Little Manatee River Wimauma, Fla Dec 6, 2012

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Vicki and I discussed getting a tandem kayak so she could go along on more of my kayak trips. We decided to rent one while in Florida from Canoe Outpost in Wimauama to see if we could handle a tandem together. We paddled on the Little Manatee River where it flows through the Little Manatee River State Park.
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The water level was a bit low due to a lack of rain. It was very sandy at the start, and the water was very clear.  We hit bottom several times, but were able to get going again with no trouble.
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The weather was warm again, with temps in the low 80's and partly cloudy skies.

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There were a couple of downed trees, with very narrow openings around them, but we were able to get around them with no problems. The slow current made it easier, too. We'll have to see how that works with the stronger currents back home.

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 Vicki didn't do a lot of paddling because her wrist was still sore, so she was in charge of taking pictures.

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There were a lot of mullet swimming in the shallow water, and turtles on almost every downed tree and along the banks.
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 We took our time going down the river. We were in no hurry, just enjoying the nice weather and the different plants and trees that we don't see in Michigan.
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 There were several hawks along the river.
 
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The state park has a screened in building near the river with picnic tables where we stopped for lunch. We met two other couples who were kayaking also. They all seemed disappointed they hadn't seen any alligators. Vicki wasn't disappointed. She didn't really want to see any.

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Back on the water after lunch.
 
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The water was getting deeper but the low water levels were evident as the lilly pads were  quite a ways out of the water. And the bottom was darker so you couldn't see very deep into the water.
 
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As we passed one log, Vicki spotted an alligator sunning himself on the bank. We weren't more than fifteen feet away when we spotted it. It looked to be 6-8' long. We turned the kayak around to get a picture of it.

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More turtles sunning themselves. We must have seen close to a hundred in all.

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The sunken boat that meant we were near our takeout.
 
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 A short paddle, about 2-1/2 hours with the lunch break. But it seemed to go well with the tandem kayak. We'll have to look for a used one so we can go together on more trips.
 
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Total miles paddled today: 4 miles. Year to date: 269.6 miles

Mangrove Tunnel Tour, Palmetto, Florida Dec 4, 2012

My father-in-law owns a trailer in Florida, and due to health problems, he decided to rent it out this year. My wife and I decided to go down for a week to clean it up and get it ready. We couldn't go to a state with so much water without taking some time to go kayaking. I contacted Shan-T Native Kayak Tours to tour the Mangrove tunnels in Emerson Point Preserve near Palmetto.

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Vicki sprained her wrist a couple of weeks ago, so she didn't want to make it worse by kayaking. Other than the guide, an older couple were the only other paddlers in the group. It was a wonderfully warm day with temps in the mid 80's and partly cloudy skies.
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The water was very still. The only current was the incoming tide.
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The paddle started down a narrow channel before entering the mangrove tunnel.

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The exposed roots and overhanging branches teamed with little black crabs that scurried away as we approached. They were a bit camera shy.

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 After paddling a couple hundred yards, the tunnel opened into Terra Ceia Bay.

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 The water was very calm, and with only a slight headwind the paddling was easy.There were several osprey in the surrounding trees, and brown pelicans everywhere.

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We crossed a couple of hundred yards of open water to get to Emerson Bayou. The water was mirror flat, broken only by the occasional mullet jumping.

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We passed through another short narrow mangrove tunnel that was very difficult to find, and entered a large shallow lagoon. We explored the lagoon, finding several conch snails and their egg sacks on the lagoon floor. The whole area was full of wildlife.
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We paddled back out into Emerson Bayou after about an hour of exploring. It could be very easy to miss the passage if you didn't know where it was.
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View of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge from the bay.
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The wind at our backs made the paddle back a little easier.
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Re-entering the mangrove tunnels on the way back to the launch site. Another difficult to find passage that without a guide would have made it impossible to explore.
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About a 2-1/2 hour paddle. We learned a lot about the area, and may return here next year and do some more exploring. If I do return here, I will need to invest in a GPS.

Miles paddled: 2.7. Year to date miles: 265.6
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