St. Johns River Report
(Lower St Johns)

View: More St. Johns River reports, Northeast FLA Locations 

Report By:  kayakeradams    Date: 9/19/2009 
Rating:Trip Rating     Photos: See 6 photos     Map & Directions: View

Put in at Mayport Boat Ramp @ 9:15. High tide was 9:41. Rode the tide up-river (west), circumnavigated Bartram Island and returned to Mayport @ 16:30.

My Report:

It was a beautiful day for paddling. Skys were clear and blue,
wind was calm and the tides were moving in the right direction. We

put in at the Mayport Boat Ramp around 9:15am. High tide at Mayport
was at 9:41. We paddled towards Jacksonville with the incoming tide.
Dodged the Mayport Ferry with no problem and passed along the little jetties.

Around Pablo Creek entrance (ICWW) we ran into some very confused,
turbulent currents. Because of the high tide the little jetties were covered.
Jack went to outside of the little jetties and into the channel where he had
a fast ride westward (upriver). It took Andy and I a bit longer as we were
out of the channel. This is an area that requires extra caution for paddlers
because of the heavy boat traffic and swirling currents. However, you are
usually treated to lots of dophins feeding in this area.

We traveled along the southern bank where we saw spoils islands, Chicopit Bay
and Great March Island. Came upon a large spoils island at St Johns Bluff.
We saw a sign and investigated. Turns out it was a Marine Mammal Research Site.
Didn't see any buildings or people but there were large black vultures sitting
on the sign which said no trespassing. We thought it would be a good
idea to move along. As we did we could smell a rotting carcuss and in the
trees were hundreds of vultures waiting for a meal. On the ground they are
ugly but they are graceful gliders riding on the wind effortlessly.

Paddled by the bluffs of Ft Caroline. Saw some very beautiful
homes interspersed with wild areas. Passed the Ft Caroline National Monument
and Fort. I had seen the fort many times but not from that perspective. As we
paddled further westward a very large bald eagle circled us a few times. Paddled
into Mill Cove and started our circumnavigation of Bartrum (quarantene) island.
Its important to note that security is very tight on the North bank around Blount island
so stay towards the south bank side in this area. Went under the amazing Dames Point
bridge and around the western end of the island where we were ready to stop and eat.
With the tide being high (10:45 high tide) we had a difficult time finding a suitable site to stop. We finally saw some white sand and decided to make a go of a grassy area. It was tough going at first but once we got a couple feet from shore we found the bottom to be solid. So we stepped out in about a foot of water. It was wonderful having some relief from the bright, hot sun. We found a small scrub tree to sit under and cool off.

To leave, we had to back out of the grass and proceeded around the island. The water was fairly calm in Mill Cove. As we rounded the western corner to start our return trip we saw some workmen on the island working with heavy equipment. Shortly after we saw some unusual bouys and a dredge across the river. By now we were looking for the outlet pipes that were coming from the dredge. Hoping it wasn't close to the surface and a hazard for us. We keep an careful eye out for a huge pipe with dredge material running through it. Fortunately it didn't cause us any problems.

ONce we reached the river proper and started east the swells grew bigger and current
stronger. Fortunately, with Andy's knowledge of tides we were catching the tide back out.
Occasionally some big boats would come by and give us an exciting ride on their
wake. As we approached the Dames Pt bridge again I was in awe. It is so tall looking up from the water. The spires are grand and the columns are hugh. I must have taken 4 or 5 pictures but none captured the enormity of it. It gets very choppy around this bridge and swells can be large. If your paddling in this area you will want to wear a sprayskirt to keep from getting swamped.

There were lots of folks out fishing for big Red Bass. We came upon a sad situation though. A 4 ft red bass filled with rowe was swimming on its back. Barely alive. We tried to right it and move water thru its gills but it didn't help. Must have been caught by a fisherman and let go because it wasn't the legal size. Saw many freighters but one in particular passed us in a narrow part of the river. It gave us a true sense of its size being that close. Its amazing that something that tall and loaded with containers can stay upright. The St Johns river was bustling with commerce and recreation. Its a busy river.

We paddled back by Fulton and Ft Caroline. As we neared the Research island we got a welcome relief from the heat. A short rain storm came up on us. Its magic on the river when you get rain without wind. All you hear is the rain drops and the river surface is calm. The drops making the surface look dimpled like a golf ball. It cooled the air and us also.

As we got into Mayport a shrimpboat was returning so we gave him wide berth. I love to paddle by the old beat up shrimpboats with the men working on nets. I find it ironic the shrimpboat names are usually sweet, feminine names conjuring up an images of a salty fishermens sweatheart or mother. Yet the boats are old work horses that smell of old fish and shrimp.

In the Mayport area of the river you must be mindful of the Ferry. As we approached it was on the Northside of the river. We held back a bit to let it pass. We made sure to steer wide of it. When it docks it puts out a prop wash that can cause a kayaker to take an unexpected swim.

Finally, we pulled into the boat ramp about 4:30. Hot, tired and satisfied. Another beautiful day on the St Johns river with friends. Once all the boats and gear were loaded we went to Singletons for some fried Sheephead and lots of cold drinks. What a great way to end a trip.

Mark A

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Location Data:

Distance (miles): 20+
Fees/Costs $: n/a

Photos from Lower St Johns:    (Click image to view full size)

trip map No Comm
trip map

A Mitchell

Chicopit No Comm

M Adams

Land ho! No Comm
Land ho!

M Adams

Dames Pt bridge No Comm
Dames Pt bridge

M Adams

Cruise terminal No Comm
Cruise terminal

A Mitchell

Freighter No Comm

M Adams


Post Date: 10/15/2009

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