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Reported: March 2016

Shell Creek... Paddling and Fossil Hunting Near Punta Gorda

Shell Creek near Punta Gorda is a scenic paddle, twisting but mostly wide due to a dam downriver that keeps the water levels high (it narrows further upstream). The creek serves as the water supply for Punta Gorda, so is pristine and undeveloped except for a few homes and cabins along the shore. Once an ancient sea, hunting fossils from the Pleistocene era is a popular pasttime. (Detailed map and photos below.)



View Larger Map
Distance: From Hathaway Park: 8 miles upstream; 5 miles downstream to the dam
Location: Charlotte County
Difficulty:
Easy
Tidal: No
Launch points: Hathaway Park (35461 Washington Loop Road), Riverside Park (8320 Riverside Drive) (See map, left)
Kayak/Canoe Rentals: Port Charlotte (link, above right)
Nearby points of interest: Peace River Wildlife Center (Punta Gorda), Muscle Car City Museum (Punta Gorda), Military Heritage Museum (Fishermen's Village, Punta Gorda); J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge (Sanibel Island), Edison and Ford Winter Homes (Fort Myers)

The best paddling is from Hathaway Park upstream about 8 miles or downstream 5 miles to the dam - there are two entrances to the park, use the second which goes to the kayak/canoe launch and also is fee-free. Upstream, the creek runs for about two miles through wild and natural Shell Creek Preserve. High riverbanks often display fossilized shells from an ancient sea. Cypress and oak line the creek; the green udzu draping the branches create "dinosaur" type sculptures, but unfortunately this is an invasive species. Many turtles, alligators, birds.

Paddling at Shell Creek
(tap or hover over photo for larger view)
Launches
Riverside Park is below the dam close to the Peace River, there's a boat ramp and a small beach for kayak launching. There are two entrances next to each other to Hathaway Park, a boat ramp at one and kayak/canoe launch at the second.
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Riverside Park - boat ramp, parking, picnic Hathaway Park first entrance - boat ramp, parking, restroom, picnic, hiking trail; fee Hathaway Park second entrance - kayak/canoe launch, parking, port-a-pottie, picnic; no fee
Paddling on Shell Creek
Launching from the kayak/canoe launch at Hathaway Park, we paddled upstream about 4 miles, and downstream about a half mile. An easy paddle with mild current, alternating between wide and narrow sections - it's more consistently narrow further upstream but we didn't go that far. Few places to pull off to stretch and snack.
Upstream
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At the launch Leaving the launch, a canal leads to the creek Entering the creek Washington Loop Road (CR784) bridge We saw quite a few kayakers that day
Paddle Shell Creek, Punta Gorda - Kayak, CanoePaddle Shell Creek, Punta Gorda - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Shell Creek, Punta Gorda - Kayak, CanoePaddle Shell Creek, Punta Gorda - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Shell Creek, Punta Gorda - Kayak, CanoePaddle Shell Creek, Punta Gorda - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Shell Creek, Punta Gorda - Kayak, CanoePaddle Shell Creek, Punta Gorda - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Shell Creek, Punta Gorda - Kayak, CanoePaddle Shell Creek, Punta Gorda - Kayak, Canoe
A wide section A narrower section The green kudzu is an invasive species Turtles Alligator
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One of several homes along the creek More private property Creek - wide Creek - narrow Creek - wide heading into narrow
Downstream
Paddle Shell Creek, Punta Gorda - Kayak, CanoePaddle Shell Creek, Punta Gorda - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Shell Creek, Punta Gorda - Kayak, CanoePaddle Shell Creek, Punta Gorda - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Shell Creek, Punta Gorda - Kayak, CanoePaddle Shell Creek, Punta Gorda - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Shell Creek, Punta Gorda - Kayak, CanoePaddle Shell Creek, Punta Gorda - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Shell Creek, Punta Gorda - Kayak, CanoePaddle Shell Creek, Punta Gorda - Kayak, Canoe
Leaving the launch Downstream Victim of a storm? Shelter at end of boardwalk in the park Returning to launch

More information on Shell Creek (opens in a new window):

- Charlotte County - Shell Creek Preserve
- Charlotte County - Hathaway Park

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