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Satellite Beach, Florida USA
Samson's Island is an easy paddle for beginners, but is also enjoyable for the experienced kayaker or canoer. Read more below about how this gem of a park was saved from development by the citizens of Satellite Beach.
From Oars and Paddles Park, you can choose to paddle north on either the broad Banana River or the more protected Grand Canal which runs parallel with and just to the east of the Banana River.
Paddle west from Oars and Paddles park to the Banana River. Paddle north under Mathers Bridge, one of the few rotating opening bridges in the country. You may continue paddling north along the eastern shore past the docks and homes on Lansing Island to Samsons Island, the first and only one of three islands on the eastern shore without homes. (Merritt Island forms the western shore of the Banana River.)
Alternatively, after passing under Mathers Bridge, paddle about 1/4 mile to enter the Grand Canal toward the east. Enter the Grand Canal and paddle about 100 yards and then follow it as it turns to the north. Once again, you may reach Samsons Island, the first uninhabited island on the west side of the Grand Canal.
Fishing in the Grand Canal and the Banana River is good. Fishing paddlers trolling a plug often catch sea trout. Even Tarpon are hooked along docks in the canals off the Grand Canal.
When you reach Samson's Island there are many water passages in and around the island. (See the map at right). Most of these passages are marked no entry for motorized craft at the river mouths, but non-motorized canoes and kayaks are fine and can usually pass under the barriers.
Going through these passages makes you forget that you are in Satellite Beach. Mangrove and grass lined canals make it feel remote and natural. There is a canoe and kayak landing on the north, east side of the canal that runs north and south on the south end of the island. Though there are 3 docks on the north, east, and south sides of the island, paddler entry and exit is much easier on the small beach landings you'll find.
Pull your boats onshore and enjoy a hike throughout the trails created and maintained by many volunteers. At the south end of the island is a nice beach and picnic area. There are trails on the island that are nice for a twenty minute hike. Just be sure to bring your bug spray, particularly in the summer when the mosquitoes are there in force day and night.
Kayakers that paddled down the Banana River, may go back on the Grand Canal for variety. This is a beautiful sight at night and we've done a number of moonlight paddles in these protected waters.
There is a footbridge over the channel that runs east to west near the north end of the island. It's a fun limbo exercise (see photo at left). The northern tip of the island is one of the nicer camping areas with a views of the river.
Camping areas have iron grills or fire rings as well as picnic tables. There is no potable water source on the island, so you'll have to bring your own.
Samson's Island Was Saved from Developers
In 1968, Sam Fuchs donated about half the island on the east side of the Banana River to the City of Satellite Beach with the stipulation that it be used for recreation and named after his sons (Samsons). The city subsequently purchased the remained of the 52 acres from other owners.
Despite the stipulation by Sam Fuchs, in the late1980's, a consultant retained by the city of Satellite Beach recommended that the island be sold to developers. A 60 acre island was worth a lot of money to someone. Fortunately, there was such vocal public opposition that the city formed a citizens' committee to decide the fate of the park. Al Vazquez, the founder of KayakGuide.com was on that committee, which recommended that Samsons Island be retained as a city nature park.
Over the years, many volunteers, and several grants, created today's park. Canals were cut, uplands and wetlands created, exotic plant species removed, trails cut, and basic camping, picnicking, and docking facilities built. Mangrove seedlings hand-planted by volunteers grew into today's lush mangrove channels (see photo at right).The project has been awarded recognition as a showcase of cooperative environmental restoration.