A Half Century of Paddling

by: Doug Alderson, Outdoor & Nature Expert

Having moved to Tallahassee from the Chicago area as a young boy, my family was thrilled to find so many outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities close to our new home. We bought a canoe and started a long tradition of weekend adventures. Now, a half century later, those weekend adventures continue.

The clear, spring fed rivers in our area -- the Wacissa, Wakulla and St. Marks – have long been favorites. I also like to branch out for an occasional sea kayak trip along the coast, especially along the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge where little has changed since Native Americans and Spanish explorers first plied the waters.

I love our blackwater rivers, too, such as the Sopchoppy and Aucilla, since their dark waters evoke a mysterious feel and the steep banks and arching canopy of trees have a unique, scenic quality. The mighty Ochlockonee and Apalachicola Rivers also draw my interest since they are largely undeveloped and rich in wildlife. I’ve assisted Paddle Florida on their annual lower Ochlockonee trips several times and paddled the entire Apalachicola four times as part of RiverTrek, the annual fundraiser for the Apalachicola Riverkeeper. It never gets old.

The Tallahassee area lakes are fun to paddle as well and they have a surprising amount of wildlife for being so close to downtown. My favorites are Jackson, Iamonia, Carr, Lafayette and the Bradford Chain-of-Lakes. Great paddling is literally in our backyard.

If you’re just starting out, I would recommend joining up with experienced paddlers or with one of the professional outfitters listed on the Visit Tallahassee website. Or, you can join a paddling group such as the Apalachee Canoe and Kayak Club. The opportunities are there if you have the desire!

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.

Looking for more?