Paddling Adventure for NatureCoasters: Blazing a new Trail

Kayaking and canoeing are peaceful ways of interacting with nature on the water and getting healthy exercise, without getting too wet. Florida’s Adventure Coast (Hernando County) recently opened a new paddling trail from Bayport Park to Linda Pedersen Park to  give residents and visitors the opportunity to enjoy what makes Florida’s Nature Coast such a special place without the crowded conditions we have been experiencing on the Weeki Wachee river.

On March 16, the 4 ½ mile mapped coastal paddling trail was officially opened at Bayport Park. A collaborative project involving Parks and Recreation, DPW, Waterways and Tourism; the trail offers a 1.7 mile one-way trip, with an optional side route down Redfish Bayou (adding another 1.5 miles to the route). I was able to attend the opening and shared a kayak with Trail Jenny, who is a fun-loving lady who writes a blog about trail running and is based out of New Port Richey. Jenny wrote about our adventure here.

Jenny and I joined several outdoor writers and media people for the inaugural Bayport-Linda Pedersen Park Paddling Trail adventure on March 16. (Image courtesy of Tommy Thomson of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association.)

We joined several writers and media people affiliated with the Florida Outdoor Writers Association and Florida’s Adventure Coast for a short paddle along the trail, leaving from Bayport Park. The trail was well marked with signs and there were laminated maps available at the boat ramp to keep us on track. Robin Draper, publisher of Authentic Florida and my mentor, was also there.

We paddled by fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as waterfowl and sea birds.

After a presentation by our local Sea Grant agent, Brittany Hall-Scharf, we were introduced to the Girl Scout Cadettes Shyanne Beadling, Emily Bladgett, Serenity Meads and Brooke Starz who constructed educational signs as part of their Silver Award project.

Girl Scout Cadettes Shyanne Beadling, Emily Bladgett, Serenity Meads and Brooke Starz designed and constructed pose in front of one of the educational signs they designed and constructed for the new Bayport-Linda Pedersen Paddling Trail March 16.

These hand-drawn and painted signs help us identify some sights we may encounter on the new Bayport-Linda Pedersen Paddling Trail and are located at both parks.

the Bayport park boat ramp was updated and improved and provides an easy launch for small craft as well as trailered boats.

Find Bayport Park by driving west on State Road 50 until it ends (at the park). It is a 7 acre venue with picnic tables, pavilions, grills, and bathrooms for visitors. There is a $5 parking fee, but no charge to use the boat ramp. You need to bring your own kayak, or call for a rental ahead of time from the local kayak rental companies. When you rent a kayak, you can travel one way and get picked up with your kayak at the other end of the trail. The approximate cost ranges from $30-40.

We saw a great blue heron and other wildlife as we eased up the bayou at the trail’s beginning.

You will want to bring sunscreen, water to stay hydrated, a lifejacket and your camera. It is beautiful! This paddling trail leaves along a bayou adjacent to the park that ends at the Gulf of Mexico. You start in brackish water and move into salt water with its large birds, fish and alligators along the flats. These alligators are usually sunning or sleeping when one paddles by, but it is always exciting to get a glimpse of an apex predator during a serene paddle.

We encountered a great blue heron, several seagulls, enjoyed views of pelicans soaring and diving and ducks floating by. As we eased from the bayou to the Gulf, the expanse of open water was breathtaking.

The Bayport-Linda Pedersen Paddling Trail is well marked with signs and laminated maps are provided at both ends of the trail.

 

Signs along the way eased my fear of ending up “somewhere in the Gulf,” and provided continuity to our adventure. We chose not to take the Redfish Bayou leg, as this was my second kayaking experience, and the wind and weather were a bit brisk.

Linda-Pedersen Park has an aluminum launch for small craft and is adjoined to Jenkins Creek Park by a foot bridge over the river.

Linda Pedersen Park is a gem! This 135-acre park is connected by an aluminum boardwalk to Jenkins Creek Park, across the street. With 25 developed acres and 110 acres of open space, this park offers activities for the young and the young at heart, including a nice aluminum kayak-canoe launch. After getting out of our boats, we walked past a great playground and were awestruck as we encountered a pristine palm forest.

The magnificent palm forest in Linda Pedersen park is a rare and welcome sight.

We saw a huge manatee and several shorebirds. It was the perfect ending to a new adventure. I was glad we tried the new trail because encountering hundreds of paddlers on the same route takes away from one of my favorite parts of paddling – solidarity with nature.

A huge manatee was lounging in Jenkins Creek at Linda Pedersen Park.

The new Bayport-Linda Pedersen paddling trail traverses the Mud River and was developed to help us enjoy being NatureCoasters! Let’s get out and use it.

Here is a link to a map of the trail:

Please share any tips you have for other NatureCoasters to enjoy the new Paddling Trail or images of nature you took on your adventure below!