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Canoeing & Kayaking

American Heritage River

St. Johns River from Lake Washington to Route 192, Melbourne Florida USA

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Copyright 2001 Alfonso Vazquez-Cuervo - See Terms of Use

Our Route Summary

  • Submitted by: Al Vazquez
  • Date Submitted: 11/2001
  • Location: Melbourne Florida USA
  • Class: Typically flat water lake leading to the river. Lake Washington may become rough when winds are blowing.
  • Distance Paddled: about 5 miles one way
  • Water Level: this river is typically navigable even during drought conditions
  • Water: fresh
  • Wildlife: anhinga, alligators, ibis, vultures, ducks, great blue heron, turtles, grasses and water plants
  • Special Regulations:


  • Directions: Exit Interstate 95 at Eau Gallie Boulevard eastbound. Turn north on Wickham Road. In about a mile, turn left (west) onto lake Washington Road and follow it to the park at the end.
  • GPS: N 28 degrees 08.863' W 80 degrees 44.055'
  • Fee: none
  • Description: dirt beach beside concrete ramps
  • Parking: paved parking adjacent
  • Facilities: restroom, picnic tables
  • Handicap Access: paved ramp and accessible restrooms


  • Directions: Exit Interstate 95 at Route 192 westbound. Turn south (left) into Camp holly about 1 mile down the road just after crossing the bridge over the St. Johns River.
  • GPS: N 28 degrees 05.098' W 80 degrees 45.155'
  • Fee: $2 per boat ramp fee
  • Description: dirt beach beside boat ramps
  • Parking: adjacent unpaved parking
  • Facilities: restroom, informal dining (VERY informal :-)
  • Handicap Access: probably OK, though it's muddy

What We Saw

The St. Johns River is a beautiful, northern flowing river that was once the prime tourist destination in Florida. Before railroads or roads, the St. Johns served as a major thoroughfare with numerous paddle wheel boats. And native Americans used it extensively. The river begins in the marshes of Blue Cypress Lake and ends at it's mouth in Jacksonville.

This is the first section of the St. Johns River that sees regular boat traffic. We paddled upstream (southward) from Lake Washington to entrance to the St. Johns on the Lake's southeastern side.

Though this is a nice paddle, be prepared for airboat and motorboat traffic. Airboats love the swampy areas along the shores of Lake Washington. But with the exception of one idiot motor boater that came around a blind corner on the river at high speed, we found the boaters polite, friendly and careful to steer clear of us paddlers. I suggest placing a bright, tall warning flag on your canoe or kayak to be more visible above the high grasses. And take a loud horn to warn away boats if necessary.

We enjoyed an afternoon paddle along the marshy shores on the east side of Lake Washington as we paddled south to the river. The mouth of the river (see photo at right) is on the southwest side of a peninsula on the southeast side of the Lake at

GPS: N 28 degrees 06.868' W 80 degrees 44.877'

You'll come to a couple of smaller canals off the lake first that lead to dredged channels along Eau Gallie Boulevard. This areas is also popular with airboats.

Once we entered the river mouth toward the east,, it quickly curved toward the south. It's banks were lined with grasses with birds such as the small vulture at left.

On narrow rivers frequented by high speed boat traffic, it's best to take the longer, outside shore of sharp curves to help the boaters see you in time to slow down. Good power boaters will do the same, but, like paddlers, not all know what they're doing.

There were several islands and branches in the river. We stayed to our right to continue on the main channel.

We eventually saw the power lines and Route 192 bridge just before the Camp Holly takeout on the west side of the river.