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Ecotourism on Florida's Space Coast

Kayaking at Shipyard Island

on the Mosquito Lagoon at the North District of Cape Canaveral National Seashore

by Rose Sroda

Entrance from the highway
North entrance CCNS
Saturday is finally here! The anticipation of going kayaking and leaving civilization overcomes me as I entered the Cape Canaveral National Seashore Park early in the morning. There is an opportunity to surf, fish, swim, paddle, hike and camp primitively. (Permit and reservations required for island camping - 904-428-3384, extension 10). The park is just a few miles south of New Smyrna Beach on A1A. After paying a $5 park admission fee, I parked on the east side and walked up the boardwalk to look at the view. Having never been here, the view from this point was an astonishing panoramic sight - the Atlantic Ocean on my left and Mosquito Lagoon, an estuary, on my right.

View of the ocean at Apollo Beach
Apollo Beach
Boat ramp at Canaveral National Seashore North District.
Boat ramp at the North District

I finally launched my little yellow kayak at the boat dock and dipped my paddle in the salty calm waters. The beauty and peace already washed over me as I paddled and cast out my new lure in hopes of catching a red. (I never catch anything!) Schools of mullet were everywhere, making ripples in the water as I approached them. Paddling around oyster beds and mangrove islands, I was able to view Turtle Mound (center of picture), an archeological site where the Timucuans once occupied.
Turtle Mound at Canaveral National Seashore
Turtle Mound archaeological site.

Two pvc pipes mark the entrance of the Shipyard Island canoe trail. To access this trail, paddle directly across the Mosquito Lagoon from the boat ramp.

View from launch area
Straight across from the trail entrance
Entrance to Shipyard Island canoe trail
Entrance to Shipyard Island Canoe Trail.

The air was silent except for the occasional call of the birds. Hundreds of fiddler crabs scurried on the banks lined with oyster shells and varieties of plant life as I went deeper into the trail.

Oysters line the shore.
Oysters growing along the shoreline.
Shoreline vegetation.
Oysters and shoreline vegetation.

As I continued around the narrow curves of the brackish water, I immediately felt transformed back into time when the Timucuans inhabited these areas. Even though I was alone, I could almost hear and see the Timucuan Indians going about their everyday life - cooking over fires, harvesting shellfish, gathering water, making tools and pottery. I must admit, I started feeling a little nervous once I was halfway into the unspoiled vast marsh and mangrove lined shores. I could actually feel the presence of the indians and kept expecting them to approach me. Startling me, a great Blue Heron took flight from my left.

Along the canoe trail.
Along the trail

Mangrove island

It was truly a wonderful journey, although it was very shallow in some areas. It took me about two hours. The trails are numbered from 1 to 20 and you can view the canoe trail map on this link: Shipyard Island Canoe Trail or obtain a map from the information center past parking lot #1.

Racoon with oyster
A raccoon fishes for dinner
Paddling north along the east mangrove lined shores, a small raccoon waded in the water towards me. I stopped and watched him dig around in the water. He brought up a clam or some shellfish and I could hear him crunching on it. After he ate it, he would wade around and dig some more until he found another one.

I continued north and there was a large swirling in the water in front of my kayak. I was pretty sure it was a manatee. Sure enough, I was able to see its gray nose come up for air. I got my camera ready and waited for him to surface again. By that time, he was too far ahead of me and I couldn't catch up to him to get its picture. Instead, here 's a photo of a manatee that I took while I was in Key Largo.
A West Indian Manatee

The fish were jumping all around and still, I didn't catch anything. Paddling at a leisurely pace, I approached some boat docks. A dark fin appeared some distance ahead and I stopped to watch, thinking it could be a shark. The fin submerged and then, all of a sudden, the water looked like a torpedo sliced through towards the shore. A lot of splashing was going on and fish were jumping out of the water. I've seen this type of activity before at Ft. Myers Beach and knew it was a dolphin speeding in pursuit of baitfish. The dolphins literally swim up to the shore like a bullet. Out of the corner of my eye, there was a dolphin frolicking around about 10 feet away from me. It was quite impressive to hear him exhaling out of his spout before diving back down. Then there were two more fins near me. One of the fins was sliced from the top to the bottom and then bent over like the whale's fin in Free Willy. (I wasn't able to get a picture of these dolphins because my shutter speed on my digital camera was too slow). Deciding that they were getting a little too close, I started heading back to the boat dock. What a fantastic day it was. Unfortunately, it was time to head back to civilization and go home...until next Saturday, when my next kayaking expedition takes place!

To paddle the Shipyard Island Canoe Trail, take either US-1 or I-95 to SR-44 (exit 84 from I-95) in New Smyrna Beach and go east until you come to SR-A1A and go south until you reach Cape Canaveral Seashore. You can put in at the boat dock, which is at the first parking lot on your right after entering the park, (designated parking only for vehicles with boat trailers), and then park your vehicle across the street in parking lot #1.

EMAIL; Rose Sroda

Me and my kayak, A Hard Day's Play.

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