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Explore the Timucuan Trail State & National Parks  

Currents & Tides

Ask any veteran salt marsh paddler what is the most important thing you need to know in order to have a good time paddling in the estuary, and most will say “understanding the tides.”

Ride the Tide
In order to safely navigate Timucuan’s waterways paddlers must have some knowledge of currents and tides. The safety of any paddler is greatly compromised if stranded by a falling tide. Tide forecasts may be found in local newspapers or television weather reports, or on NOAA weather radio. Know the times of the tide stages for the location of the particular blueway trail to be paddled that day. Tides rise and fall every six hours to create an environment that is in constant motion. Plan your trip to coincide with either the rising or falling tides as suggested in the individual descriptions for each trail. Your enjoyment of the inshore waters will be greatly enhanced.

The Intracoastal Waterway-ICW
The ICW flows along the west side (Amelia River) of Ft. Clinch and then continues across the Nassau River and into Sawpit Creek and Sisters Creek and then crosses the St. Johns River and joins Pablo Creek. Several of the trails listed in this Guide contain sections that include the ICW. Paddlers must be aware of the motorized boats that use the ICW and at all times observe the Coast Guard regulations governing the right of way procedures between motorized and non- motorized boats.

Safety Equipment & Precautions
Before you go paddling make sure your boat and equipment are in good working order. Be sure to carry basic safety equipment and know how to use it correctly. Always leave a float plan with someone prior to your trip, even a day trip. Do not go anywhere in the Preserve without a map. Know your capabilities and your limits and those of your paddling partners.
The most common injury to paddlers in Northeast Florida salt marshes comes from cuts caused by stepping on oyster shells. Oysters are filter feeders and can be found growing singularly or in large “beds” in the muddy banks of most salt marsh creeks. Alive or dead, oyster shells are extremely sharp and injuries from them most always require a visit to an emergency room for sutures and anti-bacterial treatment. Protect yourself by not touching them or walking barefoot in soft mud where they are frequently buried.


All paddlers should wear a PFD (personal floatation device)

Basic Safety Equipment:
≈Personal flotation device (PFD) & whistle. Florida law requires all paddlers to carry both.
≈First aid kit, insect repellent, sunscreen
≈Hat, snug-fitting shoes, sunglasses.
≈Sponge, bilge pump, or water bailing device
≈Drinking water (1gal/person/day) and food.
≈USGS Quad sheet or NOAA chart (or both) and a tide chart, consult daily weather forecast.
≈Spare paddle.