In Jupiter, Florida, where Indiantown Road crosses over the Loxahatchee River, an alligator lies motionless in the dark water under the overpass. Only his head breaks the surface. He is watching a great blue heron standing on the rocks under the overpass, at the water’s edge. Both are still as they anticipate the other’s next move. As my kayak enters the dark waters, the alligator’s head sinks under the surface. The heron has been spared, and I paddle like hell.
That wasn’t the only alligator we saw as we kayaked 2.5 miles of the Loxahatchee River. We spotted our first gator not even a minute into the trip. He was our ice breaker. The website said we’d see gators on every corner, but a part of me didn’t believe that. Well, they weren’t lying. Most of the gators we paddled by were resting along the shoreline. We kept our kayaks dead center in the river. I’ve seen many alligators before this trip, from an airboat, at a zoo, standing on an observation deck, and even riding past them on a bike. However, there is something eerily different about seeing a gator in the water when you are in a kayak. You are so close to their immediate environment that you almost feel like you are intruding. Nevertheless, the gators only watched us as we paddled by and appeared unfazed. I still couldn’t help myself from calling out “GATOR UP AHEAD!” whenever I spotted one.
As we left the canoe launch, we paddled under a stone bridge and through a wide part of the river. The water was calm as glass and spotted with lily pads. I kept thinking about how many gators were probably lurking under the water. This part of the river reminded me all too much of the Everglades. After kayaking over Lainhart Dam (which was fun and not nearly as scary as it looks), the current picked up and we weaved our way through the narrow, winding river and tried to avoid head-on collisions with the cypress trees.
We stopped at Masten Dam for a snack break. You can continue past Masten Dam and turn around when you reach I-95, but we decided to head back, as it was late in the afternoon and we didn’t know how long it would take to fight the current on the way back.
We rented our kayaks from Canoe Outfitters at Riverbend Park. We got two single kayaks because we are married and know better ;). I was especially glad to be in my own kayak after Todd fell out of his before even getting completely in it! There is a gift shop where you can buy food and drinks for your trip, but we filled up our CamelBaks and brought some protein bars. That’s really all you need for this trip, since it’s not very long.
What’s great about Riverbend Park is that it is one of the few parts left of old Florida. When the land was purchased in 1978, Palm Beach County officials didn’t know of the area’s historical significance. It wasn’t until the early 1990s when hired archaeologists discovered the land had been home to two 19th-century Seminole villages and two battles of the Seminole wars–the only two battles to have been fought in PBC.