Great Calusa Blueway & Imperial River
The Great Calusa Blueway is one of southwest Florida’s largest outdoor activity resources, hidden in plain sight. Since it’s on the water, you do have go out on the bays and rivers see it. If you’ve been on Estero Bay you may have even passed the signature trail markers which display the crisscross design of a canoe paddle and a kayak paddle with the marker number. By the way, all of the markers loosely coincide with indicators on the trail maps located on The Great Calusa Blueway official website. The maps are not actual navigation charts but guidelines for getting around the bay, so don’t end up on the news.
The Estero Bay Blueway trail actually beings in Bonita Springs at the Imperial River, just east of where the river empties into Fishtrap Bay. You should easily find “marker 1” at the opening of the waterway trail which is unofficially called “The Snake”. I recommend that you Google Earth that area, if you haven’t already. This area is great paddling and there aren’t many motorized vessels back there due to the depth of the water. You’ll enjoy a quiet paddle, see plenty of water fowl and the usual jumping mullet. If you take the longer route when it forks, there are more trails and less wind.
Changing tides can affect the direction of the water flow through this shallow area so check the tides to make sure that Mother Nature will cooperate with the direction you plan on going. If you’re lucky you can grab a snack and go with the flow for a while. Since you’re paddling through a large mangrove estuary you’ll hear very little man made noise and won’t see any buildings until you come out at “marker 3” where you’ll be greeted by the high rises of Bonita Bay.
The Blueway marker trail continues along the east side mangroves for miles and, in fact, circles the entire bay and exits out Matanzas Pass at the north end of Fort Myers, Beach. The last time we paddled we started at the Imperial River boat ramp on US 41, through the first four segments of the Blueway and out to Bay Park North near Big Hickory Seafood Grille and Marina. It was one of our first trips paddling since the water warmed back up so we didn’t want to overdo it.
If you’re looking for something to do this summer consider exploring The Great Calusa Blueway. You can start planning by visiting the website: www.CalusaBlueway.com. When you get to the website click the tab labeled “Plan” and it will launch a list of links for The Blueway maps which take some digging to find.
The Blueway site is comprehensive so there is a ton of information including tips for places to put in, lists of local outfitters if you need to rent watercraft, accommodations near the trail or places to overnight along the way. There are even links to Blueway maps for Pine Island Sound and the Caloosahatchee River if you exhaust your travels on Estero Bay, this summer. Best of all, they now have a mobile app you can download to your smart phone.
Have a fun, safe time paddling the Blueway this summer. Make sure you pack plenty of provisions and let someone know where you’re going so they can check up on you later to make sure you made it home safely. Happy trails!
This article special to Southwest Spotlight Newspaper
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