Because it's still the rainy season the water levels were very high. The first section of the river was by far the prettiest. It was open but not too wide. It was lined with tall cypress trees and beautiful undergrowth.
Eventually it became narrower and curvier as it wound through the cypress and palm trees. Luckily my dad is an expert paddler and navigated us without any real problems.
We stopped at a large downed tree, parked our canoes and most of us ended up swimming for awhile. It was fun to try and swim against the strong current. Shortly after this stop we arrived at the first dam on the river. Because the water was so high it was barely noticeable as we paddled over it. A short distance later we arrived at the second dam (also known as Masten dam). When the river is lower, it can sometimes create a problem for paddlers. There is a ramp to get your boat over it if you do not want to paddle over it. Again, due to high water, it wasn't a problem. Soon, the noise from the Turnpike and I-95 bridges became louder and we eventually paddled underneath them. Most paddlers choose this point to turn again and head back to the outfitters. The outfitters are responsible for maintaining the river up this point and the state park service and responsible for everything further downstream. Unfortunately, they prefer to let the river in this area between I-95 and Trapper Nelson's place remain in its natural state so it can be very challenging to paddle through.
This section of the river took the longest since we encounter many obstacles such as large fallen trees blocking the river, low hanging branches, spider webs, and confusing river forks. We attempted to look for the Governer's Dock but never did see it. We assumed the water might have been too high. Finally, we reached Trapper Nelson's place in Jonathan Dickinson State Park.
Here we sat at the picnic tables to eat our lunch while listening to stories from the park rangers. They were certainly a wealth of knowledge about Trapper Nelson and his life in this area. My favorite part was hearing the stories about Trapper's family members that had visited the park since his death in 1968 and had provided them with even more stories and artifacts. After we ate, we walked around the compound to look at his cabins, "zoo", smoke house, and even a modern bathroom. While Trapper Nelson lived here, he not only hunted and sold furs to live off the land, he also created a zoo and tourist attraction.
Finally it was time to head back and meet our shuttles. Downstream from Trapper Nelson's place the river becomes much wider. We even ran into some motor boats and jetskis. We also saw 4 manatees!
We stopped for a quick swim at the "beach" at Jonathan Dickinson before paddling the 1/3-1/2 mile back to the boat ramp. The trip in total was somewhere around 10 miles and took us around 6 hours with all of our stops. Definitely a fun but challenging trip!