The Caloosahatchee River and its meandering tributaries represent the newest leg of the Great Calusa Blueway. This is the segment where blue turns green – as in lush, towering leather ferns, stately oaks dripping with moss and verdant vegetation along every shore.
From the Hendry-Lee county line west to the mouth of the river is 38 miles. But when you add in the creeks and feeder rivers, another 52 miles exist for kayakers and canoeists to explore.
The Calusas used this river as a highway. So did early settlers to Fort Myers. Today, powerboats and sailboats traverse the Intracoastal Waterway, which connects Texas to Maine. But the river is wide enough to accommodate everyone – even wildlife. You wouldn’t know you’re paddling in a county of more than a half-million residents.
Unlike the Phase 1/Estero Bay and Phase 2/Pine Island Sound segments of the blueway, this Phase 3 section does not have trail markers. Instead, GPS coordinates for the mouth of each tributary are provided.
Travel east to west and you’ll discover places you want to visit more than just once. Among them:
Tip: Paddle close to shore and dig your fingers into the sandy bottom in the shallows to look for fossilized sharks teeth and other fossils.
Tip: Watch for the camel in a backyard at the mouth of the creek’s south bank
Tip: Oxbow islands such as Dr. Sam Nixon Oxbow Island and Columbus G. McLeod Preserve offer bird watching, nature study and photography and a place to stretch.
Tip: A gentle current makes travel easy both directions.
Tip: A boardwalk offers sightings of marshes and wildlife such as the occasional gator.
Tip: Go at sunset on a full moon and watch bats flit around feeding on insects as you paddle back to your launch site.
Tip: Check out the picnic pavilions on stilts with family and friends.