Kayaking in the Florida Keys is a unique experience. You can paddle into the Atlantic Ocean or in the Gulf of Mexico and sometimes during the same trip. If you don’t have your own, there are more places to rent canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards than I can list.
You can launch from several marinas and paddle into the Atlantic Ocean side of Key West or into the salt marsh behind Key West International Airport. Paddling along the canal to the Salt Marsh, you get the chance to see a variety of homes in Key West, some are fulltime residents and others are vacation homes or rentals. There are points where you can leave the channel and paddle back into the salt marsh and enter an entirely different ecosystem. Here the mangroves have created small islands of nothing but roots.
The root system comes off the branches to reach down to the water instead the typical root ball that you find in normal plants and trees. (The iguana also like to sunbathe on them!) Typically you will see heron, sea gulls, and cormorants back in the marsh.
One favorite site in the Key West area is Geiger Key. There is a public launch site just past the Geiger Key Marina and RV Park that is very convenient. A system of islands just off shore give you a break from some of the winds blowing in from the Atlantic Ocean.
It’s always a good idea to check the tide tables for the area as some of the channels are only a few inches deep at low tide. Believe me when I say dragging your kayak to deep water on a mushy bottom is not fun!
You can always count on seeing a variety of trash that is washed up on the shore in the low hanging braches of shoreline trees. While this bothers me, it doesn’t as much as it used to. Some of this is not due to people dumping their trash overboard, a lot if it is gear that has been washed off decks in high winds and seas, as well as lobster buoys that have been torn from their moorings. I always carry a few plastic grocery bags to pick up and dispose of as much as I can on each trip.
On our last trip we were fortunate to see a good number of sea birds, pelicans, ibis, blue heron, egrits, and anhinga.
Back in northern Michigan we will see shacks or old hunting cabins and various states of disrepair. Well, in Florida, they have houseboats. In the Keys, there are permanent moorings that you can rent, but you can anchor almost anywhere you want at no charge. On our paddling we have seen several houseboats anchored in the mangroves and this is one of the nicer ones.
You’re supposed to pay someone to come out and pump out your waste holding tanks, but it wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of these ocean “squatters” just dump their tanks into the water. If they get caught there are big fines, but the Sheriff’s Marine Division can’t be everywhere.
One nice thing about kayaking at Geiger Key is you can always stop at the Geiger Key Marina and Fish Camp for lunch or a quick drink before heading back to the RV.