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 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.
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
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.
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.
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
- Jonathan Dickinson State Park, for hiking, biking, kayaking and camping.
- Blowing Rocks Preserve, an outstanding and unique beach very nearby
- The historic 1860 Jupiter lighthouse, which is one of the few lighthouses you can climb. The waterfront museum in the newly restored WWII building offers indoor Florida history exhibits, outdoor exhibits and the Tindall Pioneer Homestead.
- Bicycling Jupiter Island.
- Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge, a “secret” beach because of its out-of-the-way location and a great bicycling destination.
Notes from the editor:
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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.