Journey Through the Wild: Paddling Fisheating Creek


Words and photography by George McKenzie Jr
Live Wildly Adventurist

This fall, under the Floridian sun, I began a journey that was both a personal milestone and a celebration of nature’s raw beauty. My first adventure as a Live Wildly Adventurist took me on a seven-mile paddle through Fisheating Creek in central Florida. This expedition was not just timely but symbolic, coming at a moment when the creek was most welcoming, just before the water levels started to recede.

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The genesis of this adventure can be traced back to a pivotal encounter during the 2023 Florida Wildlife Corridor Summit. There, I had the incredible opportunity to connect with Mr. Arnie Bellini, founder of Live Wildly and a figure whose passion for Florida’s waterways resonates deeply with those who seek to understand and explore them. His gift to me, a book on paddling Florida’s waterways, became a beacon that guided my planning for this and future adventures.

The pages of this book, rich with insights and wisdom about the state’s aquatic trails, profoundly impacted my perspective and approach to exploring Florida’s wild spaces.

As we set off, the simplicity of our preparation – a mere phone call to a paddling outfitter – contrasted sharply with the complexity and depth of the ecosystem we were about to navigate. The Florida Wildlife Corridor, an expansive and vital 18 million-acre network, promised a journey through the heart of the state’s natural heritage.

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Fisheating Creek is a living tapestry of water, flora, and fauna, unfolding its stories with each paddle stroke. The creek’s inhabitants, from the alligators of various sizes and histories to the diverse birdlife, were not just passive elements of the landscape but active characters in our journey’s narrative. The larger alligators, particularly those with missing jaw parts, were like sentinels of the creek, each bearing silent tales of survival and resilience.

More from George: Unveiling the Mysteries of Wild Florida

A quaint tree swing discovered along our route offered a moment of pure, unbridled joy. While my paddling partners reveled in this spontaneous diversion, I observed, capturing the essence of these fleeting moments – the laughter, the freedom, and the connection to the simple joys of nature.

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This paddling trip was more than a physical journey; it was an odyssey of self-discovery and communion with the unfiltered beauty of the wild. The initial anxiety accompanying any first-time endeavor gradually became a profound connection with the surrounding wilderness. This experience underscored the importance of the Florida Wildlife Corridor as a sanctuary for wildlife and a haven for human spirits seeking respite and rejuvenation.

More: The Unexpected Benefits of a Protected Corridor

As an Adventurist and storyteller, I realized that my role transcends exploration. It is about weaving the narrative of these wild spaces, capturing their stories, and inspiring others to step out of their comfort zones. It’s about showcasing the fragile beauty of ecosystems like the Florida Wildlife Corridor and advocating for their preservation.

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This journey down Fish-Eating Creek, inspired and guided by Mr. Bellini’s gifted book, was an immersion into the heart of Florida’s wilderness. It blended personal discovery, ecological understanding, and a deeper appreciation of nature’s interconnectedness. With its untamed beauty and raw stories, the creek is a treasure that calls for exploration and protection.

More: Explore Seven of Florida’s Best Paddleboarding Spots

As the dry season beckons and the waters begin to recede, the allure of Fish-Eating Creek intensifies. It invites adventurers and nature lovers to experience its beauty, to paddle through its waters, and to carry its stories forward. This adventure, a part of a series inspired by a profound gift, was just the beginning of my exploration of the Florida Wildlife Corridor, a journey that I, George McKenzie Jr., am eager to continue and share.