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Exploring the Beautiful Intracoastal Waterway by Kayak or Paddleboard

Here at PaddleAwaySports, it is our goal to actively help maintain the cleanliness of our waterways, including the Intracoastal Waterway or ICW. It is also our goal to educate our kayakers and paddleboards regarding this wonderful and beautiful eco-system. That is why PaddleAwaySports offers several different types of Eco-tours and offers the use of a mesh bag to collect garbage on your adventure for both self-guided adventures and guided tour guests alike. 


The Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) is a 3,000-mile (4,800 km) inland waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts of the United States, running from Massachusetts southward along the Atlantic Seaboard and around the southern tip of Florida, then following the Gulf Coast to BrownsvilleTexas.


 It was created as an inland waterway to allow boats to navigate up and down the East coast of continental United States as well as along the Gulf Coast of Florida, all the way up into the Gulf coast of Texas. It gives boaters access to the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, through natural and strategically placed manmade inlets. Subsequently the ICW is a great eco system for kayakers and Paddleboarders too!


The ICW is a brackish water channel with great diversity in both Marine and indigenous, and non-indigenous wildlife. A very high percentage of the marine life that exists on the barrier reefs along the East Coast of the United States, also ventures into and exist in the ICW. Although the ICW is a brackish water channel some marine life can inhabit these waters.


To give you a better understand of the difference between freshwater and salt water (besides the taste 😂), you need to understand that all water is neutral, however it follows that the more salt you dissolve in water, the more basic it becomes (i.e. pH greater than 7). Saltwater is therefore the most basic, followed by brackish water, and freshwater is the closest to neutral pH 7. The pH of marine waters is close to 8.2, whereas most natural freshwaters have pH values in the range from 6.5 to 8.0. So, what does this mean for Marine life in the ICW? What this means is that it is more likely to encounter marine life in and around inlets. During an incoming tide, the water near the mouth of an inlet has a higher pH, close to, or at 8.2. When marine life ventures into the ICW through an inlet that general area is where it is going to tend to inhabit. Subsequently that means that in the general area of an inlet is where you’ll have the best opportunity to see Marine life in the ICW. The best time of day to see Marine life in and around the mouth of inlets varies based on the tide schedule. The first thing you want to identify when trying to pinpoint the best time of day to spot marine life, while kayaking or paddleboarding, is on an incoming tide. That means the Ocean water is pushing into the ICW through inlets. The tide shifts every six hours from low too high to low and back to high and the tide schedule changes by between 30 and 45 minutes every day. When you identify the time of a low tide on any given day, it will occur 30 to 45 minutes later the following day i.e. If on January 1st low tide is at 9 AM then on January 2nd low tide will be between 9:30 AM and 9:45 AM. Personally, I use To determine the tide schedule in your area simply type in and your location. 


My personal favorite time to get out and go paddling is two hours after the low tide and if we’re being specific when the tide lines up for a first thing in the morning so I can take in the sunrise or end of the day paddle so I can take a sunset. The incoming tide allows for a good influx of ocean water into the area and that is when the water will have a higher pH and be the most blue and clear, giving you the best opportunity to spot Marine life. I have encountered and been able to identify Leatherback turtles, Loggerhead, turtles and Green sea turtles of varying age and size in the ICW. I have encountered and been able to identify Manta rays, Stingrays, Eagle rays and multiple different types of smaller species of Rays in the ICW. Also, in my experience, you have a better chance to encounter Manatees in the ICW than offshore. 


In conclusion, we here at PaddleAwaySports believe that the ICW is an ideal destination for kayakers and paddleboarders alike! It not only gives you a beautiful, contained area to explore, but the opportunity to encounter a long list of beautiful, marine and wildlife to enjoy!

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