Oleta River
Miami, Florida

Staff writer





Do you Canoe?

If you're looking for a day of peaceful canoeing and beautiful Florida scenery, Oleta River, located in Oleta River State Park fits the bill perfectly.

Located on Biscayne Bay in northeast Dade County, Oleta River State Park is 1,043 acres, making it the largest urban park in Florida. The most outstanding natural feature is the Oleta River, after which the park is named.

Unlike years before, the Oleta River no longer flows north into the Everglades but its charm and splendor still give joy to all who experience it. Waterbirds can be seen feeding along the mangrove-lined shoreline along with the endangered West Indian manatee, seeking a refuge from south Florida's crowded boat filled waterways.

In the Oleta River Sate Recreation Area is the Urban Trails Kayak Company, where Steven Schuemann, the proprietor, can get you outfitted with your own canoe or kayak to start your aquatic adventure. Deciding to leave kayaking for another time, my partner and I chose the canoe. Both of us had gone canoeing only once before and were anxious to try it again.

Mr. Shuemann, got us settled in a canoe, gave us some tips on canoeing and in a few minutes we pushed off from the shore.

As we paddled along, we enjoyed the peaceful Florida surroundings. Different trails, from beginner to advanced, are suggested for the canoeing adventurer(ess) and folks are encouraged to challenge themselves but not venture too far out, since canoeing out with the tide is much easier than trying to canoe back in against the tide. We sort of went out on our own and tooled around, feeling much like Hiawatha and Pocahontas (and no, we didn't bring our cell phones!).

The Oleta River is a beautiful natural environment. The River curves through one of Southeast Florida's largest mangrove forests and is Dade County's last free flowing river. Along the way we saw lots of native Floridian birds and wildlife and even navigated through a tunnel without hitting the sides.

Along the riverbanks you can spot Herons, Ibises, Spoonbill, Kingfishers, Osprey and even Turkey Vultures. And if you're really lucky you may even see Manatees and Dolphins.

It's important to keep fairly quiet when you get close to the riverbanks because as you near the water's edge or gaze up at the treetops, you're almost certain to see some sort of wildlife and you don't want to scare them away. We spotted several Blue Herons and some Ibises on our journey. This all makes for great photo ops, so make sure and bring a camera (a waterproof camera may be advisable...just in case.)

There's a nearby beach in the park where canoers can take a refreshing swim if they want before continuing on, or another option would be to stop on Sandspur Island for a little sightseeing.

For a full day's trip, canoers can follow the Miami shoreline, which is almost always free of boats since the water is very shallow, and visit the 20 islands located out there. Almost all 20 islands have been replanted with native vegetation.

Just past 79th Street is Little River, which is the best viewing spot for Manatees. Bird Key is also in the same direction and is an ideal spot for viewing birds (hence the name!).

Our trip lasted about 2 hours and left us refreshed and relaxed. When you're out there canoeing, you're taken away from all all of life's nigglings and nagglings and you really have nothing to do but...are you ready?.....relax!



For those of you who have never tried canoeing, lessons are available and you can go out with or without a guide. There's even trips to the Everglades. For more information on Oleta River and Urban Trails Kayak Company e-mail kayakmiami@juno.com or call Steven Shuemann at 305.947.0302.


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