Paddle to Apalachee Point

by: Doug Alderson, Outdoor & Nature Expert

I was in the mood for salty air, and that meant a paddling trip to Apalachee Point. So, I drove the short distance to St. Marks and launched on a grassy beach near the Fort San Marcos de Apalachee Historic State Park. Gazing upon the water and marsh, I breathed deep. Ahh, salt air. Refreshing!

Heading south towards the Gulf, the water ahead drew my attention. A breeze tickled the surface, creating flickering ripples of light. Schools of silvery trout fed on baitfish and a larger fish occasionally splashed.

Fishermen sometimes passed in their fast boats. Most seemed to be in a hurry. A brief roar, and they were gone. Fortunately, the lower St. Marks River is wide enough to stay out of the boat channel and hug the marshy shore.

When I passed the old Port Leon site, the river widened even more. Excitement. The Gulf lay ahead. Just one more bend! There is something about paddling towards open water that inspires thoughts of longer journeys on the water, to live for a spell as a kayaking vagabond.

A butterfly zig-zagged past, followed by a dragonfly and tree swallows. An osprey watched from a cedar limb. I spotted a soaring bald eagle, a juvenile. Two adult eagles were perched on a snag. Given my slow, deliberate speed, all were noticed. 

Fingers of slash pine soon came to an end. Only marsh, sky and a few cedar islands. The last island on the left was Apalachee Point, a.k.a. Rock Island. It was built from spoil material decades ago and it is now a campsite for long distance paddlers on the 1,515-mile Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail. I landed on the east side since there is a small beach and climbed to a small rise for an expansive view of water, marsh and the distant St. Marks Lighthouse. So remote, it seemed, yet so close to home. That’s part of the magic of paddling to Apalachee Point.

Doug Alderson. Outdoor & Nature Expert from Tallahassee, FL Author:

Doug Alderson

Outdoor & Nature Expert


Doug Alderson is the author of several books, including Waters Less Traveled: Exploring Florida's Big Bend Coast (University Press of Florida 2005), The Vision Keepers: Walking for Native Americans and the Earth (Quest Books 2007), New Dawn for the Kissimmee River: Orlando to Okeechobee by Kayak (University Press of Florida, 2009), Encounters with Florida's Endangered Wildlife (University Press of Florida, 2010), and his newest book, Wild Florida Waters: Exploring the Sunshine State by Kayak and Canoe (Earthways Press, 2011). Additionally, his articles and photographs have been featured in magazines such as Sea Kayaker, Coast and Kayak, Wildlife Conservation, American Forests, Sierra, Mother Earth News and Shaman's Drum. He has won several state and national awards for his books and magazine features. Doug also works as the paddling trails coordinator for the Florida Office of Greenways and Trails.

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