Sunday, July 31, 2011

Kayaking Oleta River State Park - North Miami

I have been waiting a while to get a little experience with my inflatable Sea Eagle 370 Kayak before attempting Oleta River State Park. This was going to be the most challenging kayak adventure yet and I wanted to be sure I knew what to expect. Oleta has two distinct personalities. The mangrove and lazy river side and then the relatively open water of the Inter-coastal Waterway. Add a bit of a breeze, changing tide, and about a thousand boats to chop up the water, you have yourself a pretty exciting day.

I arrived early and parked near the launch site. This area is usually loaded with mountain bikers. I had quite a few curious onlookers  and some questions as I was inflating the kayak. Oleta has an onsite rental store for kayaks and canoes and as always, they were doing a booming business.

The adventure started off in the mangroves. I have mountain biked at Oleta recently. A sport that requires total concentration. I never noticed how close the bike trail was to the water  . Every few minutes I would hear a little rustling of leaves or a twig pop and a biker would slip by in the forest like a ghost. Not enough sound to bother the wading birds only a few feet away on the shore.

There is an open area where the sail boats anchor and another little river to explore. When I turned to head back to the open water, I ran right into a strong current heading the wrong way it seamed. The tide was coming in and it was in a hurry. Not only that but it brought the wind with it. Up until now it was smooth sailing in a lush tropical setting. A change in direction and the whole scene was different. The North Miami skyline was looming in the distance and FIU college was right beside me.

Right across from Oleta is the Haulover Inlet. One of the few cuts in South Florida leading from the Inter-Coastal to the open ocean. Since The Port of Miami and Port Everglades are fairly active with commercial traffic, pleasure boaters come from miles in both directions. Even more boaters never head out to open sea and cruise up and down the channel. It makes for a bumpy ride in a kayak, that's for sure.

My plan was to kayak over to a large island in the middle of all this activity but as I got nearer, the sounds of blasting music from the many boaters anchored on the beach somewhat discouraged me. Just a little farther South was a tiny island with one lone kayak beached on it. With a little course change, some hard paddling, and a bit of powerboat dodging, I arrived.

As I sat enjoying my lunch on my nearly private island, I took stock of the contrasting beauty all around me. I tried to imagine what this area looked like not even 100 years ago before the huge buildings and string of little islands that sprang up from dredging the channels. On the way back, I thought I would really challenge myself and head back along East side of the islands right along the channel.

Even though this is a no wake zone, any large boat will throw out a pretty good sized wave which bounces off the coral rock island and back at the kayak. I think I spent more time going up and down and side to side than forward. There was little opportunity to head into the wake as I would have headed right into the channel. Being tossed ashore would certainly be a problem as sharp coral rock and inflatable kayaks should not mix.

I left the rough seas of the bay and turned into the remaining portion of the kayak trails through the mangroves. A very peaceful end to the day. Even though the rental folks had launched half their flotilla, I only saw the occasional fellow kayaker during the day. Quite a few were bunched up on tours. Oleta is not the tranquil experience I usually prefer for my kayak adventures but at least I can say I did it.


  1. Sounds like the waters have gotten very busy there. 30 years ago when I lived in N. Miami, we used to drive into the area where FIU is now, it was woods & known as interama. We once took a canoe over to one of those little islands in the bay and camped over night. I think it took us a few trips for about 5 people & a cooler of beer to get there.

  2. There is no chance of camping these days. It's like a boat super highway now. Even the tiny little island I had lunch on had two boats pull in with loud music and dogs jumping in the water. It even had a trash can, camp fire, and junk everywhere. A least it was peaceful while for some of the time I spent there.

  3. Wow! What an achievement ... I'd have been scared witless!! Maybe that's due to a canoeing experience a few years ago in which I was unceremoniously dumped! Sadly, I had no one to blame but myself - but it's certainly given me a new respect for sucessful kayakers!!!

  4. I should not mention this but after my confidence building excursion to the tiny little island in the big rough sea, I tipped the boat over getting back into the kayak. I was only in two feet of water and was hit with a big bow wave but still it was and eye opener. I was very careful to stay balanced for the balance of the journey.

  5. Wow - the state parks where I live look *nothing* like this... I'm thinking I might have to write a letter to my representative. ;)


  6. This is actually the most urban park I go to. The rest are much more natural and a lot less popular. Where are you from Sara?