St. Lucie Inlet Preserve is a unique location for paddlers that is entirely dependent on the tides. Kayakers can launch at the end of Cove Rd in Stuart, Fla., and paddle across the Intracoastal Waterway to duck into the mangroves at marker #7. This trip is best made with the assistance of someone experienced with the area as it is easy to miss a turn when paddling mangroves.
As our group of paddlers rounded the first turn we were greeted by a leaping stingray. It wasn’t long after that before we were seeing osprey fishing as well as herons, egrets, pelicans and other shorebirds. I even managed to see my first kingfisher. This location is definitely popular with the birds.
As we moved through the estuary it seemed that we were in our own personal paradise. Leaping fish abounded, safe from the threat of fisherman in motorboats due to the nature of the estuary and its tides. At low tide the bay we were currently traversing becomes a mudflat crawling with Fiddler crabs. Now, at neap tide, the mangroves were alive with scuttling crabs climbing the branches, the “click, click” of their legs the only sound as we drifted past them in quiet contemplation.
Our trip leader expertly guided us through a hidden mangrove tunnel and led us on to an equally hidden landing where we were able to pull our kayaks on shore. We grabbed our lunches and followed a short shaded path about a hundred feet to a secluded beach on the Atlantic.
After a brief lunch break we packed up and headed back to our kayaks to begin our alternate route out of the mangroves along a man-made cut back to the active channel on the Great Pocket of the Indian River. A stiff wind met us, but persistent paddling finally landed us back at the put-in at Cove Road. The overall length of this trip was 5.5 miles.