tampabay.com

A trail unlike anything else

Organizers with the Department of Protection call it "the saltwater version of the Appalachian Trail."

By TERRY TOMALIN
Published January 16, 2007


Organizers with the Department of Protection call it "the saltwater version of the Appalachian Trail."

Stretching from Big Lagoon State Park near Pensacola and running down the west coast, out around the Florida Keys, up the east coast to Fort Clinch State Park near the Georgia border, this 1,500-mile route will allow sea kayakers to paddle around Florida.

When completed in 2008, the State Kayak Trail will have 26 segments.

"We have tried to keep all the segments pretty much the same length, 60 or 70 miles," said Doug Alderson, the driving force behind the trail. "We are in various stages of the planning process but in the end we will have clearly marked routes that go along both coasts."

The Space Coast Trail (segment 22) - featured in this series - was completed in June 2005. Like the other trails, it showcases some of Florida's unique ecosystems.

Eventually, the whole trail will include 20 national parks, seashores, wildlife refuges and marine sanctuaries, 37 Florida aquatic preserves and 47 state parks, along with dozens of city and county parks and preserves.

Each trail will have a series of primitive campsites about 10 to 15 miles apart.

Segments 1 (Pensacola Fort Pickens), 2 (Santa Rosa Sound/Emerald Coast) and 3 (Panama City/St. Andrews) are open on the Panhandle.

The Big Bend Saltwater Paddling Trail, the subject of a similar series in the Times in 2004, is fully operational.

Segments 9 (Tampa Bay/Longboat Key), 11 (Charlotte Harbor), 13 (Rookery Bay/10,000 Islands) and 15 (the Florida Keys Saltwater Paddling Trail) have new maps and guides available.

On Florida's east coast, paddlers can explore Segment 21 (Vero Beach/Indian River) and the Space Coast Trail, as well as Segment 26 (Timucuan Trails/Fort Clinch).

For information, visit dep.state.fl.us.