Monday, June 25, 2012

Gumbo Limbo Nature Center - Revisited

There are so many local parks and wonderful places to visit on your own or with family.  One place quite near and dear to my heart is the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton, FL.  This FREE facility stays open with support of grants, public donations, the City of Boca Raton, and Florida Atlantic University.  This facility has been around for nearly 30 years as a resource for educational programs, all the while instilling a love for many natural local treasures - sea turtles being perhaps my personal favorite. My history with Gumbo Limbo reaches back into the previous millennium, and I can honestly say it was the catalyst for changing my life.

As a teenager, my mind (as all teenagers do) was set in concrete: I was joining the United States Air Force. Instead of taking art classes or home economics, I attended a technical school and was trained as an aircraft mechanic. I finished entrance exams and a battery of tests. I got my letters of recommendation and worked at a small local airport for a flight school and FBO.  I was a female in a non-traditional field and reasonably good at my job.  But I yearned for the water even more than the sky.

Further back in time, as a child, we traveled to both coasts visiting family, and I shall never forget when I was only 5 years old and saw the ocean for the first time. The Jersey Shore was grey and cold but I believed it to be the most beautiful site on the planet.  I was chased by ridiculously brazen and monstrously huge sea gulls who in the end did, in fact, secure my glazed donut. So yeah, I was both traumatized and simultaneously hooked on the ocean, although less enthusiastic about gulls.

My life slowly unfolded, choices were made, and I landed in south Florida many moons ago.  After about a year of dealing with the culture shock, I took the scenic way home one day and saw the Gumbo Limbo Environmental Complex on Ocean Boulevard; at that moment my new direction in life was set in motion. I walked in just to check the place out and was so inspired that I knew instantly I wanted to volunteer there. Coincidence had me meeting with the volunteer coordinator at the front door, and within a week I was going through my volunteer orientation.  So many volunteers and staff there were in college, that within another week I was enrolling myself in hopes of acquiring that impossible degree in marine biology.  Gumbo Limbo provided mentors, close friends, and field experience that I had never seriously imagined possible. When I try to define "home", Gumbo is still one of the places that comes to mind and I go there even now for inspiration and reflection.

Growth is a part of life, and Gumbo Limbo has never stopped evolving.  The facility has practically been through an overhaul in the past 5 years alone.  Now, I go back and usually take my 3 yr old son to explore.  The first stop out front is the Sea Turtle Garden, where all 7 species of sea turtles are on display as life size replicas. Since of course one should never actually climb on or harass a sea turtle, this is the perfect opportunity to get a "feel" for the scale and presence of these living dinosaurs.  The artist's renditions of these animals is meticulous and anatomically accurate too. My little one was not the only person scaling these sculptures that day, I assure you! It was actually quite tricky to get this photo without showing people all over the place.
The Sea Turtle Garden is a great spot to be a kid again!
Among the major changes going on, Gumbo completely renovated one of the most popular exhibits- the large, open water system aquaria.  These tanks hold thousands of gallons of seawater pumped in directly from the ocean.  The "open system" has water quality literally as good as the ocean's and the drain flows into the intracoastal waterway behind the facility.  It actually improves the water quality in the intracoastal too. This unique snapshot of Floridan ecosystems reaches from the shallow mangrove community to the coral reefs, and examples of these are shown with beautiful style.
The mangrove exhibit is actually 2 separate aquaria (only 1 shown here)
One striking contrast of these new tanks is that they are covered! I recall countless hours sitting under mesh canopies getting drizzled on while speaking with guests determined to squeeze every moment of fun out of their limited vacation time. Both the sun and elements are now removed and the focus is truly on the exhibit itself and the animal ambassador residents.  The deeper tanks actually have two different viewing levels, and we came so early after the re-opening of the exhibits, that we did not get a chance to see the puffer fish and sharks from the upper deck. Just a great excuse to go back soon!

A visit to Gumbo Limbo is incomplete without taking the time to enjoy the historical side of the facility too. My son's personal favorites (this time) included the original cannons and the ship's wheel seen below.
Ready to set sail!
There are so many niches and interesting corners of the Nature Center, that to not explore in all directions is to miss some intimate moment that might stick in your mind.  The butterfly garden is nicely groomed and on the way down a pleasant trail leading to the intracoastal.  The opposite direction lets you roam through the ancient hammock. I can actually call it that accurately since the Indian midden mounds studied on site were dated back over 2,000 years! Take the time to climb the tower and get a view that would make a pelican jealous. Notice how the sounds of humanity fade away and tap into the natural environment without having to watch out for fire ants. There is more to see than what I mentioned here, but I will let you have a few discoveries too.

Above all else, know that every staff member and volunteer, much like myself, are permanently attached to this place. Gumbo Limbo is special to many lovers of nature, and allows for a unique and intimate experience for the general public of all backgrounds and interests.  The people answering the phones, feeding the fish, and providing educational enrichment truly love being there.  It shows.  Gumbo Limbo is not a franchise or a formula, but has grown into a local icon that should definitely be circled when planning your vacation, or even just a weekend.

If you went there as a kid on a school field trip, go back! Enjoy it on your own as a chance to reflect, or take family and rediscover it through their eyes.   As for me, I am always happy to go home and visit.  Besides, it is right next to the beach and you were headed there anyway - right?

For more information on Gumbo Limbo, check out their website

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Big Sur & Purple Beaches

Go online and type in "Pfeiffer Big Sur" and the first image found is this or something quite close:
minus the cute little father and son combo pictured here. Those are mine and were both quite cold on a very windy day just south of Monterey Bay in California. After already visiting Pebble Beach and the redwoods found in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, we wandered about 12 miles to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park - which is where the photos seen here were actually taken. (At first, we knew we had to be lost because the winding road to reach the spectacular views was nothing like what we expected. I was sincerely relieved that we traveled by day, for the "neighborhoods" we passed through were more like something out of a B-level slasher redneck movie. Seriously, it was just plain weird.) On a side note, the wind was bitterly cold and it also had been far too long since one particular little boy had slept, so we did not think he would enjoy this detour at all and at first he wasn't happy. Since this was a trip long awaited, my husband was set free to wander the rocky shoreline and I meant to return with our boy to the warmth of the rental car, but then something amazing happened - the wind stopped.

Within 5 minutes of the wind calming down, my stout little 2 yr old wanted to explore a bit too. There were a splattering of children and adults in the water and a wonderful stream of freezing water running from the woods out to the crescent bay.  "Down, Down!" struggled the toddler and he begged me to remove his shoes and socks so he could walk across this little stream like Daddy did.
Braving the cold water just to be like daddy
Sure enough, he was in the water quickly and couldn't wait to cross the trickling creek and explore the other side. I was ecstatic! Dying to do a bit more exploring myself, this was a perfect experience to share with my little man. We quickly trekked across to one of the most amazing sites of my marine biologist's Atlantic ocean-trained eyes: PURPLE SAND!
I was completely stupified by the beautifully soft sand that was unlike any color I had ever seen or even imagined. How did I not expect this, or had even heard of it?!! When studying anything for an extended period of time, one begins to feel quite the expert and might take on an attitude of "yeah right, just try and surprise me"... so this was a wonderful time to feel ignorant! All of a sudden I was in awe just like the first time I saw Shamu at Sea World in San Antonio, TX at the age of 10. What a fantastic feeling, and I get to share this with my two favorite people in the world? So cool.
My husband soon returned from his own adventure where he took some great pictures, including a nasty whirpool that would have been all too welcoming had he not been sure footed. Let's just say there was no way I was following him this time.
Whirpool below: Do not jump in!
So now, of course, I had to scrounge around to find out WHY the sand is purple. The mountains surrounding Pfeiffer Big Sur are apparently plentiful in manganese garnet, and depending on conditions can turn the beach anywhere from pink to a dark lavender (which is basically what we saw that day).  Still not happy with this result, I worked my way backwards and just started breaking this whole mystery down into pieces:
1. Garnet is a very deep shade of red, therefore the more concentrated the darker the color.
2. Garnet mines are found all along the Pacific coast, from Alaska down through California.
That is PURPLE sand!

3. These mines are also found on the east coast of the US, including Connecticut and New York. Tours are even available.  Under certain conditions purple sand can be seen on the northern east coast beaches too; and yet another surprise to me.
4. Manganese is a chemical element found naturally and often.

I was clueless as to the geological makeup of the California coastline, and therefore oblivious to the possibilities of tinted sand.  Having seen the black sand beaches of Hawaii, I knew that minerals like those found in lava rock could influence a beach's traits, but it was still so cool to be standing on the soft sand and wonder.
Squishing toes and jumping back to watch the cold Pacific wash the prints away - priceless fun!
Once over the initial shock of the beauty of this purple beach, we quickly began to play new games while waiting for Daddy's return.  The one above is very simple: squish your toes into the sand and jump back fast as the chilly water rushes up to wash away the footprints.  "Footprints" became a favorite word in our house for weeks after this game and is still played on our beach here in Florida.  The next "step" was the discovery of animal footprints and how they are different from ours. Again, very cool.
Instead of a quick 15 minutes, we ended up spending over an hour at Julia Pfieffer Burns.  The rock formations are breathtaking, and we didn't even get to explore the myriad of trails that went up to catch the view from a higher perch. But it was worth the $5/vehicle charge by far and it remains on the list of things to do when we return some day - this time we will spend an entire day there instead of just dropping by.
How a 2 yr old views Big Sur
The picture above is perhaps my favorite of the entire California trip.  I don't know exactly what was going on in that brillaint little mind, but this photo was taken shortly before leaving and he knew this was a last look at the purple beach.  The wonder and excitement had in just an hour will stay with me forever, and I will not give up the child-like enthusiasm felt each time we venture out! I can only hope to encourage that in my son as he grows up too.

Something I took away from this beach, purple sand excluded (although I seriously wished for any type of container to capture a few grains of treasure for home), was the return of my own inspiration.  I learned not to get so caught up in watching others enjoy a new experience and forget to have one for myself too.  This entire trip rocked my marine loving world as I became enthralled and amazed by a NEW ocean and a NEW beach, despite the fact that I get to see one fairly often. The personal renewal that drives creativity and brings on new adventures is one of my favorite experiences possible, and as always I am thankful to have had another beautiful one with my family.

If the water is too cold, dip your toes in anyway - and be glad for it.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

SUP-ing with Family!

After our recent spectacular experience with Stand Up Paddleboarding (see the 5/23 blog entry for details) we decided to return to Jupiter Point Paddling for another round.  I often regale my family with our tales of family adventure, and this time my mother was coming along for the ride!  She planned to be in town from Arizona for our son's 3rd birthday and I had been setting our agenda for the week.  Turns out Mom had even researched SUP online when I mentioned our plans - this is actually a VERY big deal for my Mom.  So now you have a self proclaimed "balance-challened" grandma who lives in the desert getting on a Stand Up Paddleboard. This is the tale of that experience:

Manager Cynthia showing my Mom the ropes of SUP
She was apprehensive to be sure, but my Mom is a real trooper when it comes to trying out crazy new things just because her daughter says "hey, Mom, let's go!" This includes activities that range from hiking in Hawaii to skydiving over the Arizona desert.  So, just a quick tutorial with Jupiter Point Paddling Manager Cynthia, and Mom was on the board! She started on her knees (as I did) because lowering your center of gravity makes balancing super easy.

On a SUP within minutes!

Not long after the lesson, she was ready to stand up and is even shown below waving to her 3-yr old grandson sitting on another SUP with dad!The water was wonderfully calm that day and we first traveled out to a great sandbar in the middle of the intracoastal waterway.  There we immediately found animals enjoying the calm day and warm waters.

Hi, Grandma!!
The weather was perfect and I have to suggest taking the day off just to go SUP-ing during the week. The waterways are not as busy, so less boat wakes to contend with and flat water makes it easier to see the wildlife underneath the surface.  Don't forget your polarized sunglasses! Sunscreen is also important as we were out for nearly 2 hours and the tranquility actually made time fly. We kept the little one from toasting, but I still turned pink.
Large west Indian sea eggs (sea urchin sp.), conchs, and even the largest live sand dollars I had ever seen were scattered everywhere! I shared a few with the Jupiter Point Splash Campers so Camp Director Deb could explain what types of wildlife could be found and how to treat animals met on their adventures. Now... they saw manatees that day, but we headed the opposite direction and missed them! But, there is always next time...
Daddy found a conch! (this shell was empty, but there were plenty of live ones we found too)
Mom holding the first LIVE sand dollar she had ever seen
Interacting with wildlife is always tricky. It is important to remain respectful and we did not keep any live critters found. But while remembering to honor the watery world we love so much, do not deny yourself those wonderful experiences that become the memories that shape your life.  We put the sand dollar back safely, but the expression on my own mother's face is priceless to me.  I actually got to share and teach something to the woman who spent a significant chunk of her life sharing and teaching me - so that was special on a whole new level, and I am glad we all went exploring together.
This is why my husband will likely NOT be joining me for my first yoga-boarding session

What defines a great day? In Florida especially, I feel that a day without watery interactions is a day partly wasted. When you discover something new, it will start appearing all around you. Stand Up Paddleboards just graced the cover of Outside Weekends and even stood life size on a Florida tourism display at the local airport. Yeah, this SUP stuff is catching a serious wave... so why don't YOU go ride it too?
-Callie Sharkey

If you are looking to have this experience for yourself, check out or hit up their facebook page. Next week we are taking Grandpa out for the first time, I cannot wait to try the Yoga-Boarding program, and we are even looking to get some local firefighters out on the water as well. So, yeah... this is probably our newest family passion - find one for yourself and share it with your family too!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Kayaking Monterey Bay

I would not consider myself a novice kayaker.  While I am not yet prepared to kayak whitewater in the Smoky Mountains, I would not hesitate to jump in a small self propelled craft on my own or with a partner.  Please do not confuse canoeing with kayaking - a canoe is deeper, slower, and harder to roll over. It is also far more difficult to flip a canoe back over once it has gone belly up, and I recommend simply dragging it ashore to dump the water. When looking for speed, stealth, and a low draft that makes for easier times in shallow water, the kayak is by far the better choice.
This particular kayaking adventure was another new experience for me. Prior to the beautiful west coast of California (I still generally think of the west coast as Sarasota or Naples, FL), I had kayaked both inland waters and the Florida Keys so I understood the importance of tides, wind, currents, boat wakes, and wildlife. Whitewater rafting prepared my husband and me for the 55°F water, and we gladly donned the less than flattering splash gear. The plastic-like jacket and pants are not lined or particularly comfortable and don't breathe like the popular gym clothing so readily available these days, but don't try and tough it out bare skinned! These clothes WILL keep you dry and much warmer than any sweatshirt or rain jacket. Bring/borrow water shoes too. Trust me.

Me about to head out on a very windy day (note the splash guard clothing).
Whenever you are on the water, wear your sunglasses and sunscreen even if it is chilly or overcast. Sunburns still happen on cloudy days, and peering down into the water beneath you is easier with polarized lenses.  We traveled to Monterey Bay in April, and the weather had been too windy for any whale watching vessels or to kayak outside of the bay into open waters.  The skin seering wind and cold, and the fact that this was a first time experience for us both is why our 2 yr old son did not join us this time around.  Even after the experience, this is likely one adventure we shall save for when he is a bit older and can easily swim safely back to the kayak if dumped - probably closer to 6 or 7 years old.
Now for the cool stuff!
One of the best things about this mini-expedition was the plethora of local wildlife, and I'm not just talking sea gulls. In addition to gulls and pigeons, there were plenty of sea otters, harbor seals, California sea lions, other bird species I do not pretend to know, and even a few large geese. Here comes the educational part of today's blog:
Seals vs Sea Lions
Identification Tip:
Do not confuse seals and sea lions, it offends the locals in the same way as it annoys people who drink Dunkin Donuts coffee vs. Starbucks. So take a moment to get a the short cut on identifying these awesome pinnipeds.  These photos taken while in Monterey Bay should help:
Harbor seal sitting on rocks just below the surface of the water
Seals don't really have a neck. They move around in a very awkward undulating motion when on land, and do not have the long, flexible pectoral flippers that sea lions do. Their tails are shorter than a seal's as well, and they do not have pronounced ear flaps.
Sea lions - ear flaps & long flippers are easy to spot
Sea lions are far more common on television and in animal shows because they move around on land far easier than seals do, and from what I understand have a much better attitude toward their human trainers too.  This is the animal you picture as balancing a ball on its nose and raising its tail in the air. They have extremely flexible necks and distinctively long flippers.

A very good shortcut to understanding this better is I was very happy to have written my descriptors prior to fact checking, and still be accurate (yay!). This particular site also credits their information to Sea World and National Geographic, so we are all on the same page.

Just for fun, here is the angry pair of geese that were not at all pleased about our exploration of Monterey Bay. The male is particularly irritated as my husband gleefully crept the kayak near "their" rocks. As I was in the front of the kayak... not cool, man.

Finally we did maneuver our way around both the New and Old Fisherman's Wharfs.  I now clearly understand the meanings of terms like Cannery Row, wharfs, and other familiars that get tossed around small oceanside towns regularly. Below is a photo of the REAL Fisherman's Wharf at Monterey. This is not a public attraction so much as a location for commercial fisherman and charters to drop off their haul for processing.  The number of sea lions using the lower structures of the wharf was astounding! The photos, unfortunately, were not.  The animals were shrouded in shadows and we dared not venture too close for a myriad of safety reasons that included the choppy waves, unfamiliar currents, and oh yeah, potentially aggressive bulls.
The REAL Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey Bay
The historical wharf is now covered in shops and local vendors and some of the most amazing clam chowder ever. The chowder was just another surprise to me; residing on the west coast of the US gave me the impression the only clam chowder worth eating had to come from New England. Chock it up to another first and another lesson learned!

As just one of many adventures had on this California trip, we covered far more territory that will be coming soon to this medium. Upcoming is a look at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and its new jellyfish exhibit, Big Sur, and the redwoods of Pfeiffer, waterfall included.  If you want to share this particular adventure yourself, I can highly recommend the organization we worked with, Adventures by the Sea.  They also had bicycle rentals and other fun options in addition to kayaks. Very cool and relaxed staff despite the fact that we were just another pair of tourists, and we were treated respectfully like locals and talked about local waters and wildlife.  Feel free to check them out!

Stay tuned! And regardless of the cold or rain, just remember it's only water!!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Octonauts - Review

The past 6 months has launched my family into the world of the Octonauts, thanks to the television show now on Disney and Disney Jr., but mostly due to the passion it has inspired in my 2 yr old son.  This new avenue of preschool animation has actually been around for 2 years, and started before that as a series of children's books by Meomi (see for more info). So, of course I had to start researching and our first book, purchased through was the Octonauts and the Whale Shark. My son actually has a 3' plush whale shark purchased by a close friend from the Georgia Aquarium gift shop. This toy MUST accompany him every time he sees this episode.  This was his favorite episode (at first) and he would ask for it by name again and again (thank you DVR as this is not yet available on DVD!).

The most important thing to take away from the television program is perhaps the amazing "creature report" sang at the end of each 15 minute episode.  In the books, it is a "fact file" page instead, but the information is still there and shockingly accurate. I have a degree in marine biology and get annoyed when adults refer to clownfish as "Nemo-fish", so for me to say that this show is SPECTACULAR is a very big deal considering the topics and content.  My toddler was repeating words like "symbosis" after only a few episodes (that particular term came from the "Crab & Urchin" program) and absolutely knows far more species of marine animals than I did when I was 10 years old!
The books are actually at a higher level than the animated series, from an age standpoint. While a toddler will sing and dance and likely pay attention for 15 minutes, the books are not just picture books and have several sentences on each page.  This is great for 4 & 5 years olds, but less so for littler ones.  The tv shows is literally the same as the book - virtually word for word, so you are definitely giving kids a solid lesson whether they are watching the show or reading the book.

RATING: ~~~~~ (that's right, 5 out of 5!)

Except for having to order everything from the UK, and therefore waiting for weeks to get the materials, I highly recommend this book and other Octonauts books. Especially for those who have a love for the ocean, and really struggle with finding cool stuff for the children including those of friends and family members. Even a marine biologist would not be offended by the child friendly characters because of its accuracy. On another note, as an aircraft mechanic I was also very happy to see that the resident mechanic on the Octopod is Tweak, a female rabbit. Nice!

We are now moving on the action figures - who knows how that will turn out. I must wait 18-24 days for the packages to clear customs and see for myself.

Here is some general information if you want to know more:

Thie link below will take you to the general site, but you won't find merchandise here.  It does have interactive games where you can rescue animals with three of the main characters, Kwazi the former pirate cat, Peso the penguin medic, and also Captain Barnacles the polar bear. There are wallpapers and coloring pages to download/print, bios on each character, links to all sorts of octo-mania.  I will warn you that while the show is definitely for preschool age children and up, the games will definitely require some parental assistance using the arrow keys to manuever around the first times that you play. I highly recommend initially exploring this site on your own and without a little one in your lap squealing with delight every time one of the characters interacts with the viewer (they might even get a bit too excited, lean on the keyboard and then mass chaos follows when the screen disappears). You have been warned.
Speaking of octomania - the facebook page is really the way to plug yourself in directly to all the crazy Octonaut fans and families around the world. Do not expect all posts to be in english, though, because the Octonauts are published and popular in Japan, Germany, France, Finland, Sweden, and more.
And, yes, I "like" this page too - although you are not so likely to see me posting there (yet).

Dance with the show and your toddler, enjoy the books and read it to a child, laugh when you start finding the Octonauts everywhere you go - because I am certain this is the next Dora and Diego.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Kayaking the River of Turtles

I have spent the past two years teaching and sharing the importance of the Loxahatchee River. In the Seminole language, "Loxhatchee" means basically "river of turtles".  While I talked about it everyday at work, finding the time to really take a day to experience this River for myself was elusive.  Just like I hear countless New Yorkers say they have never been inside the Statue of Liberty, I had never even kayaked the Loxahatchee River. Until a few months ago...

A small band of ladies decided to go kayaking on a sticky Tuesday that ended up pouring on us by the time we went home late that afternoon. We were a crew that included first timers to white water rafters.  And yes, some ended up in the water - but I'm not telling who because we all had a wonderful experience.  We stared in Riverbend Park (map below) that is now also known as Loxahatchee Battlefield Park.  It is a free park that is wonderful to bike, walk, bird watch, and even drop in a kayak or canoe. Our 3-person kayaks actually held 2 each, so in 3 small boats we headed out on a new adventure.

The Loxahatchee is an almost strange treasure to find in the mayhem that is south Florida. This early part of the river quite literally passes underneath Jupiter's major street - Indaintown Rd, and even tangles its way below I-95 and the FL Turnpike. The latter both being a maniacal drive most of the day and night. But once you settle into the chilly water, time actually slows. The lazy current makes for easy travels even for a novice on the water.  As you can see in the photos below, the local wildlife has always been aware of this haven, and expect to see all types of birds and reptiles for sure. Keep your eyes peeled, and the mammals come out too; both racoons and bats were sighted on this particular trip.  Also prepare yourself for the art of "portaging".  If you have never heard this term, well it is one you will not soon forget! For your reference:

por'-tage: the practice of carrying a canoe or other boat over land to avoid an obstacle on the water route

If the water level is low - you WILL portage at some point.  When reaching the first major obstacle, a dam, some of our crew chose to practice their portage skills... but "Not I!" said Callie.  With a bit of partner shifting, my coworker Melissa (seen as a SUP guide previously on this blogsite) was willing to drop over the damn with me.  Which is good, because it was definitely a 2-man task and approximately a 3' drop on that day.  Another pair followed us and they didn't stay quite as dry...

Christy and I had to turn back at the second portage worthy obstacle - the Masten Dam.  The first photo shown below is everyone in our group standing on the dam. The other girls did portage and continue up the River to I-95 before turning back for the day.  By the way, please pay attention while trying to lift the kayak - it may swing awkwardly and the person at lowest elevation (whether going up or coming down) is in a very tricky predicament, so be patient!  Why on earth would you be in a hurry anyway?
Relax.  Let the River work its magic and transport you back to the time of dinosaurs.  Large lillipads and ancient cypress trees cradle your through peaceful waters and air virtually free of the noise pollution that constantly follows urbanization.  Leave your mp3 player at home and listen to nature or chat with your partner. Take a few photos (and a waterproof bag for the camera).  This summer I will have my son on the Loxahatchee River - he will be 3 in one week.  We plan to drop in further up the River in Jonathan Dickinson State Park, and maybe even take a boat up to the historical "Trapper Nelson's" site deep within the Wild & Scenic River.

Everyone on this trip agreed that there is a need to explore the Loxahatchee again as a group and to be prepared to kayak from Riverbend Park all the way through JD State Park and out to the Jupiter Inlet, and I cannot wait!  Enjoy the photos below to get a feel for our little 1/2 day adventure:
My awesome kayak crew from left to right: Christy, Melissa, Me, Rachel, Kaitlyn, & Hannah
This beautiful adult gator was approximately 7', very calm and very close! About 5' away from our kayak.
Native Yellow-Bellied Sliders on the "River of Turtles"
**photos by Kaitlyn Moore

If you don't have a kayak, but still want to experience Riverbend Park, try Canoe Outfitters at

To experience the Loxahatchee without a paddle, try JD State Park and the Loxahatchee Queen II will take you there!

To learn more about the Loxahatchee River or to see some very cool photos taken from some of the area's local amateur photographers, visit  Be sure to check out the photo gallery to see the most recent pictures.
The wonderful FREE park where we started, then connected to the Wild & Scenic portion of the Loxahatchee.
Complete map of the Loxahatchee River from Riverbend to the Jupiter Inlet (
 There is truly no excuse for missing out on the treasures that are near wherever you may live.  There are islands that are still inland, and experiences to be had every day.  Don't just talk about it, or worse, talk about how you "never" had the time and missed the opportunity altogether. As always, I am happy to have been "offshore" once again and look forward to the next adventure!

It is practically summer - go get wet!