So you have been to Miami Beach, Key West, or Sarasota and you think you have seen the real Florida? Not even close. You haven’t seen the real Florida until you explore the St. John’s River, the only waterway in North America that flows north. Located near DeLand, Florida, Blue Heron River Tours specializes in two hour journeys that bring people close to the many waterfowl and marine life that populate the river.
During your excursion you will see dozens of blue herons as well as great blue herons, anhingas, egrets, hawks, and maybe an eagle or two nesting in the trees alongside the river. Captain Josh Winland knows just where to find alligators, too, and will maneuver his vessel, the Great Blue, close enough to see them lurking along the shore. He even knows how to tell the males from the females and where the baby alligators are nesting that day.
Did you know that alligators are black and not green? The green animals we think of as alligators are really crocodiles. You won’t see any of those during your trip on the St. John’s. You might see manatees, though. On the day my wife and I went cruising on the Great Blue, a pod of them swam beside and underneath our boat for 15 minutes while we floated on the river’s gentle current.
The Great Blue is 45 feet long and seats 49. Custom designed to permit access to the shallowest parts of the river, it makes it easy for passengers to photograph the wildlife along the way close up. In addition to daily trips, Blue Heaven River Tours conducts multi-day excursions twice a year, once in the spring and again in the fall. Give them a call or e-mail them for information and prices.
Florida’s rivers were its first highways. They brought explorers to the area and later were the primary transportation routes for farmers and merchants to get their goods to market. At one time, riverboats plied these inland waterways. They are gone now but you can learn more about that era at the Florida Maritime Museum in Bradenton on Florida’s west coast. Florida also has 51 kayak trails throughout the state for those who want to explore its rich history and wildlife in a very personal way.
On the day my wife and I took the river tour, we were joined by our friends Ken and Tracey Anderson. Ken is an avid photographer and took the photos you see here. He kindly consented to allow me to share them with you. Thanks, Ken!