A wonderful paddle in a new location for me – Salt Creek in St Augustine, FL. Salt Creek runs north-south between the Matanzas River and the Atlantic Ocean. We met up at the boat launch area (hand launch only) in Anastasia State Park and paddled up to the St Augustine Inlet and back – about 5.2 miles.
The boat launch in Anastasia State Park is right on Anastasia Park Drive, about half way between the entrance station and the campground. There is a covered picnic pavilion, a nice restroom with a cold water shower for rinsing off the salt water, and a building and shed for the boat rental. You can rent kayaks, canoes, SUPs and sailboats (small cats) there from Anatasia Watersports. The launch area is a nice beach about 200 feet from the parking area.
Once on the water we paddled north with low vegetation-covered dune ecosystem on both sides as long as we were within the State Park. Almost from the beginning the St Augustine Lighthouse becomes the most prominent feature on the skyline to the west. Shortly after paddling past a slight bend to the west you leave the state park and houses, marinas, docks, and boat anchorages start to appear. But only on the west side, the state park occupies the entire peninsula to the east. We crossed the center boat channel to the east side to enjoy the natural surroundings, but our eyes were also drawn to many of the boats, particularly the lovely sailboats at anchor.
Avoiding the marked channel with it’s zipping powerboats we kept close to the eastern shore as we headed into a beautiful sandy beach area called Conch Island for a lunch/snack break and a swim to cool off. The dunes were covered by Sea Oats and Rattlebox, at least on the eastern shore. Sea oats in particular are considered a primary beach stabilizer because of its massive root system. They are also important both as a source of food and habitat for birds, small mammals and insects.
After our break we headed north to St Augustine inlet, keeping to the eastern shoreline to avoid the main boat channel. At this point, with the wind picking up and the clouds increasing, we turned around for the day. Going back we hugged the western shore, paddling past the marinas and boat anchorages. Aside from the lovely boats, this afforded us a magnificent view of the dunes on the eastern shore. As we approached the state park however we discovered the folly of staying on the western shore as the tide ran out – extremely shallow water. We had to get out and walk – sometimes even drag – our kayaks for about 100 yards before we could find water deep enough to float our boats. Fortunately the bottom was sandy rather than sucky mud so we left no shoes behind.
Back at the state park launch, after the loading up the boats and rinsing in the cold water shower, we drove up to The Conch House for a late lunch. This is a marina-resort-restaurant complex with indoor and outdoor seating. We chose a tiki hut on the back deck. Not only could we see the lighthouse from our hut but we had a great view across Salt Creek towards the Atlantic and were able to watch a Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) fishing the low-water mud flats while we ate.