Category Archives: Wildlife

TRIP PREVIEW: Everglades Florida Jan 2016

Just a Taste of the Everglades

We’ve been toying around the idea of paddling in the everglades for about a year now. We were too busy with work to go last year, but we finally got 3 days off to go explore. Without much more planning than loading the paddle boards, camping equipment and food, we made plans to meet our fellow paddlers in Chokoloskee and we headed south.

Erin checking in at the Visitors Center in Everglade City.
Erin checking in at the Visitors Center in Everglade City.

The first night we camped at the Chokoloskee Island Park. We must have had the last campsite in the place, because we just barely squeezed our two cars and tent onto the site. First thing the next morning, we headed over to the Visitor Center in Everglades City to find out what kind of back country permit we could get for just a couple nights. There was nothing within close range available for that night, so we secured a permit for the next night at Pearl Bay Chickee and spent the day meandering down to Flamingo.

Campsite in Flamingo Florida
Campsites at Flamingos campground.

We camped at Flamingo and woke up to pouring down rain. The radar was showing that the rain would stop around noon, so we waited it out. Good thing we didn’t pick a chickee any farther than 3.5 miles. Our original idea was to get out there, make camp and paddle some more. Instead, we played cards in the tent until it stopped raining and then headed straight to the chickee for the night.

everglades florida Hells Bay Canoe Trail Launch
JJ, Erin, Al & Donna at the Hells Bay Canoe Trail Launch

Upon arrival at the Hells Bay Canoe Trail Launch, we unloaded all our gear and set off into the mangrove tunnels. The tunnels were tight and narrow with lots of turns. As we progressed further, it felt like we were just twisting in circles through the maze of mangroves. Some of the turns were so tight, the 16 foot canoe that was with us almost looked pinned amongst the mangroves, and several times the stern person was left dragging through the spider webs that lined the mangrove branches.

Al & Donna maneuvering thru the tight and windy Mangroves.
Al & Donna maneuvering thru the tight and windy Mangroves.

Even though there were many turns, the trail was very well marked with white PVC pipes. A PVC pipe was located at every turn or just about the time you were feeling lost one appeared.

JJ's BIC SUP leading the way thru the well marked paddling trail Florida everglades
JJ’s BIC SUP leading the way thru the well marked paddling trail

As we rounded every corner we anticipated running into a gator, croc, snake or anything, but the cool temperatures kept the critters at bay, in fact all we saw on our paddle was an osprey. Even the bugs thought it was just too cold… so those stories of swallowing mosquitoes while paddling didn’t hold true for us, at least not until dusk.

JJ's BIC SUP leading the way thru the well marked paddling trail
Our first view of Pearl Bay Chickee

After just a few hours of paddling, we spotted our chickee and started unloading. We had reserved just half of the double chickee, but were lucky enough that we were the only ones out that night. The chickee was awesome, it had counters to cook on, a ladder on one side and stairs on the other as well as a handicap sized porta-potty. It was luxurious. Later on, I did read that this was the cadillac of chickees, and the only handicap accessible chickee in the everglades, so i suppose we can’t expect this in the future from the other chickees.

Pearl Bay Chickee everglades florida
SUPs tied up & Hammocks Setup.

We cooked up our dinner of summer sausage, beans and rice. Minutes after our stoves kicked on, a soft-shell turtle appeared out of nowhere. He circled our chickee for hours while trying to coax us to give him our scraps. He clearly had been fed by others in the past. He was fun to watch and as the sun sank down below the water, the mosquitoes came out of hiding. We quickly retreated into the safety of our tents and hammocks. We slept well as the bugs buzzed about and the water lapped at the chickee posts. There is truly nothing better than sleeping out in the middle of nowhere!

Pearl Bay Chickee Sunrise Clouds
Clouds loom as the sun rises over the Everglades

We awoke to some threatening clouds to the west, but decided it was probably just rain. We had a leisurely breakfast of eggs and bagels before packing up and heading back to our vehicles. We slowly made our way back through the mess of mangroves from the day before.

Hells Bay Paddling Trail everglades florida
Car’s packed up after our Everglades paddling trip.

Shortly after loading up our gear, the rain hit and we headed north and back to work. It was a short trip and it felt like we only got a small taste of the everglades. So, if you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to want more. And guess what, we want more! Stay tuned for the upcoming Everglades, top to bottom expedition, which will include a whole bag of cookies!

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DIY technique for those Over/Under water photos.

Ever seen a photo like this and assume its fake?

Photo Credit: Clark Little Photography (click photo to visit his website)

In a lot of cases it’s not, but it does require a bit of luck, creativity and the right equipment to capture scenes like these. I recently found a great article about how to create these half & half or over/under photographs.

ikelite-1_1.jpg.400x275_q85 Ideally you should buy a waterproof housing for your digital SLR with a dome front to get these type of photos. These waterproof rigs can cost anywhere from $1000 to $2500 and up. The larger the dome you have in front of your lens the less effect choppy and rough water will have on your image. I didn’t have the money to invest in something like this and so I had to find a different solution.

I found a website that had an affordable option to get your camera under the waters surface without putting it in a housing or in the water at all. The idea is simple… place the camera in a small fish tank and shoot through the glass while its held slightly under the waters surface.

The idea was simple enough so I decided to try it. I went to a local pet store and bought a 5.5 gallon clear glass fish tank. I first tested the tank by holding it into the water to make sure there wasn’t a leak. I decided to put a towel down inside the tank before I put in my camera to give it a little padding and keep it from banging around. I plugged my remote trigger into my Canon 7D and placed it in the tank.  Using the widest lens possible gives you the best angle of view and allows you to keep more in the frame.

chassahowitzka river the crack

A Short 30 minute paddle on the Chassahowitzka River in Homosassa Florida brought us to the top of Baird Creek and what locals call “The Crack”. We got off of our SUPs and started enjoying the beautiful clear water of the natural spring. I took out my fish tank and placed my camera setup in it. I started shooting immediately and realized while holding the tank I could angle it up or down to get the desired shot. Holding it lower down in the water and angling it up gave me a cool reflection of the waters surface.

Chass River Manatee Surface Water

This complete underwater effect gives the illusion of having a true underwater camera setup but my camera is still “naked” and without any real watertight housing.

chassahowitzka river the crack fish I then flipped my camera to the vertical position in the tank and wanted to try that Over/Under effect. It took a little practice but after a few test photos I got a few great shots.


This short Do-It-Yourself (DIY) project didn’t hurt my bank account and it got me experimenting with underwater photography. Thats the basics, so get out there and try this easy and inexpensive solution to getting some great underwater photographs.

Any questions about this article or how to build your own make sure you email us at: or stop by our Facebook page to see the latest.

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What’s under YOUR board?

Since we’ve moved to Florida, we have found many new things underneath our boards. My favorite by far are the manatees. These gentle giants just love the warm water pumping out of the King’s Bay basin. Now that we’ve had our first frost of the year, they will be congregating and resting in our favorite paddling places.

BIC Wing Manatee

As a stand up paddleboarding, we have an advantage over kayakers when it comes to spotting these slow moving giants. We can see down into the water much easier and change our course accordingly.   Florida Manatees are an endangered species and are highly protected by state and federal law. Fines for harming and/or harassing these animals are hefty. Follow the guidelines below to stay out of trouble and help protect these slow moving mammals.

1. Practice Passive Observation. Do not initiate contact with manatees. They are curious animals, but the interaction must be their idea.

2. Do not disturb resting manatees. Reduce splashing and noise.

3. Keep an active watch. Wear polarized sunglasses to improve sight.  Look for snouts and footprints (swirling water).

5. If you see a manatee stop or slow down, do not chase or paddle over the manatee.

6. Paddle gently and on the surface while watching where you place your paddle.

For more information watch the US Fish & Wildlife Manatee Manners video for paddlers. Click here to watch.

Don’t be the guy below. It’s dangerous and could be considered harassing these protected animals. For more information contact us Here.

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Waterbury Reservoir will remain a Recreational Resource in VT

The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation issued a draft water quality certification decision Wednesday regarding the future operations of Green Mountain Power’s Waterbury Hydroelectric Project. Under this decision, the Waterbury Reservoir would be maintained at the current summertime level year-round to protect water quality and recreational use of the reservoir. Also, flows through the dam would be managed to more closely mirror the natural flow of the Little River in a manner that improves fish habitat and the ecological health of the river. – Vermont Business Magazine

Read the full story here

waterbury reservoir vermont fall foliage

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SUPing with Alligators!

We don’t have any gators in Vermont. In fact, we don’t have anything you have to worry about besides poison ivy; and that’s just a nuisance. Your first time out in gator habitat can be a bit scary. That fear is always in the back of your mind as you paddle through their territory. Here are a few tips to ease that fear and keep you safe.

  • We are higher on the food chain than gators. As you get closer, they will act defensively and slide into the water where they are the most comfortable.
  • Gators that have had less human interaction will slip under the water faster than gators that have seen a lot of humans.
  • Gators that have been fed may approach you looking for food. Be aware of these , they are the most dangerous. Never feed a gator, it adds to the problem. Ask locals if gators in the area have been fed.
  • Once you see a gator, observe from a distance. Never corner them and block off their escape route.
  • Never get in between a mother and her baby’s. She will attack just like any other wild animal.
  • Gators are more territorial during mating season, which begins in April.
  • Dogs can be a tasty treat for gators, so leave them at home; especially if your dog likes to swim in the water.

Don’t let the presence of alligators keep you away from the water. If you keep your distance, so will they!

Florida Gator

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