We rented a canoe from the rangers station and spend about 4 hours on the river.
The tour was one of the best I ever made (did a lot of kayaking in the Everglades). First I was a bit skeptical about canoes vs. kayaks and I still prefer kayaking. But only canoes are for rent. You pay 7 usd per hour which is way less than any tour operator would charge you (thank you state park!).
The access to the river is "on your own", meaning that you get your paddles, swim vests and an optional cushion at the ranger station. After that you drive to the museum and then walk about a mile to the river, untie your canoe and drag it to the river. Believe me, you will sweat by then. No easy task if you are not able to carry a canoe over a distance of 50 to 100 meters towards the river.
But as soon as you get there the fun starts. We went straight to the left up the stream which was a good idea. You have to paddle against the stream while you are still energetic and you can float back easily later on.
Wildlife seeings were incredible, an alligator crossed the river in front of our boat, numerous birds, turtles and fish. We even spotted a monkey and an otter with a fish in his mouth while he dived alongside our canoe! The water is crystal clear and it feels like you are flying. Absolutely magical. But make sure to bring a hat, sunscreen and enough water.
The only downturn are the motor boats and jet ski that are allowed on the river. About half of the drivers do not care about idle speed and the no wake policy. This makes it a bit stressful to canoe. I hope that the park rangers are able to enforce this much more in the future.
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