Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Paddling the Blackwater River

Saturday-Monday February 21-23, 2015
Collier-Seminole State Park
Naples, Florida



SATURDAY February 21


Today we hung around the house. I collected 5000 steps walking over to and around the Royal Palm trail and the 3 campground loops. I intended to do it again later in the afternoon but didn’t. Seems like the more I lounge, the harder it is to get going again.

I thought I might do some laundry since the campground has two washers and two dryers.  So I walked over to take a look.  These machines are different than any I’ve seen in any state park. They take only credit cards. $2.25 to wash and $1.75 to dry with cold water. Credit cards-good.  Price-too high.  They also had several warning signs posted about a specific type of detergent you must use. I decided just to wait until there is a less expensive more detergent friendly option and maybe even warm water.

I sat outside in my antigravity chair to read 150 pages of Shanghai Girls which I’m enjoying. It’s the story of two sisters from 1937 until the late 1950’s. What happened in China and on the west coast of the U.S. to the Chinese at that time was unknown to me until now. This is very interesting historical fiction.   The setting and the situations are all true according to the author.  Only the main characters are fiction.




David does some of that routine maintenance that crops up every once in a while. He works on the bikes and replaces our water filters. It is just a regular day around the campground as we watch other people come and go.

This evening the campground has an ice cream social in the screen room just cattycornered from our site. We go over to take a look. They are serving $1.00 per scoop of 4 flavors of ice cream with an extra $1 for hot fudge or $3 for a root beer float. The guys seem to be getting 2 and 3 scoops. People are availing themselves of this treat in spite of the low temps. The gathering room in which it is held is screened in so they have a fire in the fireplace to encourage ice cream eating.






Since reading Colin Campbell’s books, The China Study a year or so ago and currently Whole aloud, we are persuaded of the connection between cancer and dairy. So if we are going to have ice cream, we do it seldom and we want it to be super duper like a chocolate malt, Bruster’s Jamaica Me Crazy or No Way Jose from Beaches and Cream at Disneyworld.






SUNDAY February 22


We made an exception today regarding leaving the park on week-ends. We have a couple of errands to run and decide not to use up our fewer people hiking and kayaking days during the week for these. So today we hit the grocery store to the tune of $70 and Lowe’s got $80 from us for a new bike cover and 5 floor register covers. The original ones are that brass plated stuff that look terrible after 10 years. Big improvement we think.






This Sunday like most I call my father in Denver to listen to him complain at 95 that he’s not still in Florida. He says it is too cold in Denver but since he never goes outside and it’s at least 80 inside his apartment I’m not sure why he’s worried about the weather. He’s in a very nice place and is well taken care of and that’s what matters.

As you know, we are not TV watchers but we do make exceptions for The Biggest Loser and for Downton Abby. How’s that for two very different choices. TBL is over for the season but Downton is not. Because of the unpredictable TV signal in the places we stay we sometimes are and often aren’t able to get either one of them. For TBL we’re out of luck if we’re out of range but we solved the Downton problem by just buying Season 5. At $26 for the complete DVD that turns out to be $3 every Sunday evening and includes popcorn. Best deal going for a movie.



MONDAY February 23


Today take the kayaks down and launch into the boat basin to follow the canal to the Blackwater River.  The winds had died down but the tides had become difficult.  That only matters because we wanted to go to mud bay which we were told you can only do at high tide.   Today high tide was at 4:43AM and at 4:40 PM.  One too early and one too late since is is over an hour paddle just to get there.   So instead we follow the Blackwater River Paddle Trail.

This may be somewhat confusing for folks who have visited Florida and stayed in the Blackwater River State Park and kayaked the Blackwater there which is a 56 mile river coming in from Alabama and flowing through the Florida Panhandle to the Gulf of Mexico.  


This Blackwater River originates in the Collier Seminole State Park and meanders several miles through the mangroves to Blackwater Bay and the Ten Thousand Islands.   Why does one state has two rivers on opposite ends with the same name?  I couldn’t find anyone to answer that question.  But this Blackwater is a mangrove river and the other one is not.   That becomes important in our day.

We put in at the boat basin and head down the canal built in the time of Collier to reach the Royal Palm Hammock.   You can tell as soon as you reach the river because  the canal is perfectly straight and the river turns and wanders.



We saw this Great Blue Heron in the mangrove roots along the canal and took that as an omen of a good birding day.

The first picture shows how far away I really was from the heron.  I love that I have a zoom lens so I can see him up close and get pictures without bothering him.   I use my camera as binoculars so I don’t have so many things around my neck.  The only draw back is the field of vision is so much more narrow but my zoom is much greater so it’s a trade off





The park’s marked trail leads down the river to and through some of the Ten thousand Islands.  To do it all is really an overnight paddle.  We are only going to be out for about 3 hours today.




The markers are easy to spot and we soon find that there are often two ways to go at a marker point.   This one says Turn left.  Since we aren’t in a hurry and are really going nowhere, we turn right to explore the wrong way.


At first this arm is just like the river going the other direction.





David spies the raccoon along the bank in the mangrove roots. 



The mangrove tree crabs are everywhere.  You don’t really notice them until the first time you do and then you spot them everywhere.  See how many you can spot in this picture.




I’m able to get these close ups first of the front of a crab and then the back of another one.  They look like something out of a science fiction movie.   I assume the knobby things on the front are his eyes.  His back and legs are quite decorative.  They are about the size of a quarter.







As we  expected, the waterway becomes narrower and narrower. The mangroves are lower. It gets darker.






The more we go the tighter the tunnels get until it is difficult to use the kayak paddles without taking them apart. In some places we are using the mangrove roots to pull ourselves along. All the while the tide is picking up its pace trying to move us along.



Finally we come to a little hidden mud bay all its own.  No way to paddle in there.  David is in the lead.  He’s gotten himself turned around already and waits on the left in the tannin colored water.




Way over on the far side I see one lone occupant who appears, as far as we can see, to have it all to himself.  Definitely a nice spot.   The quiet is almost deafening. My ears can’t believe it.  Not even a plane. 







For me now, the trick now is to get turned around.  In his 12’ kayak David has an easier time than I do in my 13.5’ especially with that tide going in toward the ibis.


After much forward  and back, muttering under my breath, and using roots to get unstuck from the roots, finally I’m on my way back to the trail marker.  Along the way I see what I assume are barnacles on many of the roots and some of the low branches of the mangroves.









Back at the river, we paddle on to the next marker.  



Because David got turned around more easily and didn’t stop to ponder barnacles, he arrives at the marker first and because he wants to go the opposite way again, he waits at the marker for me.



While he’s hanging around he notices eyes in the cracks of the marker pole.   He tells me to come look.



It’s a mangrove tree crab.  Now how did he get here and what will he eat or how will he get back?  All these questions cause me to learn a little more about these guys before posting this.  What I learn is  they are one of only two species of crabs that climb trees. By digging in with its sharp claws, the mangrove tree crab can cling to tree bark as well as to wooden docks and pilings. The crabs dine on leaves and insect larvae in the trees. When threatened, they flee to the water, where they select from a different menu of food.   So the answer may be that he swam here.  Amazing.




Again we go the opposite way from the trail arrow.  But instead of the pathway getting narrower and narrower it is an easy paddle which opens into a hidden lake.



We travel across the lake and find the exit and take it down another shorter path and then into a smaller lake from which there is no exit that you could go into and still sit up in your kayak.  LOL











By now we’re thinking of how far we have to go back and what time it will be when we get there.  Time to turn around.   We take that opportunity to do a sort of selfie.  Happy paddlers for sure!





It’s just wonderful, alone in the quiet on a mangrove river.   And it’s February.  What a life!



You can see from the two pictures which follow that the river and its dark mangrove covering is much different than the channel to the boat basin with its mangrove sides and open skies.




Because the tide is coming in now we can actually let it carry us along a bit of the way back.  We could have let it take us all the way back probably.   It isn’t as far as we thought when we see the boat basin come into view. 






Though the wildlife was scarce, We’ve had a great time on a beautiful day. We’re still planning to try to get out and paddle to mud lake, however, if it’s anything like today, we may not get that far.  <grin>  

But the fun is in the journey not just the destination!





  1. The new floor registers look great.
    Lived in the FL panhandle for 30 years and spent a lot of time on and around the Blackwater River but never knew there was another in south FL.
    Interesting about the tree crabs. I always learn something from reading your blog. Thanks!

  2. I count 4 crabs in your picture. They are amazing in their detailed shells! Lovely weather for paddling, but not a great time of day for seeing wildlife.

  3. When I saw your post about the Blackwater River, I wondered how you got that far north so fast. I'm not sure I remember a southern Blackwater River...but Al probably does.

    I read Shanghai Girls a year or two ago. It was a great book. Thanks for the reminder, I might read it again some day.

    The new floor grates look very nice. Such an easy thing for such a big improvement.

    We don't eat much dairy either, but we went a little nuts with ice cream when we got our new residential refrigerator, since it keeps it so much colder.

    Your kayak trip looks so enjoyable. We recently found out about a few nice mangrove paddles here in the Keys that we'd like to try out, but unfortunately, Al is not allowed to paddle just yet, and I darn sure don't plan on going in one kayak and me doing all the paddling! I hope your weather is warming up. It's real warm here.

  4. Since humans are the only animals to continue drinking milk past weaning - and switch to another animal's milk - it doesn't surprise me that it's consumption leads to disease. Trying to like soy ice cream but it will never be the same I'm afraid :-( I too see four crabs with a possible fifth? They are just the weirdest little guys! Love the zoom shots, they're so clear!! The mangrove canopy is surreal, just beautiful how it makes a near perfect arch all the way through. Thanks for sharing a wonderful and relaxing paddle.

  5. It really is ALL about the Journey!!! I could feel the wonderful calm as you paddled the river... sure don't feel that here at LD :o((

  6. You should read "Snow Falling on Cedars" next, it's a wonderful book about the same time/topic and was made into a movie too. I'm going to send Cory a link about the Mangrove Crabs, he's a big crab fan. Maybe next winter I'll get him on a plane and we'll go find some!

  7. Nice that the park has an ice cream social. We never keep ice cream around, have it once in awhile instead. I think the place we're workamping this summer does that. Fun stuff! Love you paddle pictures this time. I'm not a big fan of those tight spaces, so can do it vicariously through your pictures :)

  8. We had stopped drinking milk completely until I started making my own kefir, a fermented probiotic. Learned that the fermentation process feeds on the lactose sugars. I've also read cancer feeds on sugar as well. The kayak trip and photos are magical. Would love to spend more time in the 10,000 Islands area, just beautiful! Hope the weather warms up soon. It's cool here in Tucson also but I'm looking forward to hiking the mountain. It's been a long while since I've managed more than a few steps, much less my 10,000 goal. Cheers!

  9. I like those little crabs. It still astounds me that you're not having a problem with mosquitoes. Maybe it's because the water is always moving??

  10. What a super paddle! Going through the mangroves is such fun especially when you can use them to pull yourself through. So many trails to explore when you get out there. You are right about it being the journey not the destination:) Thanks for the information on the tree crabs! The close ups are much appreciated. Hope you are able to get to mud lake!

    The new register plates sure make a big difference:)

  11. What a beautiful place to paddle in! Crabs always have an alien look to me.

    Great closeup on the raccoon.

  12. I need a day of maintenance, but also need a maintenance person. ;)

    I absolutely love going kayaking with you. It's such a different world than I know. Especially those tiny little crabs which we've all now learned about through you. I can just imagine the quiet of the mangroves. As I sit along the Salton Sea listening to numerous trains on a track that's way too close. I am also envious of your ability to zoom in on these birds and get shots that are so clear. I practiced on my beach walk today. So so.

    Life, is about the journey.

  13. Paddling the mangroves and tunnels was a first for us in December. Also first time I'd seen the crabs. I thought they were tarantulas at first. Love the mangrove paddling!

  14. Looks fantastic, and I always wonder how y'all keep from getting lost among the twists and turns. Good navigating!

  15. Great minds think alike, we've done the same as you and bought season 5 of Downton Abbey. We only allow ourselves one episode per week, a Saturday night (not) at the movies. :c)

  16. There is always work to be done inside the rig and it looked like David is keeping himself busy as well.
    Thanks for the clarification about the Blackwater River for I thought you were already in the panhandle. We have paddled the Blackwater River at the State park, and the river bottom there is sand.
    Those crabs looked creepy but we did not see them when we were paddling in the mangroves in FL. Love that pic of the mangrove canopy.

  17. Looks like a great Park with lots to do. Mangroves are really fascinating. Nice selfie of you two kayaking -David looks really good - nice tan and nice smile.

  18. Lovely paddle! You have a great zoom! Those quarter sized crabs in such detail! 150 pages is a good day's read. I should find that book. I do like historical fiction. Beautiful mangroves and river. Great selfie and The End picture!

  19. Beautiful paddle -- I agree, we're very fortunate to be able to paddle (or hike or bike) in February when so much of the country is buried in snow! Your posts make me look forward to our return trip to Florida next winter. :-)

  20. Wow! I don't own a kayak but looking at your photos makes me want one! Wonderful photos!

  21. Great paddle. You guys must do the limbo to get under and into some of those tight spaces. :-)


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