Werner-Boyce Salt Springs SP to Durney Key 10/21/17- Therese Eby, photos by Emil Assily

25 Oct 2017 10:21 PM | Anonymous member

There is a new kayak launch on a maritime hammock at Werner-Boyce Salt Springs Park. A scenic 8' wide boardwalk  connects the launch area to the parking lot, which includes trailer parking.  A raised bathroom pavilion has an observation deck and water fountains. The concessionaire, Paddling Adventures, rents boats, and will lend you  kayak carts for free.  You may leave the wheels at the launch (attended by staff), to avoid the extra walk back to the rental office in the parking area.  The launch ramp itself is a carpet-covered natural ramp with a gentle slope that made sliding boats in and out easy.  There were a few picnic tables on the hammock, also.  

From this new launch, nine paddlers gathered and pushed off into the mangrove-lined salt marsh, past an unfazed juvenile night heron standing in the shallows. Orange trail markers along the Salt Spring Run led us towards the gulf. An east wind was blowing offshore, thinning the waters. The brackish water can hide scratchy limestone shelves and oyster shells , so we paddled to Durney Key first to allow the tide to rise more before heading up to the springs.   We soon passed the Energy and Marine Center adjacent to the park,  and paddled under their walkway toward Cow Key.  I saw a roseate spoonbill, and several osprey. Mullet were jumping, and a few fishing boats were hanging in coves.  

Sharan Nickles, a local resident,  lead us around rocks and oyster beds on our trip across the bayou.  With the wind at our back, the mile between Cow Key and Durney Key zipped by, on water a little bumpier than some level 1 paddlers experienced before.  But all did well.  We could see several stilt homes on the horizon,  about a mile offshore, and we watched a casino boat navigate out the boat channel.

We crossed the narrow boat channel from the Pithlachascotee River together,  and landed on the lee side of a sandy spit on the Durney Key for lunch, sharing the island with a few power boaters and lots of fiddler crabs.  

We had a fine view of  a stilt house, whose roof was covered with cormorants, gulls and terns.  

Paddling directly into a 10 mph wind on the return, we paused at Harborpointe for a rest and a peek at an ostentatious coastal house.  This was quite a contrast to the old-timer stilt houses in the water. 

During our short crossing,  we saw a small  power boat assisting a couple who had capsized from their double sit-on-top fishing kayak near the boat channel.  I wonder if their cooler was for fish or beer?

We headed back across Boggy Bay and rejoined the kayak trail.  The water had  deepened so that we did not  have to worry about the path we chose.  We paddled about a half mile past the launch into Salt Spring.

The final path to Salt Spring, marked by surveyor tape,  was a narrow and twisty mangrove tunnel.  The spring itself, which divers mapped as 320' deep,  was hidden in a round silty pool. The tide overpowers the flow from the spring.  

We followed a short trail on the far side of the pool to a short canal that dead-ended.  Back in the Salt Spring, I looked for a deep spot and practiced a roll with Al Tilson before heading back to the launch. 

We heard the grunt call of a Virginia Rail on the paddle back, but it was hidden from view in the reeds.  Total distance paddled was  5.8 miles.

There is plenty more to see.  I'd like to  return with a plastic boat to see the tidal waterfalls on the limestone arches near Salt Spring at low tide.  And to explore Cauldron springs, which we bypassed this time, and points further north along four miles of the salt marsh preserve where there are many more tidal creeks and lakes. 

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