Perhaps one of the most enchanting hidden corners of Florida is the mangrove tunnels and pristine barrier islands off of the Southwest Coast between Naples and Marco Island. Journey with us into the wondrous realm of Rookery Bay and the alluring waters off of the Isle of Capri. In this landscape of wading birds and tree crabs, the sunlit tunnels of a mangrove canopied corridor lures one further into the world of a Florida long ago remembered. If fortune smiles upon us, we may spot a gentle manatee or some playful dolphins frolicking off of the coast. Be prepared to swim or explore the beaches of the barrier islands that gaze dreamily from this vantage point out into the Gulf of Mexico. We will see birds, marine mammals and other sights of nature.
Lunch: Lunch in a local restaurant or picnicAfternoon: FIELD TRIP/LECTURE: Marco Island Historical Museum
The new Marco Island Historical Museum will bring to life the history of Southwest Florida’s Calusa Indians, a vanished civilization that is very important to the make p of this region. An expert led lecture will unravel mysteries of the Calusa, from the unique Shell Mounds to being responsible for the untimely death of Spanish discoverer Ponce de Leon.
Dinner: Dinner at a local restaurant.Evening: After dinner, you will have time on your own to rest or explore the area.Lodging: Port of the Island ResortMeals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Explore with us the jungle-like stretches of the beautiful Estero River as we navigate its twisting and turning oxbows. Live Oaks hang lazily over the river spilling long beards of Spanish Moss toward the water’s crystal clear surface. Here, it is easy for us to imagine what Florida was like in the first days of pioneer settlement. Watch for abundant wildlife along the surrounding shores and swimming in the waters alongside the canoe.
Before we begin our paddle we will tour the Koreshan Unity, an idealistic commune established on the banks of the Estero River during the waning years of the nineteenth century. This village has now been turned into a state park. Learn how Dr. Cyrus Teed attempted to bring to life his “New Jerusalem,” founded on the principles that he received during a “divine illumination” in 1869. The settlement buildings of the Koreshan Unity have been restored to their appearance during the early years of the 20th century. Discover the intriguing reasons why this settlement is now a historic site instead of a living community.
We put in at Koreshan State Historic Site where Halfway Creek enters from the south. From this point to Estero Bay, predominant vegetation is mangrove and on higher ground some Australian and Sand pine. Passing a number of small bays and side streams, the river enters Estero Bay and tidal influence becomes quite pronounced. Wildlife viewing possibilities on river: alligators and various birds; Bay: a variety of birds as well as marine life (horseshoe crabs, stingrays, fish).
Lunch: Boxed LunchAfternoon: FIELD TRIP: Mound Key - Calusa “Capital”
We continue the paddle across the stunning, shallow, sun-dappled waters of Estero Bay as we examine the rich ecosystem upon which the native peoples of Southwest Florida constructed their prosperous society. See native birds, mangrove islands and rich estuarine breeding grounds on the way to a hidden alcove marking the entrance to the State archaeological treasure we call: Mound Key.
Climb with us to the top of Mound One, the highest point in Southwest Florida and legendary home of the King of the Calusa Empire. From here, witness the realm over which these talented and industrious people ruled. Descend to the ancient water court, an inner sanctum for the native Calos, here in their capital city.
Learn of the various peoples who made this 125 acre island home for the past 2000 years, from the Calusa, to the Spanish missionaries, to an aging pirate, some Cuban fisherman far from home, and members of a now-defunct utopian commune that settled on the island in the late Victorian era.Dinner: Enjoy dinner at a local restaurantEvening: After dinner, you will have time on your own to rest or explore the area.Lodging: Port of the Island ResortMeals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Barefoot Beach Preserve consists of over 300 acres on a barrier Island. It is bordered by the gulf of Mexico, sand dunes, mangroves and tidal black bays. It is one of the last stretches of undeveloped beachfront land in South Florida. This paddle brings us back in time to an area that has remained rich and unspoiled for more than a hundred years.
We put in at Cocohatchee River Park Marina. This area is mangrove estuary. From the marina, we enter a boat channel which leads us to the secluded marked paddling trail of Barefoot Beach Preserve (FL Pristine Waters). We will land the kayaks and explore the Saylor Nature Trail (variety of native vegetation and Gopher Tortoise sanctuary) or stroll along the beach. We will also paddle along the Delnor –Wiggins State Beach (barrier island).
Wildlife viewing possibilities: Coastal and wading birds, dolphins, manatee, and a variety of fish and shellfish.
Lunch: Lunch in a local restaurantAfternoon: LECTURE: Wild Florida given by a Master NaturalistDinner: Dinner at a local restaurant.Evening: After dinner, you will have time on your own to rest or explore the area.Lodging: Port of the Island ResortMeals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
The East River flows through Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve, just west of Everglades National Park. It is a beautiful and varied creek, passing through a succession of small lakes and canopied mangrove tunnels before widening into a tidal river. The mangrove tunnels are particularly beautiful, becoming larger and more majestic with each passing mile. Alligators may be seen in the river's upper section, as well as a variety of birds.Lunch: Lunch either be a picnic or held in a local restaurant.Afternoon: FIELD TRIP/ LECTURE: Everglades City & Chokoloskee
Take a settlement at the end of the world, add a legendary gentlemen’s fishing and hunting lodge, bring in a daring financier with the determination to build a road across the Everglades, lay out an imposing city with a grid of wide boulevards and a town circle, then let it all stew for one hundred years of hurricanes, financial ruin, smugglers, intrigue and isolation and you get…Everglades City.
We will also explore the historic fishing village of Chokoloskee where you will be visiting an old Indian Trading Post – virtually unchanged since the day it was built. A lecture by a local author and historian will tell the story of this frontier town.
Dinner: Farewell DinnerLodging: Port of the Island ResortMeals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner