Kayaking - Canoeing - Rafting - Fishing - Surfing

Peace River from Zolfo Springs Pioneer Park to Gardener Boat Ramp, North of Arcadia, Florida USA
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Gorgeous Cypress Tree on the Peace River
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Our Route Summary

  • Submitted by: Al Vazquez
  • Date Submitted: 4/2/2011
  • Location: Zolfo Springs, Florida USA
  • Class: 1; current varies significantly based on the water level
  • Water Level Gauge (We paddled at 3.5 feet of Gauge Height and there was a current of about 1 to 2 MPH)
  • Distance Paddled: about 26 miles one way
  • Water: tannic river water
  • Wildlife: many alligators, vultures, wild turkey, bulls, turtles, Great Blue Heron, gorgeous Cypress, Epiphytes
  • Special Regulations: none

Entry - Pioneer Park in Zolfo Springs

  • Directions: On US 17 in Zolfo
  • Turn west onto SR 64
  • Enter the park on the north side of the road (river side)
  • Continue to the ramp at the back of the park
  • GPS: N 27.22412° W 081.88197° (actual reading)
  • Fee: None
  • Description: Cement boat ramp that gets crowded especially on weekends with groups of paddlers leaving all at once with local outfitters (e.g. photo)
  • Parking: adjacent paved and unpaved parking
  • Facilities: Restrooms, picnic tables, camping
  • Special Handicap Access: none
  • Security: We were told by locals that this is a relatively safe place to leave unattended vehicles so we left our vehicles parked here. In fact while preparing to launch, we had a nice chat with a patrolling deputy sheriff.
  • Shuttle: We made arrangements in advance with Zamora's Taxi (863-494-1582) to pick up the drivers at the Gardener boat ramp at a predetermined time (in case our mobile phones failed during the paddle). Since we made good time with a strong current, we phoned Zamora's for an earlier pickup when we arrived at Gardener and they arrived promptly. Zamora's Taxi was reliable and friendly.

Exit - Gardener Boat Ramp

  • Directions: From Arcadia, drive north on US 17 about 10 miles.
  • From Zolfo Springs, drive south on US 17 about 13 miles
  • Turn west onto River Road.
  • Proceed about 1.5 miles to the boat ramp
  • GPS: N 27.34640° W 081.82630° (actual reading)
  • Fee: None
  • Description: Cement boat ramp and adjacent grass and sand beaches.
  • Parking: adjacent unpaved parking
  • Facilities: trash receptacle
  • Special Handicap Access: none
  • Security: We were told by locals that this is a remote location and not a safe place to leave unattended vehicles.


Where We Paddled and What We Saw

We launched along with a large group of rental canoes which we quickly left behind in our faster kayaks

The day we paddled had a nice current as the result of heavy rains the previous day. If the water level is lower, the current is greatly reduced and it becomes much more difficult to complete this section in one day. So many paddlers camp along the way and paddle this in 2 days instead of one. With the nice current, we paddled the 26 miles to Gardener in about 7 hours with several stops along the way.

We saw over 20 alligators during our paddle, but they were fortunately shy and crawled into the water to hide before we were able to get close enough to take a picture. Some were quite large, but most were smaller.


Since the water level came up quickly the day before, we saw clusters of beautiful flowers flooded by the rising waters.


Kayaking further downstream, we paddled by one nice cabin on a bend in the river.

On this gorgeous day, we saw spectacular beauty along the banks like the field of yellow flowers lit by the sun just before a clump of young trees.

One one sandy beach along a bend in the river, there were a number of vultures. I was able to get a shot of this one just before it took flight. A large dead tree just downstream was full of vultures; a somewhat eerie sight to see so many of these scavengers of dead animals in one place.


Along much of the river, we paddled under large oak trees draped with spanish moss and reflected in the dark waters of the river.

Though this section of the Peace River is not as well regarded for fossil collecting like the paddle between Brownville and Arcadia, it is one of the most visually striking of Florida rivers.

As we kayaked under this trestle bridge, we knew we were at roughly the half way point of our paddle. Here we saw one of the largest alligators of the day. But he dove quickly into the water to hide before we were able to get the camera.

Across the river from one of our stops on the more open sections of the river, a very large bull grazed unconcerned under a tree beyond more bright yellow flowers.

Once again as we approached Gardener, there were more splendid cypress trees. Many were their own islands in the swelling waters of the river, so it was easy to kayak by them or under their twisted and graceful branches decorated by spanish moss like the live oaks along the river.