Day Trip: Paddling the Turner River

 The Turner River is close enough to Sanibel for a day trip and provides an abundance of views and wildlife watching opportunities. Photo by Judith Biery. 

The Turner River is close enough to Sanibel for a day trip and provides an abundance of views and wildlife watching opportunities. Photo by Judith Biery. 

From natural springs to wild, uninhabited mangrove islands, Florida offers an abundance of beautiful paddling destinations. Just an hour and a half from Sanibel, along the Tamiami Trail, is one of our favorite places for a day trip – The Turner River. 

Located in the Everglades, the river winds through a variety habitats and offers an abundance of breathtaking views and wildlife watching opportunities. It is possible to arrange guided tours out of Everglades City, but we prefer to transport our own paddlecraft to the parking and launch site just west of the intersection of Tamiami Trail and Turner River Road. 

Paddling trail maps for the area are available on the Big Cypress National Preserve section of the nps.gov website, and you should familiarize yourself before you go. We prefer an in-and-out style trip, because it can be easily adapted to suit your group’s energy level and schedule. Heading south towards Chokoloskee (about 10 miles total distance), you will pass through cypress forest, pinelands, prairie, pond apple trees, and mangroves. The gradually changing landscape means there is always something new to look at along the way. 

Common sightings include turtles, alligators, numerous bird species, and orchids and bromeliads. On a recent paddle, we spotted a Big Cypress fox squirrel, an orange-colored subspecies of the Eastern fox squirrel that is endemic to the area.  

If you decide to go, arrive early to ensure that parking is available. Weekdays provide a better opportunity for a quiet paddle than busier weekends. Pack plenty of snacks, water, sunscreen, and other necessities, as this is a remote region. Happy paddling!

Ocean Tribe Paddlers is a club hosted by Sanibel Sea School that helps the SWFL paddling community better explore, enjoy, and understand the ocean. Visit oceantribepaddlers.org or follow us on Facebook to learn more.