Saturday, May 07, 2016

Hiking Canaveral Marshes to Paw Paw Mound

The trailhead for Canaveral Marshes is set back a bit from Highway 50, and it is easy to miss.  It is a nice area to visit, and it’s worth looking for.  Since most of it is unshaded, the weather for this weekend was perfect for this hike – the temperature was mild, there was a gentle wind to keep the bugs at bay, and the river water levels are low.

View from Paw Paw Mound-pano
View from Paw Paw Mound

Tree pornHeading south from the trailhead, the more modest hiker might prefer to keep their eyes to the right side of the trail.  There are a couple of trees on the left side that look like they would appreciate some privacy.

The trail heads due south along a dirt road for about a half mile before reaching an intersection.  Along the way there is a small pond on the east side of the trail that is home to a mature alligator.  The pond appears to be frequented by cattle in the area, but none of them were around on this day.Airstrip-1

Turning west at the intersection, I soon came upon what appeared to be an impromptu landing strip of some sort.  The only structure there is what appears to be a cattle shelter, but there is also a wind sock and several temporary markers placed in the field.  My first thought was that I came upon a drug runner’s drop off spot, but it turned out to be something associated with several helicopters that were flying around.

Pool shelterAt the end of the east bound portion of the trail, there is another cattle shelter with an unusual sign.  I don’t know if ranchers that worked this land before it became a public land had plans for swimming here, or if the sign was left over material that was incorporated into the structure.

Waterline on palmsAbout a half mile south of the shelter, there is a small (nearly dry) canal that leads out to the river – it’s hard to miss because it is lined with palm trees.  It’s interesting to note the water line on the trees – they show that there are some times of year that the water would have been up to my shoulders. 

Approaching Paw Paw MoundFrom here I headed across a field to the southeast and Paw Paw Mound soon came into view.  This is a shell midden that has been studied formally (there is an article in The Florida Anthropologist that starts on page 61).  The midden contains many shells which can be easily seen from the surface, and in the roots of the palm trees.  It also contains other animal bones and pottery shards buried several feet down.Airboat tour

I stopped here for lunch, and enjoyed the view for awhile.  Out on the river, a little too far off for a photo, I could see a flock of pink roseate spoonbills.  It wasn’t too long before I was waving at a group of tourists that looked like they were having a great time on the river too.

Cattle watchingFor the trip back, I followed the river further to the east until I came upon the “road” that lead to the intersection where I initially turned to the east.  A herd of cattle watched me pass by and I’m sure they were shaking their heads when the saw the path that I had taken to return.  It is a very thoroughly churned up fire break, that was the hardest mile and a quarter of the whole hike today. 

There were a couple of helicopters flying around the river; I think they were either giving tours, or (more likely) had student pilots.  One of the helicopters seemed to land briefly right next to the mound, and I later saw one of them drop low and possibly land at the air strip that I had passed earlier.  They also seemed to take interest in watching me hike around.  I don’t think I would be that interesting to watch, but I was wearing a bright yellow t-shirt so I probably stood out.

Photo Gallery
(More photos available the this gallery)

Trailhead sign Trail intersection Gator pond
Airstrip-2 Helicopter landing at Paw Paw mound Paw Paw bench mark

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