Time Traveling on Florida's Blueway
Paddle your cares away on the ancient Great Calusa Blueway this fall.
Craggy mangroves guide your path along the vivid blue water. Your paddle makes quiet whooshing noises as you push through the maze. The sun shines brightly overhead as you slowly make your way, drinking in the wildlife. Waterbound trees open to a lagoon where a critter is noshing on a worm, and you’re alone, lost in your own thoughts.
This experience is one that is felt by many visitors and locals on The Great Calusa Blueway, yet the trails stay calm and private. “There is no real way to tell how many people use the trail every year, but that is what makes it magical,” says Betsy Clayton, Lee County communications director and one of the Calusa Blueway creators.
The 190-mile Great Calusa Blueway was created as a way for people who love the water to see even more than what can be viewed from the coastline or a normal boat. Before the Blueway was created, it was a meandering maze, which is why the trails were mapped out as a much-needed way to get around.
“Explore ancient trails,” reads the Blueway’s website. These trails are a tribute to the Calusa Indians who used dugouts to paddle to places in southwest Florida. Along the way, you can see grass flats and historic sites like Mound Key and Pineland. “You feel like you’re a time traveler,” says Clayton.
“My favorite parts of the Blueway are the mangrove tunnels (trees that can put their feet in the salt water). You feel like you’re in Central America. There are blush colored birds, lagoons – it is like being in a snow globe without the shiver,” she adds.
Aside from the website and outfitters where maps are available, the Blueway has an app available for both iPhone and Android’. Paddlers can get maps, resources, safety tips and even information about the Blueway’s history.
And what would a Southern site be without a festival? The Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival, scheduled for November 1-3 this year, started in 2006 as a way to offer one-stop shopping for what paddlers can get all year round on the Blueway. There are speakers, lessons, even ways to try out watercrafts. “It’s like a miniature Disney World for paddlers,” says Clayton.
The Great Calusa Blueway is located in southwest Florida with put-in spots all over Lee County. Maps can be ordered from calusablueway.com. The app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play.
Photos courtesy of Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau.