In the hiking world, someone who undertakes an end-to-end hike of one of the great national scenic trails is called a thru-hiker and their trek is called a thru-hike. I want to adapt that term to long-distance kayaking and canoeing. I propose that someone who paddles the entire length of a river, from its uppermost source to its mouth, is a thru-paddler and their trek is a thru-paddle. Similarly, I propose that an end-to-end paddle of a long-distance canoe/kayak trail should also be called a thru-paddle.
I find other terms for a thru-paddle to be problematic:
1. kayak touring (of what? is it self-supported?)
2. kayak camping (for how many nights?)
3. long-distance paddling (how long is long-distance?)
Based upon it's origin in the term "thru-hiking," I define "thru-paddle" as the paddling of an entire route, trail, or waterway in a single, continuous, self-supported trip.
In the fall of 2005 during a camping trip in Florida's Big Bend, I took my new kayak out on the water for the first time. While on the water I thought, "I'd like to do this for months at a time," a thought which persisted long after the camping trip and led to my decision to paddling the entire coast of Florida -- all 1,500 miles of it.
After making this decision, I began researching and discovered that there was little information about how to complete such a trip. As far as I could tell, no one had paddled the entire coast in one long thru-paddle and certainly no one had written a book about it that I could read and learn from. I only found the website for the Florida Saltwater Circumnavigational Trail after reading a book by the trail's project manager and creator, Doug Alderson. Doug had scouted many sections but as of 2007 when I was planning the trip, the trail was not yet complete.
Together with my friend Dan, the voyage began at Big Lagoon State Park near the Alabama border on November 11th, 2008. We finished at Fort Clinch State Park on March 26th, 2009. The two of us, along with Matt Keene who started the trail at the Georgia border and paddled "backwards," would be Doug's guinea pigs--the first paddlers on the new Florida circumnavigational paddling trail: the "CT."
Dan and I prepared as best we could but had a lot to learn during the trek, and this website exists to pass that knowledge on to all furture paddlers who hope to do what we did or paddle one of Florida's great rivers.
Check out the official notification of our completed circumnavigational trip in the Office of Greenways and Trails Newsletter.
Many people, mostly strangers, helped Dan and I during our trek. We can never pay back all those strangers, not directly, so the goal of this site is to give everyone, from the curious day-paddler to the hopeful thru-paddler, the knowledge to make their trek a successful and enjoyable one.
The information provided on this website is not for the novice kayaker or someone who has never camped overnight. I assume you know the basics like the principle of layering clothing, using lightweight backpacking gear to camp, and how to choose a kayak.
While I take for granted a certain level of experience and knowledge, I also assume you have not undertaken a five-month paddling trip before. In addition, much of the information is presented with non-Florida residents in mind.