Paddleboarding Nature in The Palm Beaches

May 18, 2018

A local blogger tells her story of paddleboarding the Loxahatchee River

This article was written for Discover The Palm Beaches by South Florida blogger and native Floridian  Mandy Mizell.

I have been a paddler for 11 years. I always wanted to surf, but growing up on the Gulf Coast of Florida we were rarely blessed with waves. When stand-up paddleboards (SUP) hit Florida around 2007, I went to the single surf shop that had them and threw $1,200 on my AmEx card. I remember my dad yelling at me for being frivolous, but 11 years later, the debt has been long paid off and the same board, “Big Brody,” is still with me.


A paddleboard is the ultimate way to see nature in The Palm Beaches.

When I moved to The Palm Beaches a few years ago, the first way I explored my new hometown was to get out and paddle. The South Florida SUP routes challenged me much more than the calm waters of my hometown along the Gulf Coast. Now, I make sure to take the time out to “stroke out” as much as possible. Being on the water has great psychological benefits in addition to being an excellent workout. Lately I’ve been pushing myself on board, learning how to paddle surf or going on more challenging routes.

Paddling Riverbend Park in Jupiter is one of the most exhilarating paddles in The Palm Beaches. It is along the Loxahatchee River, carving through preserved cypress forest. Cypress trees are an essential part of the South Florida ecosystem, separating the eastern pine forests from the Everglades on the west from the Palm Beaches. The wildlife is not typical of what is on a standard Florida postcard. There are no dolphins, pelicans, or seagulls in this freshwater ecosystem; instead, visitors glimpse freshwater turtles sunning on submerged trunks, view herons tucked in the mangroves and, if you are lucky, take a gander at a gator. Along the Loxahatchee, you see the Real Florida even some locals have yet to encounter.


The Loxahatchee is nearly untouched. It is a trip back in time.

There is no feeling like paddling a route for the first time; it is like a first date. You’re a little nervous but excited. Riverbend gives a “super date” feeling; with low-hanging branches and prevalent wildlife, it feels like you are paddling the jungle. The hot Florida sun is broken with phases of thermoclines under shady trees, trapping cool air over the river. There are points on the trail where I lay flat on my board to go under trees. I once took a branch to the face when I was distracted by tailing a small school of fish. Luckily, my adventures have only brought laughs and minimal injuries.

Read Mandy's original account of her trip along the beautful Loxahatchee on her blog, The Global Local.

Exploring Riverbend by SUP is preferred since the thin fins of a board can slice between lily pads that tangles propellers and slows kayaks. Just when you feel as if you are entering the exotic Everglades with the soundtrack of ospreys calling, you coast under the I-95 bridge with passing cars and realize how wild civilization can be. Continue paddling past the bridge to catch a view of Masten Dam and watch the river waters rush. You need to stop and carry your vessel over the dam; it is a great opportunity to snap some pictures.

 


A paddleboard is perfect for gliding over river plants.
A tiki hut that is part of Riverbend Park can be seen in the distance.

If you take a spill, rest easy that the water is shallow and not much can be swimming below. Do not fear hearing a splash behind you! It’s likely not a mega gator but instead a silver mullet dancing into the air. Mullets are a usual suspect in fish spread appetizers at local restaurants.

If you have a few paddles under your belt and consider yourself fit, paddle the jungle! You will feel like a conquistador, navigating wild and undisturbed Florida. You may even be braver, since many early explorers chickened out on their Everglades expeditions and reported sighting unicorns to Spanish royalty. Talk about cheating on your homework! I sadly did not see a single mythical beast on my paddles, not even Skunk Ape. But I have seen a family of river otters there, which are much cuter.

To start your adventure, contact a rental shop and give them your weight and height so they can bring a board and paddle that suits you comfortably. My favorite local shop, Blueline Surf & Paddle Co, will deliver the board to location with 24 hours notice ahead.

Welcome to the jungle, my friends! And as always, live global and stay local.

Mandy Mizell is a proud Floridian, animal lover, avid paddler, and a self-described science nerd. She is the creator of the popular local blog The Global Local and has a well-followed Instagram account. Mandy's clothes supplied by MG Surfline.

Locations:

Riverbend Park
Entrance west of I-95
9060 Indiantown Rd, Jupiter, FL 33478
Both Entry and Parking is Free
 
Blueline Surf & Paddle Co.
997 Highway A1A
Jupiter, FL 33458
561-744-7474
 

Gear:

-Bug spray
-Drinking water
-Sunscreen
-Water shoes

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