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Latest update: December 2019

Estero River Paddling...

Saltwater to Freshwater on the Great Calusa Blueway

The Estero River is in the Estero Bay Region of the Great Calusa Blueway. The launch at Koreshan State Park is the official start of the 9-mile Estero Bay and River Designated Paddling Trail (more below). However, from here most paddlers head upstream, where the river soon goes from brackish to freshwater, and dense mangrove gives way to high banks dotted with oak, palm, and cypress, providing excellent shade and shelter. Light to moderate current, depending on tide and recent rainfall. Proceeding upstream it gradually gets more narrow and paddling becomes a little more technical, until at some point shallow water and downfall say "turn around," and you do. Floating back with the current is always a great way to finish. (Detailed map and photos below.)

paddle Estero River. Great Calusa Blueway, kayak, canoe

Paddling Map - Estero River
Great Calusa Blueway

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Distance: 7.5 miles total, up to 3.5 miles freshwater.
Location: Lee County (Estero, south of Ft. Myers)
Difficulty: East to Moderate
Tidal: Yes
Launch points: Koreshan State Park (See map)
Nearby points of interest: Koreshen State Park, Mound Key Archaeological State Park, Edison and Ford Winter Homes


Koreshan State Park  (rentals)
Estero River Outfitters  (rentals, sales, tours)
Adventures Kayaking  (rentals, tours)

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Estero Bay Buddies

 Page Summary:

  1. Paddling on Upper Estero River
    - Upstream from Launch at Koreshan State Park
    - Downstream from Launch
    - Wildlife
  2. Koreshan State Park
  3. About Estero Bay and River Designated Paddling Trail
  4. More Information and Resources

Paddling on Upper Estero River... Comments and Photos

Heading upstream from the launch at Koreshen State Park, paddlers of all skill levels will find the first 2 miles to be pleasant, with plenty of shade and wildlife. Depending on tide and recent rainfall, experienced kayakers can go well over 3 miles upstream, with a pull-over or two. Downstream from the launch, the river gradually widens, becoming increasingly subject to wind and tide, and motorboats. In addition to rentals (you carry) at the State Park, there is a well-stocked, full service outfitter

Upstream from Launch at Koreshan State Park

We paddled upstream for about 3 miles. Most is an easy paddle, then depending on water levels, it becomes more challenging. There are homes along the way, but mostly unobtrusive. Continuing upstream, the river gets more shallow with some downfall. After pushing through and over a few obstacles, we decided to return to launch. In the upper reaches, some road noise going under bridges, otherwise the narrow, high banks provide a sense of solitude; you hardly know you're surrounded by suburbs.

Downstream from Launch

From the launch, we paddled downstream a short distance, Here, motorboat traffic begins. It's about 4 miles to Estero Bay. Some housing development and a resort along one or the other shoreline for about the first 1.5 miles down river, then mangrove Preserve the remaining way to the Bay.


Native birds and turtles populate the upper Estero River, well accustomed to paddlers.

Koreshan State Park

Koreshan State Park preserves a piece of eccentric Florida history. It was originally founded in 1894 by Cyrus Reed Teed as a religious community (Koreshan Unity), which believed that the entire universe existed within a giant, hollow sphere. Family members deeded the land to the state in 1961. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, 11 of the original buildings remain. The park includes a campground, picnic area, playground, canoe/kayak rentals, and hiking trails.

About Estero Bay and River Designated Paddling Trail

The Estero Bay and River Designated Paddling Trail runs 9 miles between Koreshan State Park and Lovers Key State Park. The paddling trail starts on the Estero River at the Koreshan launch, continues past historic Mound Key Archaeological State Park, and across Estero Bay to Lovers Key. This open-water crossing is best made by experienced paddlers.

More Information and Resources

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