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Trip report: December 2017

Oleta River State Park...

Kayaking a Diamond in the Rough

Located on upper Biscayne Bay, in the middle of the busy Miami metropolitan area, Oleta River State Park is an amazing getaway, offering a variety of outdoor recreational activities. The park is well known for its miles of off-road bicycling trails, but for kayakers, canoeists, and paddle boarders this is truly a diamond in the rough. It offers pristine, mostly clear water padding opportunities, away from the wind and busy boat traffic of the open bay. (Detailed map and photos below.)

Oleta River, South FL paddling

Distance: varies
Location: Miami-Dade County
Easy to moderate
Tidal: Yes
Launch points: Oleta River State Park (See map)
Nearby points of interest: Miami, Miami Beach


Oleta River Outdoor Center  (rentals, tours)

Support and Advocacy

Friends of Oleta River State Park

Oleta River... Comments and Photos

Here paddlers will find a 1,200 foot white sand beach (nice stop, pullout to left), a short fishing pier, and canals through mangrove preserve, containing increasingly rare native South Florida plants and wildlife. Water clarity is usually best during incoming tides, as the Park is situated across from Haulover Inlet. Note: during the winter season, the Park and launch area can get extremely busy on weekends and holidays, so plan accordingly.

Launch and Concession

Oleta River Outdoor Center offers rental boards, canoes, and kayaks (sit-on-tops, our choice) and tours. Bicycle rentals, picnic area and a store are also available.

From Launch, through Canal to Bay

From the launch, take the canal to the immediate left. Prevailing winds are normally from the east, so paddlers can ‘play’ the wind by using this canal when leaving the launch. Then when exiting the canal at the tip of the Park, the wind is at your back on return (passing pier and beach). This path can be reversed based on wind direction. Along the way, paddle through two culverts under park roads and past several picnic areas before exiting onto the bay.

Bay, lagoon, beach, launch/pullout

The canal exits onto Biscayne Bay. Some people paddle to Sandpur Island and its beach area from here. But because this trip involves crossing open water and subject to wind and tide, it is recommended for experienced paddlers only. Due to the wind, we did not make the crossing on this day. Rather, we paddled to the beach and back to the lagoon, which was populated with moored boats and paddleboarders.

Paddling through Mangrove to Portage and Return to Launch

We paddled from the lagoon into a mangrove-lined creek, passing Florida International University-Biscayne Bay Campus. Some obstacles through here, including ducking downed trees. We went as far as the portage but did not go over - it's rather long and steep. Instead, we returned to the lagoon and then back to the launch.

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