I have heard about Blue Cypress Lake since arriving in Florida three years ago. It is supposed to be a wild place full of migratory birds, lots of gators and, of course, cypress trees. I signed up with an outfitter to paddle the lake several times. But each time the trips were cancelled because of high winds or too few participants. I really wanted to go with someone who had paddled the lake before. So when Chuck, one of the trip organizers for the Treasure Coast Kayakers Group posted a paddle on the lake, I cleared my calendar so that I could participate.
Blue Cypress Lake is less than twenty-five miles from Vero Beach, west on SR60. There is only one road into the lake. Blue Cypress Road takes you some five miles over a dirt road into the tiny community of Blue Cypress Village, Middleton's Fish camp and the lakefront park.
The group, mostly from Fort Pierce, Jensen Beach and Palm Beach gathered at the park at 8:30. We launched from a grassy bank adjacent to the park's boat ramp, paddled a short distance down a small creek and were on the lake. We were in the middle of the West side of the lake. Turning turned left, we headed North along the western shore. We didn't explore the whole lake, but this NW shoreline appeared to be the wildest part of the lake.
We paddled some three to four miles, cutting back among the big cypress trees, looking for wildlife. I saw several gators and turtles. One of our group reported seeing otters. And there were ducks of various kinds and fish crows. But the most abundant wildlife was the Osprey. There were dozens of them with nests everywhere. The nests were brimming with chicks nearly ready to fledge. They called incessantly, while their parents, foraging for food answered them as they circled above.
After paddling about three miles, Chuck announced that we needed to cross the lake and proceed along the opposite shore. I headed across with Joseph D. right behind. We were going at a good clip (Joseph said it was 5.5 mph). It was just under three miles to the opposite shore. When we stopped to catch our breath we saw that no one was behind us. Straining to look back over two miles of water, we could nearly make out a group of kayakers gathered together near the spot we had started from. We finished our crossing. When we looked again, the group was paddling slowly along the same shore, returning the same way that had come.
There was nothing to do but recross the lake to rejoin the group. Joseph and I vowed to make it back to the take-out ahead of the other group, even though they had a substantial lead. The lake was flat calm, something that rarely happens, and the day was hot and humid with clouds building to what would probably be a typical Florida summer afternoon shower. We took off for the take-out creek at a furious pace. I was sweating so profusely that I had to stop to hydrate and scoop water into my hat, dumping a warm water shower on my head to run down my back. I was pretty tired by the time we made it back to the creek, ahead of the shoreline group. Joseph said we had maintained a 5.5 mph pace for the three mile crossing. Not bad!
After Joseph and I had left for the far shore, Chuck had a discussion with the shoreline paddlers. The consensus was that given the iffy weather conditions, it would be wise to head back to the take-out. Joseph and I didn't get the memo.
Back at the launch, I loaded my gear and boat. I finished just as the rain and distant thunder began. The decision to return was a good one.