Back to Nature Festival featured tour: Choctawhatchee River Safari

September 26, 2009

Alligator along Bunker Creek. Lori Ceier/Walton OutdoorsTake a closer look at old Florida during the Back To Nature Festival Oct. 16 – 18

Join the South Walton Community Council for a fun weekend of nature activities Oct. 16- 18 throughout South Walton. The nature festival offers visitors and locals a chance to explore the natural beauty of Walton County beyond our magnificent beaches.

One of the featured events is the Choctawhatchee River Safari with Capt. Kent Mundy. On either Oct. 17 or 18, you can join Kent and explore the waterways of Choctawhatchee River and Bay aboard the Riverwatch. Expect to see alligators, turtles, birds of prey and other fascinating wildlife. Meet at Pt. Washington boat ramp on Tucker Bayou at north end of CR 395. Maximum 6 participants per tour. Fixed price $30. ::MAP::
Click here to register

The following is a first hand account of a journey on the Riverwatch

As usual, eager to experience something new, I was on time as I headed into Point Washington to meet Kent Mundy of Wetland Wilderness Adventures for my next journey. As I arrived at the north end of CR 395, Kent had his boat prepped and in the water at the Tucker Bayou boat ramp.

Bunker creek.
Bunker creek.

“I’m always early and ready to go,” Kent quipped.

We headed out, and in a few minutes, Kent was navigating down the narrow waterway into the Bunker Creek area.

Everything slowed to a turtle’s pace, as the look and feel of old Florida came to life, as much of this area remains untouched by development.

The small community of Bunker Creek sits along the banks of the creek, and are mostly older homes nestled into the landscape. Bunker Creek is part of the area’s richness and history. Years ago a there was ferry access to Bunker, now the only road access is from Hwy. 79 in Panama City Beach.

It was effortless to become immersed in this three dimensional landscape of natural beauty. I soon appreciated why the folks of Bunker Creek live in this beautiful place off the beaten path.

As we headed further down the creek, white egrets and blue herons flew across the water gracefully, landing on the treetops; taking off as we approached, only to be spotted downstream, perched again.

Around the bend, we spotted an alligator sunning himself on a dead log jutting from the creek bed. He seemed oblivious to his surroundings, napping in the warm sun.

Soon it will be hibernation time for the gator. I wondered if he was storing up warmth for the winter as he was soaking up the sun.

White egret. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors
White egret. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

A few minutes later, I spotted an osprey’s nest precariously balanced on top of a dead cypress tree, and close by were a couple of the raptors perched in the treetops, scanning the water for their next meal, no doubt.

We ventured into a few sloughs. These calm, undisturbed fingers off the creek offered a   picture-perfect view closer in.

We stopped for a while… and listened to the quiet.

My mind opened up, and I quickly enjoyed lingering in this beautiful calm.

In this serene environment, my senses became more astute. I spotted a opossum foraging near the bank, nudging the dirt, probably looking for grubs in the ground, oblivious to our presence.

Cypress, bay, tupelo, wax myrtle and magnolia trees line the banks of these tributaries, some slowly shedding its leaves with the fall season.

Asters were in full-bloom along the water’s edge. Beautiful flecks of pale lavender, popping out in clusters, along with an occasional water lily, added a feminine touch to the landscape. Yaupon holly bushes were full of berries, casting a speckled orange highlight.

At the end of the excursion, we both smiled in retrospect, and agreed that Mother Nature was generous to us on this day.

Days later, I am still reminiscing.

Captain Kent Mundy. Lori Ceier/Walton OutdoorsAbout Captain Mundy

Kent has been giving tours of the area since 2001. He provides a hands-on personal tour of the Choctawhatchee River and its tributaries, describing in detail the flora, fauna and history of the area.

Kent has been a resident of Walton County since 1986, and lives in Point Washington. He was the first certified outfitter licensed in the county.

Kent spends his summers in Alaska giving fishing expeditions in addition to his Wetland Wilderness Adventures offered in Walton.

Lori Ceier is the publisher of WaltonOutdoors.com, and can be reached via email at info@waltonoutdoors.com