Feb. 24, 2013
At Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Surrounded by the sprawling development of coastal south Florida, the North Branch of the St. Lucie River comes as a surprise. With U. S. 1 just to the east, and Interstate 95 just to the west, this river - at least the section from White City Park south for 4 miles – has, improbably, a near-wild appearance.
With the exception of a comparatively small number of homes, the banks of the North Branch are thick with oaks, maples and palms, the understory dense with ferns and other vegetation. This section of the river, much of it about 80 to 100 feet wide, makes for a terrific paddle in a canoe or kayak. I spent two hours exploring the North Branch without seeing another boater until I was approaching my take-out spot, the River Park Marina.
Bird life was abundant; including numerous kingfishers, great-blue herons, and osprey. I brought along a camera with a 300 mm lens, and was glad I did. I came upon an anhinga perched on a fallen tree trunk at water’s edge. I let the kayak drift slowly and managed to get within perhaps 12-15 feet of the bird, snapping more than a dozen photos. The bird then flew to another fallen tree trunk downriver. Approaching that perch I got off another dozen photos, including one I especially like.
Brightening the riverbank were occasional colonies of coral bean, with big, showy bright red flowers.