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Florida Outdoors

Article Index

Alligator Hunting: A One of a Kind Experience -
by Kris Thoemke

Why They Call it Hunting Instead of Killing -
by Kris Thoemke

Florida's Other Crab - by Kris Thoemke

The Waiting Game - by Kris Thoemke

Mounted Memories - by Kris Thoemke

Eco-Touring in Collier County - by Kris Thoemke

Beyond the Largemouth Bass - by Kris Thoemke

Tying One On -- Some thoughts on how to get started tying your own flies -- by Kris Thoemke

The Big Cypress: Adventures in a Vast Wilderness
-- Kris Thoemke spends the day exploring the Big Cypress National Preserve with Preserve biologist Debra Jansen

A Basic Guide to Saltwater Fly Fishing in Southwest Florida -- by Don Phillips

Four Strokes on the Water -- The sound of the future for marine outboards is likely to be much quieter --
by Kris Thoemke

Birding Big Cypress Swamp and the 10,000 Islands --
by natural history writer and photographer Jeff Ripple

Recycling Your Fish -- by Kris Thoemke

Peace, Paddle and Hunt -- by Kris Thoemke

 fish, camp, golf Florida outdoors

Peace, Paddle and Hunt
by Kris Thoemke

Becky Bragg surprised me. When I asked her what she liked most about paddling the Peace River her answer was swift and unhesitating. "Fossil hunting. Just last night my friend and I were planning when we could get some time off, float the river and hunt for fossils."

Bragg and her family operate the Peace River Canoe Outpost in Arcadia. The native Floridian, with her infectious laugh, also admitted she also like to "just sit" and watch the slow moving water make its way towards Charlotte Harbor.

Fossil hunting is an added bonus that you can enjoy when paddling the Peace River. During the winter and spring dry season, the river is usually low and there are numerous spots where limestone rock, normally covered by water, lies exposed. In and around these areas are fossilized sharks teeth, stingray plates, manatee ribs, turtle shells, mammoth and mastodon teeth and a few other surprises.

Casual observers who simply squat at the river's edge can easily find the sharks teeth. Their distinctive shape makes it easy to find even the small 1/4 inch ones. To locate the real showy fossils, like the mastodon teeth, you must get in the water and search. Bragg says that some people use SCUBA equipment to dive in the deep holes of the river bends looking for the rare specimens.

If you make the trip don't forget to look at the scenery along the river while you're hunting. Massive cypress trees with deeply grooved trunks and stout knees, sprawling live oaks, and rich green leafed hickory trees grow along the steep banks creating a ever-changing backdrop as you make your way down the slow moving river.

A trip on the Peace River is a great place to take kids. In addition to fossil hunting, there is wildlife to watch and plenty of places to stop and enjoy a swim. Like most Florida rivers, paddling the Peace is a piece of cake. The current saunters along in the 1 to 4 knots range which is easily manageable for most adults.

One of the most popular day trips is the Gardner Run. The easiest way to make the trip, whether in your own canoe or one you can rents from Bragg, is to leave your car at the Canoe Outpost and take one of the Outpost's busses up-river to Gardner. The staff will put your canoe in the water and then it's up to you to enjoy the 16 mile paddle back to the outpost in Arcadia. At a leisurely rate this take 4 1/2 to 5 hours.

If you don't want to spend that much time, there is also a 10 mile run which takes 3 1/2 to 4 hours. For those who want to spend more time on the river, there are two overnight trips that Brag recommends.

The shorter of the two trips is from Zolfo Springs to the Gardner Outpost. This 23 mile experience involves eight to nine hours of paddling. The longer trip, from Zolfo Springs to Arcadia is 40 miles. Plan on 12-14 hours of paddling.

Camping is allowed along parts of the river unless the land is posted. Generally it's safe to camp close to the edge of the river. When you start to climb to the tops of the banks is when you may encounter posted signs. As a courtesy to the land owner always respect private property rights.

Canoe Outpost owns 150 acres of land about 5 miles upriver from the Arcadia Outpost. It is reserved for the use of their clients and include a number of campsites. The sites connect to each other by a nature trail which winds its way through oak forests, pine flatwoods and a cypress head. After a day of paddling a hike in the woods is a great way to stretch your legs and enjoy a change of scenery.

You can paddle the Peace river any time of year Bragg claims. "Around Memorial Day the river can be very low and you may have to get out and push and pull the canoes over a few sand bars. In the summer we get a lot of youth groups and families doing day trips. The river is starting to rise and its hot so there isn't much camping."

"In the fall the river begins to drop and camping gets real popular again. December is slow because of the holidays. In February, activity will start to pick up if it gets warm enough. But there's no reason why you can't paddle the river even in the winter"

If you can do it, the best time of the week to go is during the weekdays. This time of year you'll probably be able to canoe long stretches of the river without seeing anyone else. When that happens, you'll understand the meaning of the term, "Peace Paddler."

For more information call the Peace River Canoe Outpost at 941-494-1215 or write them at 2816 N.W. County Road 661, Arcadia, FL 33821

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