January 2017 – I have seen Haw Creek Preserve State Park ranked highly on several websites as one of the top places to paddle in Florida. We spent a couple of hours on a Saturday paddling the creek. Although I probably would not rank the trip as highly as I have seen it ranked, it was a great experience and we will return at some point.
Haw Creek Preserve is about an hour from Jacksonville, and we ended up leaving later in the day than we had planned. We followed our GPS to what was supposed to be the state park, but unfortunately the GPS led us to the opposite side of Crescent Lake from where we needed to be. After doing a quick internet search to find a more accurate address for Russell Landing, we had to drive an additional half hour to get to our launch point.
When we arrived, there was a family getting ready to leave with their boat and a couple of people on the boardwalk. We decided to check out the boardwalk and give the boaters time to get their boat out of the water so that we could use the launch. The boardwalk was much longer than I had expected, and it had various lookout points. It ends up being about 1.3 miles roundtrip without taking the shoot-offs to the creek.
The creek is blackwater, but it was covered in a thick layer of something similar to duckweed. We launched our kayak and headed west. The vegetation on top of the water made for a slower, more difficult paddle for a couple of miles before it thinned out. Immediately after launching, we saw a water moccasin ahead of us. It was crawling over the vegetation on top of the water, a sight we had not seen before.
We followed the creek for a few miles but had to turn around before we made it to Dead Lake because the sun was beginning to set. Once we turned around, we came across an alligator on a fallen tree in front of us. A little later, we found several juveniles hanging out on some logs.
We did not see a whole lot of other wildlife, other than a few herons, egrets, and other birds. The scenery was beautiful, and the creek was very peaceful and quiet. We never saw another person on the creek while we were out.
We’ll definitely return at some point to spend more time and paddle to Dead Lake and then Crescent Lake.