Suwannee River Paddling Festival Suwannee River Wilderness Trail St. Johns River Florida Keys Challenge Ochlockonee River Lucky Mud Band on the Ochlockonee Ocklockonee Bay Great Calusa Blueway Manatees off the St. Johns River Florida Keys Challenge Wekiva River

Paddle Florida: Inspiring. Meaningful. Adventure. Paddle Florida, ,

, Paddle Florida: Inspiring. Meaningful. Adventure.

, Paddle Florida: Inspiring. Meaningful. Adventure.

Paddle Florida:
Inspiring. Meaningful. Adventure.
Paddle Florida, Inc. is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation organized to support canoeing and kayaking in Florida.  Multi-day paddling/camping adventures in each of Florida's five water management districts showcase the state's natural beauty and rich cultural heritage while promoting water conservation, wildlife preservation, springs restoration, and waterways protection.  Paddle Florida also seeks to promote Florida as an international destination for nature-based tourism. 

Our 2015-16 paddling season:

Paddle Florida staff members scout trips in advance to ensure waterway conditions and shoreline campsites are safe, comfortable, and showcase nature's best view.  Meal plans and gear shuttling eliminate the need to weigh down boats with food and camping equipment.  Florida-based entertainment and educational programming is provided each evening by regional artists, musicians, authors, and naturalists.  Partnerships with local outfitters provide paddlers with canoes, kayaks, and other paddling gear to rent as needed. With this level of support, paddlers of all ages and skill levels can explore and enjoy the REAL Florida! 

Archived Happy Paddler newsletters:

Paddle Florida, Inc. a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation
P.O. Box 5953, Gainesville, FL 32627
1710 SW 35th Place, Unit C
Gainesville, FL 32608

Board of Directors:
Nickie Kortus, President
Jill Lingard, Vice President
Robert Hutchinson, Secretary
Debra Akin, Treasurer
Lars Andersen, Board Member

Tax return & 990 documents:

Refund policy:
Due to the financial outlay and costs incurred by Paddle Florida during event planning, any force majeure, which includes but is not limited to water levels, inclement weather and any other Acts of God not mentioned herein, shall not result in the refund of any fees paid to Paddle Florida. Absolutely no fees will be refunded after 15 days before the event begins. Any fees refunded by Paddle Florida will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Ken & Nyla Campbell ~ August 2015

(07/28/2015) Where are you from?  Your profession? We have lived in Lakeland, FL for many years.  We are both retired (Ken for 6 years, Nyla for 7 years). Ken was a registered professional civil engineer and Nyla was a certified planner (AICP) who worked for the City of Lakeland for her last 13 years before retirement.   When and how did you become interested in paddling?  Ken took up whitewater paddling 25 years ago by taking canoe classes from the Nantahala Outdoor Center in North Carolina. That led to kayaking in Florida. Ken introduced Nyla to kayaking 18 years ago by arranging for an introductory class at Bill Jackson’s in Pinellas Park.   Where is your favorite place to paddle?  We greatly enjoy paddling in the 10,000 Islands (on the west side of Everglades National Park). A number of years ago, we paddled the 100-mile Wilderness Waterway over six days from Everglades City to Flamingo at the south end of Everglades NP.   What’s the most interesting thing that’s ever happened to you on a paddling trip?   The most memorable time was when we were camping on Lulu Key (just outside Everglades National Park) with about 30 other people when the wonderful host of the group had a stroke. He lived on the island all winter and liked to have folks stop by. We were all sitting around the campfire and he (Mike Ward) was reading out loud from one of his favorite books. It was about 9PM when the stroke occurred.   One of the fellows in our group was a Naples police officer. He called 911. That led to a helicopter over flight to see if we were real. The police then dispatched a boat from Marco Island that promptly ran aground (we found out later). So, around midnight, we carried Mike out into deep water where a large boat, from Everglades City, had anchored to take him to the hospital.   That evening was memorable, but also reminded us about being prepared for emergencies.   How many Paddle Florida trips have you gone on and to where?  We have only been on two Paddle Florida trips (Withlacoochee River in 2014 and the Keys trip in 2015) because we have been traveling a lot (biking and hiking) and Ken has had some bad luck with injuries/illness (eight major surgeries in the last six years).   What keeps you coming back?  We plan to do more trips with Paddle Florida. Right now, the Keys trip in January and the Calusa in February look likely for us before we start training for cycling Montana to Alaska in the summer. We enjoy paddling, the great staff, and being around so many people with a really upbeat and “can do” attitude.   Can you describe a particular Paddle Florida trip highlight?   Last February we were bicycling for several days and, coincidentally, camped at Rainbow Springs the same day the Paddle Florida Withlacoochee group arrived. We were warmly welcomed by Paddle Florida staff as being part of the family and invited to share dinner and breakfast with the group. That was a great way to deal with a memorably cold, wet evening.   What advice do you have for folks considering a Paddle Florida trip? Know your skill and fitness limitations. With that knowledge, in-trip adjustments can be made if necessary to facilitate safety and ensure a good time is attainable every day.

Roger Cayer ~ July 2015

(06/29/2015) Where are you from?  Your profession?  I am from the Northeast. Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire. I was an Ob-Gyn for 38 years. The last eight years of my career were spent working for the Choctaw Nation Indian Healthcare System as Director of their Women's Health Center in Talihina, Oklahoma, way too far from the ocean! I have been retired for three wonderful years and my wife Ellen and I are living on Skidaway Island, Savannah, Georgia. When and how did you become interested in paddling?  I had done some paddling in Maine and on Lake George, New York in the past but because of work obligations never really took it seriously. Now that I am retired and living on a barrier island off the coast of Georgia I had no excuses! I am on my third kayak in one and one half years. I have taken basic and advanced paddling classes with Savannah Canoe and Kayak. No Eskimo roll yet, but I am getting really close! Where is your favorite place to paddle?  My favorite place to paddle is in Wassaw Sound off the coast of Georgia. There are many day trip options there ranging from six miles r/t to Raccoon Key to 13 miles r/t to Ossabaw Island. What’s the most interesting thing that ever happened to you on a paddling trip?   The most interesting and also most frightening thing that ever happened to me was hitting a bottlenose dolphin with my paddle and having him/her blow some slimy air on me. He/she was feeding along the bank of Delegal Creek and I was paddling close to the right bank. The water is murky there because of the very high tidal fluctuations and we were both surprised by the contact.   How many Paddle Florida trips have you gone on and to where?   I have been on two Paddle Florida trips. My first was The Keys Challenge this past January with my Montana daughter, Emily. The second was the Suwannee River Paddling Festival in April 2015. Both were amazing as far as the people I met and the quality of the organization. The nighttime entertainment was world class.   What keeps you coming back?  I will keep going to PF trips in the future because these trips are well organized by caring people and the value received far surpasses what we pay for the trip. And you meet all types of people from all walks of life--all with the same passion--PADDLING! And the food is outstanding and plentiful. I am planning to redo the Keys Challenge in January and will do the Calusa Blue Water Trail in March and of course the Suwannee River Paddling Festival in April next year. These trips are addicting!   Can you describe a Paddle Florida trip highlight?  My best highlight from a trip came on the PF Keys Challenge. Emily, with limited kayak experience, and I were on the final leg of the trip off of Smather Beach, Key West.  The water was roiling, the wind was howling and we had to deal with clapotis.  Emily asked me if I was scared. I lied and answered "no,” yelling above the howling wind, "keep a paddle in the water and you will be fine!"  I was somewhat worried because these were not beginner conditions. She made it just fine while believing my white lie; I really was a bit nervous. Once we landed safely she confessed that she had shed a few "tears of fear.”  It was a precious moment!   What advice do you have for folks considering a Paddle Florida trip?  Do your homework. Get some lessons on rescue and self-rescue.  Get some basic paddling skills. These are not really guided trips. They are supported trips.  This is YOUR trip and PF is there to assist you and not baby sit you. Pick a group of like-minded and similarly skilled paddlers and stick together and watch over each other. You will make lifelong friends and be much safer than a solo paddler. Be ready to have the time of your life and to make everlasting memories. Be ready to exceed your limitations especially on something as challenging as the 7-day Keys trip.

Artist Eleanor Blair ~ June 2015

(06/01/2015) My first experience with Paddle Florida was at Suwannee River State Park in March 2008, where my band, the Weeds of Eden, was the evening's entertainment for weary paddlers.  I got there early, so I'd have time to paint.  I'd assumed that the people who joined a group like Paddle Florida were all young and athletic. As the paddlers pulled their kayaks and canoes up on the bank, I was pleasantly surprised to see that most of them were actually closer to my age, and I realized that a week-long trip down the Suwannee was completely within my realm of possibilities.  A year or two later, that dream became a reality.   I brought a box of paints and my camera, along with my kayak and camping equipment.  I'd done a bit of river camping in my youth and appreciated the truck that carried all my bulky camping supplies campsite to campsite.  Since everything didn't have to fit in my boat, I had the luxury of a thick air mattress, a soft pillow, and a down comforter.  The river was beautiful!  Our early morning departures, paddling silently through the mist as the sun rose, were a rare and wonderful treat.  I paddled my own kayak the first three days of the trip. When I bought my lovely fishing kayak, I hadn't realized that this particular boat was made more for stability than actual forward motion, so it took a lot more effort than I'd anticipated to paddle miles down the river every day. The water level was low, too, so the current wasn't strong enough to offer much help.  Fortunately someone had an extra kayak which they were willing to let me borrow, and the second half of the trip was a lot easier!  (I missed my cup holder, though...)    We camped along the river, and most days I had enough energy left over to get a little painting done  after I set up my tent.  I have a small self-contained oil painting kit that's great for traveling.  Since my trip, the photos I took as I paddled along the beautiful Suwannee have inspired many paintings.   My studio is in downtown Gainesville, at 113 South Main Street.  If you'd like to come by to see my paintings, give me a call (352-316-1751) to arrange a time for me to meet you there.  You can also see what's currently available at

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