While for the most part this area provides for safe paddling for all skill levels, everyone should make sure to pay attention to hazards and always use appropriate gear. This guide provides warnings for areas with high boat traffic and areas that are exposed during low tides. The waterways near bridges often have high traffic and may have strong currents. Paddling in a group is always safest!
Intracoastal Waterway tide information is available here. Tide information can help you plan your route as well as know when you can safely enter and leave the water. In addition to checking the tides, paddlers should check the weather, but also prepare for Florida’s sudden thunderstorms. Do not underestimate the danger of lightning. Current weather information may be found here.
What you will need to bring with you:
Suggested items to bring with you:
While you are planning for your own safety, take a minute to plan for the environment’s safety as well. Paddlers as a group are very environmentally conscious. Bring drinks and snacks in reusable containers. Dispose of all garbage appropriately, especially fishing line and plastic bags which can entrap wildlife. Do not approach wildlife. Leave what you find (unless it is garbage).
We encourage everyone to explore Jacksonville’s waterways. As always, however, paddlers should exercise all necessary precautions. In addition to using proper safety equipment, pollution levels and algal outbreaks in the water should be monitored and considered before embarking on a paddling excursion. Some useful sources of information on area water quality include local news, Department of Environmental Protection and Environmental Protection Agency websites, the Duval County Health Department, and the Environmental Quality Division of the City of Jacksonville.
For example, public health alerts stemming from the Summer, 2010, fish kill epidemic in the St. John’s River are worth monitoring. In June, 2010, the Duval County Health Department and the St. Johns County Health Department issued health advisories for the St. Johns River because of the rash of fish kills in the river. This can be viewed here: Health Advisory. Officials are uncertain as to the exact cause of the fish kills but are encouraging citizens to stay away from these areas.
Bodies of water that have two outlets to the ocean have a null point, or place where two currents flowing in opposite directions meet. These currents are caused by the tides. During high tide, water floods inland from the ocean into nearby rivers, creeks, and inlets, causing a distinct current. During low tide, the flow of water reverses, as it rushes out towards the ocean. As both the Intracoastal Waterway and Simpson's Creek connect to the ocean in two places, there are two null points in this guide.
For example, water pushes in from the ocean on both the south and north ends of Simpson Creek during high tide, causing current on the north end of Simpson's Creek to flow in a southerly direction, and current on the south end of Simpson's Creek to flow in a northerly direction, with the null point being the place where the current changes direction. At low tide, these currents reverse direction as the water rushes back out to the Ocean.
It can be helpful to consider the null point when planning your paddling adventures, to determine if you will be rowing with the current, against it, or both. The null point in Simpson's Creek is located just south of Kayak Amelia, or just south of 13030 Heckscher Drive, Jacksonville, Florida, 32226, GPS coordinates 30º 27´ 37.3´´ -81º 25´ 42.0.´´ The null point in the Intracoastal Waterway in this guide is located at the intersection of Sisters Creek and Mud Creek, between mile markers 66 and 67, at GPS Coordinates 30º 27´ 13´´ -81º 26´ 52.´