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Water Trails > The Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail

The Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail (FL)

Length: 190 miles
Where: SW Florida coastal waters from Cayo Costa and Charlotte Harbor south through Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass to Estero Bay and the Imperial River in Bonita Springs. Newest leg: Caloosahatchee River and its tributaries
Accomodations: With miles of white sand beaches along the trail finding a spot to launch a vessel is easy. From beach side parks to marinas - most offer conveniences like parking, ramps, and restroom facilities.

The Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail is a 190-mile marked canoe and kayak route that meanders from Bonita Springs, north to Pine Island, and inland up the Caloosahatchee River. On the blueway, novice to experienced paddlers can get up close with outstanding flora and fauna while exploring back bays, aquatic preserves, wildlife refuges, creeks, bayous, rivers, and mangrove forests. Many of the trails follow the course charted some 2,000 years ago by the area's earliest residents, the Calusa Indians.

Many nature photographers and wildlife enthusiasts travel to Southwest Florida to experience its diverse animal population and forty percent of Florida's endangered and threatened species can be found in the estuaries. For this among other reasons, it is very important that tourists and residents alike work to maintain ethical ecotourism practices.

One major event is the Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival, which is a ten day festival spanning the waterfront comunities of Lee County, Florida. The fourth-annual event will take place from October 23rd until November 1, 2009.

pdf file maps of the Trail:

Areas of Interest:

  • Bowditch Point Regional Park
    Take a trolley to the northern tip of Fort Myers Beach to this 17.5-acre park facility where amenities include a "village deck" for group gatherings, a bathhouse and a boardwalk leading to a picnic area and beach.
  • Hell Peckney Bay
    Sightings of the area's diverse marine wildlife, including wading birds, osprey and southern bald eagle, fish and rays, Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, and an occasional manatee are all but guaranteed. Hell Peckney Bay offers canoe and kayakers the opportunity to explore some of the most pristine marine habitat in Southwest Florida.
  • Koreshan State Historic Site
    A nationally recognized historical site, the Koreshan Park was a utopian community settled in the late 1800s. Located in nearby Estero, the Koreshan State Historic Site offers a true "old Florida" experience for heritage and eco-travelers.
  • Lovers Key State Park
    Lovers Key is a pristine barrier island park. Enjoy hiking & biking along the shady trails or relax at the beach. Kayak through sheltered canals to see manatees, wading birds, and other wildlife or paddle out to the Gulf from the white sandy beach.
  • Mantanzas Pass Preserve
    Slow your pace to fully enjoy this pristine, barrier island forest with its abundant wildlife and diverse, native, plant species. After crossing two bridges on the entry trail, you will find a boardwalk that winds through the mangrove swamp. At the end of the boardwalk, a pavilion overlooking the water provides a spectacular view of the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve.
  • Mound Key
    This mangrove-shrouded island paints a picture of the Calusa Indians. Here lies a tale of a complex Calusa society that dominated southern Florida for centuries and their hostility toward Spanish explorers. Guided tours are available.

Contact Info:
Lee County Parks & Recreation
6490 South Pointe Boulevard
Fort Myers, FL 33919

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