Lewis and Clark: Urban Kayaking

Many people go kayaking in calm, serene places, away from the hustle and bustle. But urban kayaking is an emerging trend.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Many people go kayaking in calm, serene places, away from the hustle and bustle.

But urban kayaking is an emerging trend, and it's something you can do in downtown Jacksonville along the St. Johns River.

So Lewis Turner and Jessica Clark went urban kayaking.

Our guides were Jennifer and Pete Koerner with Up the Creek Expeditions. They provide guided kayaking tours, including urban kayaking tours. With life vests on and instructions received, we slipped into the water at a boat ramp next to the River City Brewing Company, next to the Acosta Bridge.

"This is a relationship enhancing experience," Jennifer said because Lewis and I were in a tandem kayak, also known as the divorce boat.

We laughed.

"Okay, Lewis," I said, "This is it, a make-it-or-break-it Lewis and Clark moment."

"This is it!" Lewis said in agreement.

"We call this the downtown tour or urban kayaking, with bridges, and boats, and tunnels.We call this urban kayaking at its best," Jennifer said.

Instead of cypress trees, we passed by skyscrapers, yachts and went under a railroad track by the Acosta Bridge. We saw some dolphin playing near the kayaks as we padded across the river.

There was certainly a swift current in parts of the river. Because of that and the busy boat-filled river, Jennifer said this was an intermediate skill-level kayak trip. It's not one for the beginner kayaker. Jennifer and Pete lead kayak and canoe trips in other waterways as well.

"At first, I couldn't imagine why someone would want to paddle by buildings and bridges. But look at the railroad trestle up. It looks like art to me," Jennifer said.

Now, she's really into it.

Lewis and I both agreed, it was a whole different experience to see the city from a kayak. At one point, a train went by on the railroad trestle and blew his whistle. We joyfully believed he was saying hello to us on the water.

Then, Jennifer directed us to a small passage under the Times-Union building and parking lot.

"So all you see is this little tunnel," she said. "Well, I'll let the surprise be yours when we go through."

As we escaped the fast moving river, and into a dark tunnel.

"I think the cars are parked right on top of us," Lewis said.

We both were in awe. We were paddling through a tunnel, with only a small light at the end of it.

"We are under the city," Lewis said.

Once we exited the tunnel, we passed under a continuous stream of metal pipes, one after another after another. Concrete walls were on either side of us.

"It's got it's own beauty, doesn't it," Jennifer said.

While looking up, I noticed the sun shining though spider webs that spanned from nearly every one of the pipes.

"I know you don't like spiders, but the sun coming through the webs is incredible!" I said to Lewis.

"Did you know they have the Great Florida Jumping Spider in here?" Jennifer said with excitement.

"Those are my favorite. I love a good jumping spider!" Lewis said sarcastically.

Poor Lewis. Good news for him, we never saw one.

And then the area seemed to open up and became even more surreal. We were paddling down a sleepy creek, with grassy banks on each side. And the trees! A tree canopy enveloped us. Sun streamed through the branches that were full of nesting and resting birds. You could hear them everywhere.

"And now, we're in the jungle," I said in awe. "Where are we right now?"

"This is McCoy's Creek," Jennifer said.

"You go from a concrete jungle to this jungle, so fast," I said.

"This is considered a rookery. So this is your downtown urban rookery," Jennifer said.

But the birds were a bit camera shy. Lewis even tried his best bird calls. Still, the birds did not make much of appearance for our camera. We saw them, but they were took quick for the camera to capture. We eventually did a u-turn in the rookery, knowing that the city was calling us back.

Urban kayaking, it's an experience Lewis and I will never forget. Lewis and I try to find adventures off the beaten path, but this time we found one slightly underneath it.

(By the way, the working relationship stayed intact, even with the two-seater kayak.)


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