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Trip report: December 2019

Kayaking the Faka Union Canal and River...

Popular for Wildlife Tours and Fishing

There are two adventures available here, Faka Union Canal and Faka Union River. The canal was built as part of an effort to develop this area, it resulted in significant ecological damage and while the canal to the south provides a direct link to the Gulf of Mexico (Faka Union Bay) and 10,000 Islands, the area to the north is in process of recovery and not accessible (see more below). The Faka Union River mostly survived development and remains in a natural state, winding through narrow mangrove tunnels and small lakes before meeting the canal downstream. (Map and photos below.)

Faka Union Canal and River, Everglades area South FL paddling

Distance: Varies
Location: Collier County (Port of the Islands)
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Tidal: Yes
Launch points: Port of the Islands (See map)
Nearby points of interest: Marco Island, Naples, Fakahatchee State Park, Big Cypress Preserve, Everglades National Park

Faka Union Canal and River... Comments and Photos

This is not a prime recreational kayaking destination but rather a fishing paradise, though there are scenic spots through mangrove with eco-touring and wildlife viewing. Once you leave the Port of the Islands Marina on the canal, and along the river, there are no stops for supplies to be sure to have water, food, and sunscreen.


Faka Union River - Paddling Trail

The put-in to the paddling trail is along US 41 on the east side of bridge #58 (about a mile east of the Port of the Islands or 8.5 miles west of the SR 29 intersection). Parking, no other facilities. No fee. Fishing is the main activity here. The paddling trail meanders south about 5 miles, through mangrove tunnels, to shallow flats, and through small lakes, until it feeds into the Faka Union Canal about 3 miles south of Port of the Islands. Several optional routes are available on branches off the main channel, but not recommended for novices due to tight tunnels, tide, and debris. The Faka Union River is an important part of the Fakahatchee Strand, providing habitat for wildlife including wading birds, deer, black bears, the endangered Florida Panther, plus an occasional endangered American crocodile.


Faka Union Canal - Port of the Islands

Port of the Islands, located about 20 miles west of Naples and 15 minutes from Marco Island or Everglades City, is a popular jumping off point to the Gulf of Mexico and 10,000 Islands via the Faka Union Canal, running about 7 miles to Faka Union Bay. Many fishing and eco-tours originate here. The Port of the Island Marina (a Collier County facility) provides parking, storage facilities, a full service ships store and tackle shop, and a boat ramp. Ramp fee applies. The area also has restaurants, accommodations, and residential developments. A fun amenity is the houseboat condos available for rent.

Along with assorted birds, alligators and other wildlife, this also is a congregating spot in the winter for manatee - the Canal connects to the coastal environment, where manatees feed. During cold winter months, they swim up the Faka Union Canal to residential canals and now manatee mitigation ponds which provide a warm environment.


Faka Union Canal - Picayune Strand Park

An alternate launch to the Canal is on the north side of Tamiami Trail (US 41) across from the entrance to Port of the Islands. An entry point for Picayune Strand State Forest, it has parking, picnic table, portalet and access to hiking trails. Fee applies. Hand launch onto the canal, then under the US 41 bridge to the Port of the Islands Marina - continue south on the canal. Note: The canal is blocked to the north from this point.

Faka Union Canal Restoration:

Port of the Islands was started in the 1960’s as Remuda Ranch, a resort operated by Gulf American Corp. to promote a real estate development called Golden Gate Estates. The Canal was dug to drain land for development but created an environmental disaster - the effects of road and canal construction were severe, reducing aquifer storage, increasing freshwater dischanges to estuaries in the 10,000 Islands, disrupting native plant communities and increasing the frequency of wildfires. In recent years, restoration efforts (the Picayune Strand Restoration Project) has been undertaken on undeveloped Golden Gate Estates land to return vegetation and wildlife of the area and surrounding public lands to their natural state. This includes plugging 42 miles of canals, removing 285 miles of roads and building 3 pump stations. As restoring the flow of water might affect the warm water that attracts manatee in the winter, manatee mitigation pools have also been installed. (More information, Picayne Strand Restoration Project )

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