Kayaking - Canoeing - Rafting - Fishing - Surfing

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Al V

St. Johns River from Hatbill Park to Rt. 46,
west of Mims, Florida USA
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Our Route Summary

  • Submitted by: Al Vazquez
  • Date Submitted: 3/2006
  • Location: Mims, Florida USA
  • Class: - Typically flat and fairly open water flowing through multiple channels and a number of small lakes and marsh grasslands (little protection from winds). Water level has major seasonal variations; minor channels can disappear in winter and some channels can turn into small lakes during summer and early fall. Some channels are impassable during periods of low water, so choose channels with an obvious current where possible. It may be difficult to detect a current at some channel intersections, particularly during low water, so leave yourself enough time and energy to back track at some dead end channels. To navigate the myriad of channels in this area, it's advisable to take a GPS, compass, and chart with latitude and longitude lines and print and take the latest Google Earth of the area, also with latitude and longitude lines. Or better yet, take a GPS with built in charts.
  • Distance Paddled: About 12 miles one way
  • Water: fresh
  • Wildlife: Eagles, alligators, osprey, American Black Necked Stilt, ibis, egret, heron, turkey; egret, sea gulls and in the winter, ducks, owls, and swallows
  • Special Regulations: at Hatbill Park, only service animals or dogs on short leash are permitted and only when leading the dog between the vehicle and boat. Alcoholic beverages permitted only in designated areas. See other restrictions posted.

Entry - Hatbill Park, 100 Hatbill Road, Mims FL

  • Directions:
    • From Interstate 95
      • Take Exit 223 onto SR-46 west towards Mims/Sanford.
        • Travel 4.1 miles to Hatbill Road.
      • Turn left onto Hatbill Road
        • Travel 8.5 miles to the Hatbill Rd/Baxter Point Rd intersection
        • Keep left
        • Travel 0.5 mile to Hatbill Park
  • GPS: N 28 36.336; W 080 52.655 (actual)
  • Fee: None
  • Description: small beaches adjacent to 2 lane boat ramp open 24 hours a day
  • Parking: adjacent unpaved. Parking for canoe/kayak launch is large grassy area south and east of the concrete boat ramp; watch for large potholes and soft spots approaching put-in and watch for fire ant mounds when parking. Fire ants swarm and bite hard and fast if you step on their mound. Area around concrete ramp serves as camping area, primarily for small groups of airboaters on weekends.
  • Facilities: Hatbill Park is a 15-acre park on the St. Johns River with only primitive camping by permit on weekends.
  • Security: Somewhat remote location, but we've not heard of any vehicle break-ins
  • Special Handicap Access: none

Exit - Route 46 Bridge over the St. Johns River

  • Directions:
    • From Interstate 95
      • Exit onto Route 46 west
      • Travel west about 11.5 miles to the St. Johns River
      • Cross the bridge over the St. Johns River
      • Exit right on the north side of the bridge
      • Proceed to the parking by the river
  • Fee: None
  • Description: Sandy beach adjacent to paved boat ramp on the northwest side of the bridge
  • Parking: adjacent paved
  • Facilities: A bar and restaurant on the site
  • Security: Fairly public location with no known issues of vehicle break ins.
  • Special Handicap Access: none

Where We Paddled and What We Saw

Kayaking or canoeing the St. Johns River is a special experience. The St. Johns is noteworthy not only for its spectacular natural beauty but also as a perspective on Florida's long and colorful history. Native Americans used the St. Johns River and its tributaries extensively for transportation. Before railroads or roads, the river later served as a major artery for paddle-wheel boats. Over 300 miles long, it is the longest river in Florida and one of only 14 American Heritage Rivers in the USA. This rare northern-flowing U.S. river begins in the marshes of Blue Cypress Lake and ends at it's mouth on the Atlantic in Jacksonville.

The first land-accessible kayaking and canoeing sections of this river are upstream (south) of Melbourne, Florida through Lake Hell N Blazes and the two Sawgrass Lakes.

(One can also take a number of paddle trips out and back from Hatbill Park.)

After launching from Hatbill Park, we paddled downstream (westward) about half a mile to the main navigation channel on the river. Locals have installed helpful PVC pipe channel markings at this point. At the main channel, we kayaked north (downstream) toward Puzzle Lake. You have a choice here of taking two channels north.

Though well downstream of it's headwaters, this section of the river from Hatbill Park to Route 46, has a more remote feel than many sections upstream as it divides and rejoins around many islands through multiple channels the river has cut, exposing muddy banks during low water.

We saw a number of alligators and a variety of bird life, the most remarkable of which were many large eagles.


I saw more eagles during this one day of paddling on the St. Johns River than I've seen the rest of my life.

These large, fast and powerful raptors, our country's symbol of strength, speed and grace, were abundant in the middle section of this paddle; most remote and farthest away from roads.

We saw several eagles flying with huge fish in their talons. One landed to eat. We tried to walk slowly toward it over the open grasses to get a better photo, but these wild birds took flight when we got within 100 meters. So take a good long lens if you'd like to get a good photo.

Not all animals we saw were wild. This group of cattle were curious and gave us a good look before deciding they could continue to eat the abundant grasses.

We watched these beautiful American Black Necked Stilts walking slowly in the shallow water.

As we came in sight of the Route 46 bridge, we paddled by large groups of seagulls. This section of winding channels with our bridge destination in sight for quite some time was tiring as we tediously wound our way back and forth toward the end of our trip.

We had a great day on a great river.