Kayaking - Canoeing - Rafting - Fishing - Surfing

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Sykes Creek and the Barge Canal to the Port Canaveral Lock,
Merritt Island, Florida USA
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Our Route Summary

  • Submitted by: Curtis Gashlin
  • Date Submitted: 9/2011
  • Location: Merritt Island, Florida USA
  • Class: 1 - Typically flat and fairly open particularly on Sykes Creek and the Banana River crossing to the Canaveral Lock
  • Distance Paddled: 15 miles round trip
  • Water: brackish
  • Wildlife: Anhinga, herons, Ospreys, dolphins, manatees
  • Special Regulations: Waterways are all no wake zones (great for paddlers). Service animals only or dogs on short leash and only when leading the dog between a vehicle and a boat. Alcoholic beverages in designated areas only. See other restrictions posted.

Entry and Exit:

Kiwanis Island Park
951 Kiwanis Island Park Road
Merritt Island, FL

  • Directions:
    • From Interstate 95
      • Exit onto SR-520 east (King Street) toward Cocoa
      • Travel east about 7.1 miles over Indian River causeway
    • From US Hwy 1
      • Turn east onto SR-520
      • Travel east 3.2 miles over Indian River causeway
    • At the light just east of Sykes Creek Parkway, turn left (north) into Kiwanis Island Park on Sykes Creek
  • Fee: None
  • Description: Small beach just off grassy areas just west of the second parking area on on the west (left) side of the road across from the tennis courts. The actual launch is a small sand area right next to the parking.
  • Parking: adjacent paved
  • Facilities: 18.38-acre community river park in a wildlife sanctuary. Boat ramp access to Sykes Creek leading to the Barge Canal to the north and Banana River to the east, community center, gymnasium, large pavilion (with kitchen and meeting room), 3 small pavilions, playground, benches, restrooms, drinking fountains, ball fields, basketball, tennis and racquetball, and volleyball courts, 2 lane boat ramp, exercise trail, 200' fishing dock, picnic areas
  • Security: Public area with park office onsite
  • Special Handicap Access: ADA ACCESSIBLE: Parking, Restrooms, Community Center, Community Building, Playground, Pavilions, Fishing Dock, Paved Walkways

Where We Paddled and What We Saw

Sykes Creek is a fairly wide, brackish, north-south waterway whose mouth is on the west side of the Banana River south of Kiwanis Park and SR-520.

Sykes Creek intersects the Barge Canal to the north of Kiwanis Park. The Barge Canal is an old man-made east-west canal that boats use to transit east from the inlet and lock at Port Canaveral, across the Banana River, through Merritt Island to the Intracoastal Waterway on the Indian River to the west of Sykes Creek.

Sykes creek is natural on its east shore which marks the western boundary of the Ulumay Wildlife Sanctuary (a great birding venue also good for kayaking and canoeing).

Sykes Creek has condo’s on its west shoreline on Merritt Island.

We launched on the west side of Kiwanis Island Park and paddled north under the Route 528 bridge to the Barge Canal immediately to the north of the bridge.

Then we turned and kayaked east on the Barge Canal, across Merritt Island passing under the Route 3 bridge to continue east across the Banana River to the Port Canaveral Lock.

Just north of Kiwanis Island Park off Sykes Creek, the Barge Canal is lined with natural growth on both sides. It's open water but very pleasant. There are usually dolphin and manatee along this entire route.

For rest, prior to crossing to the locks, a short southerly paddle just under the 528 bridge will take you to Kelly Park. Kiwanis Island Park to Kelly Park and back is about 12 miles. To the locks and back adds roughly 3 miles to the trip for a total of 15 miles round trip. It is a worthy 3 miles to Kelly Park.

A stop can be made at the 528 bridge immediately to the south of the Barge Canal. Also there are some shallows where a paddler can stop for rest if needed. If you didn’t want to go to Kelly park there is usually a sand bar at the east end of barge canal as well as a beach area just before that.


The Canaveral Lock shown in the photo is an important thoroughfare for both commercial and pleasure boats. Pictured is a space shuttle solid rocket booster being transported from its recovery in the ocean back to land for reconditioning.

The lock itself with its strong operating currents and large boats is not a very safe transit for paddlers in kayaks and canoes, who can also launch easily from ramps on the ocean side of the locks instead.