Photo by Zoran Milich

While folk in the US and Canada are seeing the end of a January deep freeze that gripped much of North America, with temps like 19 F in Pensacola, Florida, and even 17.6 F on the Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii, what helped me bear the insane weather, at least partly, was remembering how it felt to kayak in Shell Creek in Punta Gorda, Florida. 

Punta Gorda is one of several laid back Gulf Coast communities in friendly Charlotte County, between Sarasota and Fort Myers.

And Shell Creek, a tributary of Peace River running into Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf Coast, is one of the most popular kayaking spots in the area. Little wonder because soon as you launch your kayak it feels like you're in the Amazon.

 I was there on a press trip at the beginning of alligator mating season in late April. That's when Wally gets frisky. But I just I took my cue from a bird sitting next to a gator. Stay vigilant; stay calm. The bird had wings. I had a paddle and a strong kayak.

Photo by George Mindling

We’d be just fine, said Chris Warren, owner and operator at Phoenix Rising Kayak Tours. He’s been doing this for over 25 years and hasn't lost any kayakers yet.

Well, here is an interesting man. Not only does he run this outfit through some of the most beautiful estuaries in Charlotte Harbor - imagine paddling through a tepid creek framed by cabbage palms and Spanish moss hanging off cypress trees  – but he's also a full blown naturalist with great knowledge of flora and fauna in the entire Charlotte Harbor, Florida area.

Plus, he's authorized to perform kayak weddings and wedding vow renewals, and these on a small island where everyone kayaks to the ceremony!

Photo courtesy of                                                          Photo courtesy of

While paddling through Shell Creek, I had a chat with Chris about how sometimes waters in other areas change, even becoming crimson red, due to algae buildup caused when nature gets out of balance. This change is detrimental to many organisms and may be caused by man, but not always. I left the conversation with renewed interest in nature and a sense of personal responsibility for something I'm part of.

I hope I’ll get a chance to paddle with Chris again, maybe to Don Pedro Island, a white sand barrier island and also a state park, or through a tunnel in a mangrove forest in nearby Placida, near a pelican rookery and a dolphin hunting ground. Maybe a dolphin will playfully approach me or a manatee swim gently by.

But the main thing is my memory of kayaking in Punta Gorda in Southwest Florida has helped keep me going through a harsh winter so far. How? I'm planning a trip back soon for myself and some friends! Ya, we're all gonna be happy kayakers!


Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands Official Visitors Website

Pmhoenix Rising Kayak Tours

Rotonda West, FL 33947

+1 (941)-586-2836