Saint Sebastian River, June 2015


It had been months since I last paddled the St. Sebastian River.  So on Wednesday night last week I decided I would get up early next morning and see what the river had to offer.  I wanted to get an early start.  Our weather has been HOT! -  and humid with daytime temperatures in the mid 90’s and humidity about the same.  So I loaded my gear and was on the road to Dale Wimbrow Park, just minutes away, before 7 am.  My goal was to paddle up the river’s north fork to the park on Watervaliet Road, and return.  In my mind it was about a three mile paddle that would let me poke along and still get back before the sun was too high in the sky.  Well, I was very wrong about the distance.  For a number of reasons I never made it to Watervaliet Road.  After paddling five miles with no park in sight, I found the upper river badly blocked by snags and falls.  There must have been high-water at some point to create these snags and falls, though the river water on this day was low and we were in a mild drought situation.  After working my way through two of these falls and coming upon a third, I decided to take a break, then head back down stream.  

Trip Data:

Distance Traveled: 10.5 Miles

Moving Average Speed: 3.0 mph

Moving Time: 3h:30m

Stopped: 11m: 29s

Max Speed: 4.9 mph


I had been disappointed by the lack of visible wildlife on my upstream paddle.  But that was about to change.  Soon after clearing the second of the river blockages I came upon a big old alligator called “Big Al”.  Big Al is the king of this section of the river.  He is old and he is big being about eleven feet in length.  When I first spotted him he was completely out of the water and really impressive to look at.  The river at that point was about forty feet wide.  As I drifted closer, Big All started moving toward the water.  This did not please me.  But he stopped, partly in the water until i passed and he could go back to relaxing on the river bank.  


After leaving Big Al behind and paddling for another mile I came across two more smaller alligators, one, about four and a half feet long,  on the river bank, and a smaller one in the water.  The little fella swam close to the front of my boat, then submerged and wasn’t seen again.  Further down the river, I heard some large splashing over my left shoulder.  I turned to see several Manatees playing nearby.   Now, Manatees are gentle herbivores.  But they are also eleven to twelve feet long and weigh over fifteen hundred pounds.  When they get splashing around, it’s pretty impressive!  I kept my distance and watched, filming what I could.  The video below documents the trip in some detail.

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