paddling.

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