Friday, December 30, 2011

Collier Seminole State Park Guided Canoe Trip

We had looked over Collier Seminole State Park Campground yesterday, and saw that although we could possibly fit in a couple of spaces, it was a very tight campground. The campground is small, laid out in a triangle, sort of, and the organization of it looked tight all the way around. There were tons of tent campers in there mixed in with some fifth wheels and travel trailers. No more than a couple of motorhomes in there, and nobody bigger than about 36 feet. It just didn't look very inviting....

The park itself is VERY cool...there's an interesting welcome center inside the park...small, but architecturally cool....
There was a walking dredge machine that was used to build the Tamiami Trail back in the 1920's, and a great canoe launch and boat dock with a resident gator....I guess the alligators' territories are very limited...their whole lives are spent in a very small area...Here's the resident gator keeping an eye on things....

We checked out the canoe rental yesterday, and found it was very reasonable...$5.30 an hour. What we didn't realize is, when we got information about the guided nature tour through the mangroves, there was nothing said about an ADDITIONAL fee of 25.00 a person to go on the guided trip.  So we thought the canoe rental included the guided tour. We almost backed out at the time of renting the canoes at the shock of paying 50.00 for the two of us, but we gulped and paid after a LOT of encouragement from others standing around about how great the tour was. (Yeah, and I bet they all worked for the park, says E.) We were really glad we decided to go ahead and book the guided canoe trip. It was WELL worth it! And besides, all the money goes to improvements for the park.

We had a fantastic guide, Diane, and for three hours (only about 2 1/2 hours of actual paddling), we were entertained with stories and information about the mangroves, and the native Americans who inhabited the area first....She really knew her history and nature stuff, and her love for the Everglades and mangroves really showed through her narration....I always thought paddling through the mangroves was rather boring until I learned all the stuff I learned today..

We learned so many things on this tour...That the mangroves are the best line of defense during a hurricane..They have a triangular based root system, which in nature, is the strongest formation against high winds. They have a unique filtering system to survive the salt water and thrive....When developers take out the mangroves for condos and high rises, they remove nature's best windbreak for hurricanes. Different types of mangroves (black ones and red ones) propagate differently. Some bear fruit which grows into an elongated "pod" which drops into the water and can live for up to two years (!)  floating around until it gets implanted somewhere and starts a baby mangrove tree. See that little "tail" sticking out of the fruit above? That's the pod shaped structure starting...The pod has a fancy name, but I don't remember it now....

We learned about the tree snails that have beautiful patterns that grow in the hammocks of the mangrove and the Everglades....The Seminole Indians use some of the snail patterns in their garments...We learned that the Seminoles outsmarted and outfoxed the U.S. government in their attempts to push out the Seminoles to reservations. The Seminoles knew how to navigate the mangroves, to walk in them, and to hide. They ambushed the U.S. soldiers so many times that the U.S. government gave up trying to get them out. The Seminoles never surrendered, and they are the only Indian tribe to have never signed a treaty of any kind. They are a proud people and rightly so....

It was a beautiful day out on the water...We saw a wood stork flying, they are beautiful birds in the air, but they sure look sorta ugly on the ground! You wouldn't think they would be such graceful flyers judging from their appearance when standing. We saw grebes, a kind of duck, and the usual egrets and herons. And we saw the resident alligator at the boat landing--- on the other side. Lots of people were out on the canals today...Including this guy and his best friend...

We really enjoyed talking to the volunteer guides today...Eldy and Sparky are THINKING about volunteering down the road at national or state parks or campgrounds, so we are getting all the information straight hand from the volunteers out there now...It's fun to hear their the two Italian friends in their 80's from New Jersey who went out on the canoe tour last year, and argued and yelled at each other how to steer and navigate the canoe the entire trip! It was a great tour, and we highly recommend it!

The canoes were the most comfortable canoes I have ever been in...padded seats with kayak style back rests....Mad River Canoes, I believe....They looked more like kayaks than canoes...

How did Sparky and Eldo do together in the canoe? They were an AWESOME team! Except Eldy was such a strong paddler, Sparky had to work twice as hard to compensate for his strong paddling skills to keep the canoe straight! He thought he was being very helpful at paddling hard....But we both got a good workout today, at any rate.....

We'll sleep well tonight! Tomorrow is our last day here in beautiful Naples...sniff, sniff! Eldy's sad to be leaving this beautiful area, too...We've got a great last activity to do...Got a Groupon coupon at more than half off to take a sunset dolphin cruise taking off from the Port Sanibel marina...THAT should be way cool! We'll see you on the boat, New Year's Eve!


  1. We paddled the Black River at Collier Seminole last January but without a guide. Thanks for sharing what you learned...well worth the price!!! I think we paddled with the arguing couple last year...we finally had to head in a different direction if we hope to see any wildlife ;o))

  2. I'm glad you had such a nice trip. Maybe now you'll be able to get Eldy out paddling more often. That canoe looked more like a kayak to me too

    That's why we have two saves on the arguments. :)

  3. Great trip. Do you know if they will let you bring your own kayaks? I'd love to do it but don't really want to rent a canoe. You should get a cut for all the folks you are encouraging to take this tour!

    If you like to stay in one place for 2 or 3+ months, volunteering seems like a great thing to do. Free site!

  4. I commend you for getting in that water with gators around - I sure wouldn't be up to it.

    Happy New Year.

  5. Glad you ponied up for the paddle trip because I enjoyed reading about it. Unless you object, I've linked it on my state parks web magazine,