Boot Key! One of our favorite canoe spots in South Florida. It is a relatively undeveloped island located in the Florida Keys and about 1,100 acres in size. Boot Key is right off of Sombrero Beach, making it easy to launch a canoe or kayak. It has approximately 5 miles of undeveloped shoreline in order to protect crucial habitats. The key is well known for protecting at least 15 state-listed species and 3 state imperiled natural communities. It is also a fundamental site for the migration of raptors in the fall, averaging about 800 raptors in a single day. The key is home to Tropical Hardwood Hammock which is considered imperiled communities in Florida due to their small acreage and over development.
The waters of the Florida keys are home to the world’s third largest barrier reef ecosystem. The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary surrounds Boot Key – this includes 2,900 square nautical miles, making it the second largest marine sanctuary in the U.S.
Within the boundaries of the sanctuary lie breathtaking oceanic resources such as seagrass beds, mangrove-fringed islands, marine life, shipwrecks, and… treasures. Which leads me to why I love Boot Key.
Making a trip here is pretty painless. You can rent canoes or kayaks from Wheels-2-Go, about a mile away on the main road. They will mount it onto your car and tie it down. Make sure you grab yourself a laminated map, this will help you get through the trails & it will SAVE YOUR LIFE! Seriously, don’t go without it. The map highlights the trails, differentiating them by color: Green (easy), Orange (moderate), and White (hard). Although the white isn’t necessarily hard, you can considerate it to be more of a jungle gym. The white trails are my favorite because they swerve and are much more enclosed. In order to get through these trails, you may have to put your paddles inside and use your hands to get from tree to tree. Also, prepare to duck every once in a while or you’ll be running into trees. Getting to the first trail can take anywhere from 20 – 40 minutes depending on the current and how fast you paddle. If you don’t live in the area, you will probably depart from Sombrero Beach going west towards the island. The hardest part about canoeing here is actually getting to the island and on the first trail. On a hot day, be sure to take enough water, sunscreen, and maybe even some food – sandwiches will be your best friend, do not go without food if you’re going to be there for a while. The sun can be brutal so make sure you stay hydrated. Once you get to the island there’s enough shade to take cover for a bit and cool off. The island is beautiful, luscious and filled with wildlife. We’ve spotted plenty of fish, birds, and crabs. We’ve also come across a manatee on the way back from the island by a dock. A dad and his daughters were hosing off their boat with fresh water and the manatee was hanging out; I’m thinking he was thirsty. This island takes 5 out of 5 stars for some of the best canoe trails in South Florida, hands down! The tri-colored trails are some of the most entertaining I’ve visited (besides Chassahowitzka, but I’ll save that for another post). If you’re in the keys, near Marathon, and you’re looking to kayak, it’s definitely worth it to take a trip to Boot Key. I promise you won’t be paddling in the middle of the ocean against the current, you’ll actually be having a blast in the trails.