In February we cured our “cabin fever” by paddling from Key Largo to Key West (about 120 miles) with our intrepid friend, Henrietta (aka Hen), and guides Bill and Mary Burnham, authors of the excellent Florida Keys Paddling Atlas. It was our first visit to the Keys—a 1700+ island archipelago that extends southwest and then west through the Florida Straits, between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Seeing as how we kayak-camped for 10 days (itinerary below), we’ll share 10 things we learned along the way. 🙂
#1: It’s one big kiddie pool. Turns out you don’t have to paddle 120 miles. You can wade. Welcome to America’s kiddie pool, courtesy of the long sheltering arc of the Great Florida Reef, the world’s third largest coral barrier reef system. In many cases, we paddled in water of 5 feet or less. A whole lotta “less.”
#2: But shallow water has its advantages. Because they depend on sunlight and clear water, seagrasses grow like wildflowers (which they are, sort of).
Florida has about 2,000,000 acres of completely submerged flowering grasses. They provide food and protection for fishes, crustaceans, shellfish, manatees and sea turtles, and they help maintain water clarity by trapping fine sediments and particles with their leaves. Unfortunately, seagrasses are disappearing at an alarming rate, due to dredge-and-fill projects, dirty water and motor-boat propellers (i.e., humans).
1/31/16: John Pennekamp State Park (Key Largo) to Rock Harbor (14 miles)
2/1/16: Rock Harbor to Islamorada (14 miles)
2/2/16: Islamorada to Long Key State Park (19 miles)
2/3/16: Long Key to Curry Hammock (12 miles)
2/4/16: Curry Hammock to Marathon (14 miles)
2/5/16: Marathon rest day (0 miles!)
2/6/16: Marathon to Bahia Honda State Park (12 miles)
2/7/16: Unplanned hide-from-the-hurricane day
2/8/16: Bahia Honda to Sugarloaf Key (17 miles)
2/9/16: Sugarloaf to Geiger Key (13.5 miles)
2/10/16: Geiger Key to Key West (12.5 miles)
Next up: Florida Keys Top Ten: Part 2