Canoeing Blackwater River // Florida
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On a beautiful fall weekend in October we joined some friends, who have older kids, on a canoeing trip at Blackwater River State Park. All our adventures as of late seem to be centered around water. The kids continue to be more confident on the water, which makes the trips a whole lot more fun! Plus, when you are in Florida, you have to make the most of the warm weather and get out on the water.
Friends Dan, Alia and their two girls came to visit as part of their Fall Break. They came straight from Dan’s book tour for How To Be A Family: The Year I Dragged My Kids Around The World To Find A New Way To Be Together and were looking for some relaxing family fun. We hit up the beach and rented a boat, but also wanted to try something we hadn’t yet done – Canoeing on Blackwater River.
Blackwater River State Park offers a variety of outdoor options. There are boardwalks for hiking and plenty of spots to camp. You can float the river on a tube, canoe or kayak – depending on how much time you want to spend. We opted to rent canoes from Blackwater Canoe Rental.
Blackwater Canoe Rental’s facility is not actually on the river. You will stop in and pay for your chosen rental item(s). Then you drive your vehicle to the pull-out spot, where you are picked up by a minibus and driven to the put-in spot. We had four adults, two teens and three kids and opted to rent three canoes. We brought our Aquavue Voyager dingy with us as well. Blackwater Canoe Rental offers a military discount and you only pay by paddler. (Essentially meaning that kids are free.) You will need to pay the day use State Park fee (~$4) as you park in the State Park and will be using State Park facilities.
I highly recommend you make a reservation. Although we had no problem with crowds, the reviews online suggest that in the summer the wait time can be long. If you have a reservation you will be taken first. There are also “go times” online for each drop point. Adhering to these times will reduce your wait time. Blackwater Canoe Rental is a family operation with one or two mini buses making all the trips.
Blackwater River has a sandy bottom, a swift current and is incredibly clear. In fact, it is said that this is the only sand-bottomed river in the USA. Regardless, it is perfect for paddlers of any level. There are 30 plus white sand beaches along the river. You can easily beach your canoe to enjoy a picnic, some water play or sunbathing.
We stopped quite a few times, so the trip took us about 3.5 hours to float the four miles. Along the way we had views of fish and plenty of turtles. If you stick close to the wooded banks you are sure to see some wildlife. The most challenging part of the paddle is the meandering nature of the river which creates those beautiful white sand beaches, but also means you have to navigate the turns.
We had planned on having our whole family in one canoe, with two sharing the boat with us in the middle and one in the trailing AquaVue boat. That would have worked if it was just us. Instead though the Big Little went in the middle of our friends’ boat, the Little Little and Middle Little switched off between canoe and trailing boat.
The boys are getting so much better at sitting still and just enjoying the ride. There is so much for them to see on the water, plus we brought along floating bait nets which always keeps them occupied. (You just have to be ok with them leaning over the boat!)
I wasn’t sure anyone would want to be towed behind, but it was the desired spot! The kid back there relaxed and went to their own world. We are able to fit two kids in the boat (like we did at Kelly Rock Springs Park) but felt that it was better to give the kids out of reach some space. The nice part about Blackwater River is that it is so shallow we were not worried about kids falling out and floating off.
Even when we were parked on the beaches the boys wanted to play in the canoes. It was a great way to let them work on their balance and also pushing off and beaching the boats.
There is plenty of room in the canoe for a bit of gear and the shallow river decreases your likelihood of a full overturn of the boat. Most of the river is in full sun so you need to be prepared to battle sunburn.
We suggest you bring:
- Plenty of Water
- Sun hats
- Snacks / Picnic Lunch
- Sunglasses with Strap
- Quick Dry Towels
- Waterproof Key/ Phone Bag (Jeff prefers the ones with the triple ziplock closure we picked up for free somewhere.)
- Compact Beach Blanket
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