Want to join a paddle group?
The West Florida Canoe and Kayak Club or Floridakayak.org offers a variety of paddles in the Northwest Florida Panhandle. Guests are welcome on trips as long as they have the skills to safely navigate the waters being paddled. Guests must sign a waiver form and have an Eglin Recreational Pass if the trip is on the Air Force Base. Paddlers must supply their own boat.
Four scenic locations to paddle up an appetite and enjoy a great lunch in Walton County
Some of Northwest Florida’s most scenic natural landscapes can be found right here in Walton County. Kayakers, canoeists and stand up paddle boarders have many locations to enjoy nature’s delights just a few paddle strokes away.
If you are interested in venturing on a paddle excursion but can’t afford to spend the entire day, our area boasts several short excursions you can top off with a great lunch afterward.
Here are four great pairings for a short, there and back paddle you can top off with a great meal.
Basin Bayou / Nick’s Seafood Restaurant
Basin Bayou is approximately 1 mile long and a ½ mile wide. Located off of SR 20 east of Niceville and west of Freeport, the bayou is easily accessed via a boat ramp next to Nick’s Seafood Restaurant. The folks at Nick’s don’t mind if you launch from their ramp, especially if you plan to indulge in some great eats there before or after your paddle.
The area surrounding the bayou is on Eglin Air Force Base Reservation property, however, the waterway is public. As long as you do not disembark your vessel, you do not need an Eglin Recreation pass.
Once you launch, head north under the bridge. Basin Bayou is virtually an untouched forest landscape. This paddle offers picture perfect mixed scenery with hardwoods and pines.
The folks at Nick’s don’t mind if you launch from their ramp, especially if you plan to indulge in some great eats there before or after your paddle. Click to continue
Fish, hike, paddle and enjoy birding on the coastal dune lakes of South Walton
Recreational activities abound on these rare coastal dune lakes
Walton County Florida is well known for its beautiful beaches and great fishing. Less known to those that have never visited the area, are the unique and scenic coastal dune lakes that dot the coastline along the area’s beach dune systems.
Nestled along Scenic Highway 30A, Walton county’s coastal dune lakes are rare geological features that only occur in the Florida Panhandle, Madagascar, Australia, New Zealand and the northern Pacific coast of the United States.
Streams, groundwater seepage and rain are the sources that feed the coastal dune lakes. Storm surge creates intermittent connections to the Gulf of Mexico, called outfalls. This periodic connection empties lake water into the Gulf, and, depending on tides and weather, salt water and organisms from the Gulf flow back into the lakes. Click to continue
Head up Highway 79 to Vernon for a day of paddling fun on Holmes Creek
Holmes Creek is one of the most diverse paddles in the Northwest Florida Panhandle area.
As part of Florida’s statewide system of Greenways and Trails, Holmes Creek flows through a variety of diverse habitats. The upper and lower portions pass high sandy banks while the majority of the trial is through low-lying swamplands.
As part of Florida’s statewide system of Greenways and Trails, Holmes Creek flows through a variety of diverse habitats. The upper and lower portions pass high sandy banks while the majority of the tail is through low-lying swamplands.
Rich with flora and fauna, the creek is abundant with turtles and birds, including blue, green and white heron, ibis, warblers and woodpeckers.
There is canoe, kayak and stand up paddle board livery services for Holmes Creek:
Econfina Creek a natural wonder
Self guided, rentals available
Part of Florida’s Greenways and Trails, the Econfina Creek in Bay and Washington counties is many a paddlers’ favorite journey in the Florida Panhandle.
Pack a lunch and bring your snorkel, for you are about the enjoy the paddle of a lifetime as you explore the creek and its many crystal clear springs along the popular seven-mile trip down the creek. Econfina Creek in Bay and Washington counties is many a paddlers’ favorite journey in the Florida Panhandle.
Pack a lunch and bring your snorkel, for you are about the enjoy the paddle of a lifetime as you explore the creek and its many crystal clear springs along the popular seven-mile trip down the creek.
Cabbage palms drape over the water’s edge along with blooming wildflowers scattering the banks with color during your journey in the spring and summer months. Steep, fern-covered limestone walls prevail along the second half of the paddle, where the creek slices into the ancient limestone of the Floridan Aquifer. ::MAP::
For more information about Econfina, Click here
• Econfina Canoe Livery – One mile north of SR 20 on Strickland Road. Eight miles east of Hwy. 77, offers both canoes and kayaks for rent along with a shuttle back to your vehicle after your paddle. Call 850-722-9032 for more information. ::MAP::
• SR 20 Bridge – (1 mile) limited parking.
• SR 388 Bridge – (6 miles)
Four-mile paddle on Peach Creek offers views of native flora and fauna
Located in the historic Point Washington area of Walton County, Peach Creek offers a pleasant paddle exploring nature.
The enjoyable, four-mile journey takes you along a wetland forest shoreline of black titi, red maple, and slash pine trees along with highbush blueberries and saw palmetto. Coastal water birds such as pelicans, gulls, cormorants and seagulls are abundant along with raptors such as osprey and swallow-tailed kites. You might also discover an alligator or two along the way.
You will head north towards the Intracoastal Waterway, and pass homes nestled along the marshy grass shoreline. Traveling about 700 yards, you will turn east for a short jaunt on the Intracoastal Waterway for about another 700 yards where you will turn south unto Peach Creek. Peach Creek is about 1.25 miles to the U.S. Hwy. 98 bridge. The creek continues further, however gets quite narrow and difficult to navigate.
Parking and launch area is located at the north end of CR 395. Limited parking is available along the county easement area on each the side of the road. Click here to continue
Explore Seven Runs creek in Walton County
Small scenic creek near Bruce a quiet journey of natural beauty
Seven Runs creek, located off of State Road 81, just north of Bruce, in northeast Walton County is a scenic paddle through hardwood wetlands and cypress swamps.
A short, 2-3 mile paddle, this fairly swift moving creek provides a few twists and turns before it flows into the swampy cypress tree filled forest of extraordinary beauty. Twisted cypress roots bellow out of the bottom of the forest floor, and with a little imagination, the shady canopy and trees provide a backdrop to a fairy tale.
Eventually emptying into the Choctawhatchee River, you can take out before you reach the river at a county boat launch off of Dead River Road.
This location makes for an easy shuttle with two vehicles. The boat launch offers a picnic area and portable restroom facility.
This area is part of the Choctawhatchee River Wild Management area and slated for inclusion in the Florida Forever Conservation program, which goals include acquiring strategic habitat areas and protecting groundwater resources. During the hunting season, you may happen on a hunter or two camping out at the Dead River boat launch area.
Wildlife abounds on Section 1 of the Chipola River Paddling Trail
Self guided, rentals available
Part of Florida’s Greenways and Trails, the 51-mile Chipola Paddling Trail is the largest tributary of the Apalachicola, and boasts 63 fresh water springs, the largest number of any river shed in Northwest Florida. The trail runs from just south of the Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna in Jackson County, south to just east and south of Clarksville in Calhoun County, Florida.
Diverse in flora and fauna, the river cuts through limestone rock and boasts caves and springs accessible for exploration. A cave nicknamed “The Oven” along Section 1 of the river can be easily explored with a headlamp or flashlight.
Trees provide a comfortable canopy of shade for a good portion of the journey and provide excellent habitat for wildlife. Bald cypress, green ash, loblolly bay, swamp gum, sweet bay, tupelo gum, water hickory are some of the species that line the river, with bluestem palmetto abundant beneath.
Enjoy an early morning paddle along the Chain of Lakes in Ebro
There is a little known place right outside of Walton County where you may explore nature at its finest. One of the Choctawhatchee River’s tributaries, Chain of Lakes near Ebro, offers an extraordinary paddling experience whether you are in a kayak, canoe or on a stand up paddle board.
This pristine area offers a dreamy paddle experience through open and canopied waterway corridors. Sounds of pileated woodpeckers can be heard hammering on the giant cypress trees towering above. Barred owls, hawks, songbirds and wading birds forage along the waterway as you explore the connected “lakes.” You may encounter a fisherman or two in small John boats, however larger vessels cannot access the area.
Paddling Chain of Lakes takes approximately two hours, and the current is typically slow. There are no places to take out, making the this trip an out and return from the launch area. Head right (north) to explore the lakes. Parking is limited. Honor box fee: $3.00. The boat launch is located on private property and does not offer any rentals or guide services. There is a restroom located at the north end of the parking lot available for public use.
Directions: Take State Road 20 east through Walton County. After you cross the Choctawhatchee River, take a right on Strickland Road. Go about one mile, turn right on Little Acre Road which dead ends at the lakes. Click here for more info
Explore Morrison Springs in North Walton
Walton County offers many places to explore. In the summertime, the one that can’t be beat is Morrison Springs in the Northeastern part of the county.
Just south of Ponce De Leon, the 161-acre park is well known in the area, and popular with divers and nature enthusiasts across the south. Cypress trees abound around the spring with their crisp, bright green needles defining the landscape. The spring provides an aqua color inviting everyone in for a dip.
The highlight of the park is a 250-foot diameter spring pool that produces an estimated 48 million gallons of crystal clear water each day and has been recorded to produce up to 70 million gallons a day. Three cavities allow Morrison’s frigid waters to surface from the underground aquifer. The deepest of these cavities, at approximately 300 foot in depth, eventually terminates in an underground chamber of unknown dimensions.
Enjoy a lazy paddle down the Shoal River
The appropriately named Shoal River offers an abundance of sandy sandbars, (shoals) along with cool water along a meandering 10-mile paddle in Crestview. This 10-mile stretch is the only open publicly accessible run on the river. It is easily accessible with a boat ramp at each end, with put in at U.S. Hwy. 90 and take out a SR-85 in Crestview.
As part of the Florida Greenways and Trails system, the paddle offers scenic views of a variety of wetland hardwoods such as Titi, black gum, live oak, magnolia and coastal plain willow. Fauna includes a variety of birds such as kingfishers, blue herons and egrets, along with an occasional alligator and turtle.
Enjoy abundant flora while paddling down Boiling Creek
Located off of Hwy. 87, south of Milton and north of Navarre, Boiling Creek is lined with towering old-growth cypress trees, and an abundance of flora, including water lilies, pitcher plants, water lotus and spatterdocks. The water is clear, and colorful underwater grasses rippling below can be easily viewed as you meander down the slow moving creek.
The creek is approximately 25 feet wide for most of the paddle, and common sights are turtles, ospreys, hawks and other birds, such as woodpeckers. There are a few sloughs you can explore that offer a closer look at the blooming wildflowers.
There are only one or two places to stop along the 6.6-mile paddle. The first one you will find will be a cleared area on the left as you paddle down and is called “Rope Drop,” as the area was originally an old home place and now used by Army and Navy survival teams for training. The second is just a bit further down and also on the left.
The last portion of the trip is where the creek meets with the Yellow River. Much wider than the creek, the Yellow River does not offer the clarity of the creek, making the first part of the paddle the most picturesque. Click here to continue
Turkey Creek paddle full of beautiful surprises
Note: The double culvert south of the Hippy Hole launch area is currently not navigable due to collapse.
Located on Eglin AFB Reservation, just off of SR 85, the Turkey Creek paddle is approximately 9 miles long.
Swift and clear, the first two thirds of the paddle is tight, as the creek is only about 25 ft. wide, full of logs and sandy, shallow bottoms. Trees hang over the water, providing good shade and cool water for the journey.
About 5 miles into the paddle, Turkey Creek joins with Juniper Creek where it widens, and eventually empties into Boggy Bayou in Valparaiso, just west of Niceville.
This paddle will bring you under a few bridges and a double tunnel which one time supported railway tracks. There is a bit of a rapid as the creek forces into the narrow tunnels, providing a fun place to stop, get out and float through.
Paddle, hike, picnic and bird watch at Rocky Bayou State Park in Niceville
Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park, known by most as Rocky Bayou State Park sets nestled along State Road 20 in Niceville along Rocky Bayou. The park boasts 357 acres of wooded walking trails of sand pine scrub, longleaf pine, sand hill forests, pine flat woods and wetlands.
More than 100 different species of birds may be spotted in the diverse area, including kingfishers, ospreys, warblers and woodpeckers. Along one of the walking/biking trails, you will find an interpretive kiosk, which visually describes some of the many birds that can be found in the park.
Rustic and diverse St. Joseph State Park a favorite for summertime scalloping
Self guided tour, rentals available
At the north end of the 17-mile St. Joseph Peninsula, just past Cape San Blas, you will find a unique Florida State Park with 6 miles of pristine beaches nestled along enormous sand dunes.
Properly known as the T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, folks call this popular State Park St. Joseph Park for short.
Considered part of the “Forgotten Coast,” in the Port St. Joe area of the Florida Panhandle, you will experience three nature trails and a wilderness preserve to explore.
There are10 unique plant communities, including hammocks, pine woods, and lowland marsh areas.
As a coastal barrier peninsula, St. Joseph provides excellent opportunities for bird watching with more than 240 species sighted in the park.
Paddle, swim, fish or cave dive at Merritt’s Mill Pond in Marianna
What do Jackson Blue, Shangri-la, Twin Caves, Indian Wash Tub, Hole-in-the-Wall, Gator Hole, and Hidey Hole have in common? They are all names of springs feeding into the crystal clear waters of beautiful Merritt’s Mill Pond in Jackson County.
Located just east of Marianna, Merritt’s Mill Pond is actually a 202-acre reservoir fed mostly by one spring named Blue Spring or Jackson Blue. Considered to be one of the most beautiful springs to explore by divers, Jackson Blue’s main vent is a limestone cave close to 5,000 ft. in length. It is a first magnitude spring, discharging an average of about 76 million gallons a day, and is the head waters of Merritt’s Mill pond. Click here to continue
Paddle or float down Spring Creek in Marianna
Looking for a scenic, easy day of paddling along a spring fed creek? Head over to Marianna in Jackson County and enjoy the clear waters of Spring Creek. This beautiful, sandy bottom creek winds its way from Merritt’s Mill Pond to where it opens out to the Chipola River. The headwaters are Blue Springs in Merritt’s Mill Pond, with the water flow controlled by a dam at U.S. Hwy. 90.
This fairly shallow creek offers and abundance of wildlife viewing providing a feast for the nature lover. Trees provide a comfortable canopy of shade for part of the journey and provide excellent habitat for wildlife. Pond cypress, green ash, loblolly bay, swamp gum, sweet bay, tupelo gum, water hickory are some of the species that line the creek and river.
The 4 mile trek is an easy paddle suited for the entire family. It is very busy with tubers on the weekends, so plan your trip accordingly. The last portion of the paddle takes you on the Chipola River with the take out at Magnolia Landing. Click here to continue
Looking for a great kayak or canoe? – The Kayak Experience offers top quality products
With the Gulf of Mexico, the Choctawhatchee Bay and numerous lakes, creeks and rivers in the area, kayaking is a popular sport in the Panhandle. And with little maintenance cost after purchase, kayaking can be enjoyed by most anyone.
There are two basic configurations to choose from, the traditional cockpit style and the sit on top. In a variety of lengths, kayaks range from 8 – 20 ft. and weigh in anywhere from 40 – 70 lbs. Deciding which kayak to choose depends on the type of paddle experience one is looking for.
Marlice Brown of The Kayak Experience in Destin explained that the cockpit style offers a faster paddle and drier experience when using a skirt.
The Kayak Experience sells about equal amounts of both types, boasting a variety of manufacturers such as Old Town, Ocean Kayak, Necky, Wilderness Systems and Eddyline. The Kayak Experience personnel are experienced paddlers who assist buyers in finding the perfect fit.
The first Saturday of every month the store offers demonstrations, and anyone interested can try out any model of interest. The store also sells books, maps trailers and accessories.