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Exploring Indian River Lagoon: Manatees, Dolphins, & Kayaking

 
Introduction

Exploring the Indian River Lagoon

Florida is known for its beautiful beaches and diverse marine life, and the Indian River Lagoon is no exception. This long, narrow estuary is located on the east coast of Florida, stretching over 40% of the state’s east coast. It is home to a wide variety of marine animals, including manatees and dolphins, making it a popular spot for kayaking and other outdoor activities.

Kayaking in the Indian River Lagoon is a great way to explore the area and see its wildlife. Whether you’re looking to see manatees, dolphins, or other animals, kayaking is a fun and exciting way to experience all that the Indian River Lagoon has to offer.

 
Manatees eating leaves from Red Mangroves in the Mosquito Lagoon side of Canaveral National Seashore
Manatees eating red mangroves in the Mosquito Lagoon

What is The Indian River Lagoon?

The Indian River Lagoon is a long, narrow estuary that stretches from Ponce Inlet in Volusia County to Jupiter Inlet in Palm Beach County. It is a unique estuary because it is the most biologically diverse estuary in North America, containing over 4,000 species of plants and animals. The lagoon is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by barrier islands and has an average depth of only 4 feet. The lagoon is also divided into three sections: the Mosquito Lagoon, the Banana River, and the Indian River.

The Indian River Lagoon is a complex ecosystem that supports a wide variety of marine life, including over 600 species of fish, 300 species of birds, and numerous other species of animals such as crabs, shrimp, and oysters. Two of the most famous animals that call the Indian River Lagoon home are the Florida manatee and Bottlenose dolphin.

 

Why the Indian River Lagoon is Important for Manatees

Manatees are large, gentle marine mammals that are often referred to as “sea cows.” These animals can grow up to 13 feet in length and usually weigh over 3,000 pounds. They are herbivores and are often seen grazing on seagrass in the shallow waters of the Indian River Lagoon.

The Indian River Lagoon is one of the most important habitats for manatees in Florida. During the winter months, manatees migrate to the lagoon to escape the colder waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The lagoon provides a warm, sheltered environment with plenty of seagrass for the manatees to feed on.

Protecting Manatees in the Indian River Lagoon

Manatees are a protected species in Florida, and it is illegal to harass, feed, water, or pet them. Visitors to the Indian River Lagoon can often see manatees up close, either from the shore or from a kayak. However, it is important to remember to observe these animals from a safe distance and not to disturb them in any way.

Manatee in Canaveral National Seashore along mangroves during guided kayak tour with Viking EcoTours.
Manatee in Canaveral National Seashore along mangroves during guided kayak tour. The manatee had been eating the mangrove branches.
 

Dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon

Dolphins are another popular animal that can be found in the Indian River Lagoon. Bottlenose dolphins are the most common species of dolphin in the lagoon, and they can often be seen swimming and playing in the shallow waters.

What Species of Dolphins are Found in the Indian River Lagoon?

Bottlenose dolphins are the species of dolphin seen in the lagoon, and they can often be seen swimming, hunting, and playing in the shallow waters. Dolphins are highly intelligent animals and are known for their playful behavior. 

Bottlenose dolphins are also very social animals, living in groups called pods that can range in size from just a few individuals to over 100. They are carnivores, feeding on a variety of fish, squid, and crustaceans, and can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes while diving for food.

Visitors to the Indian River Lagoon can often see dolphins jumping out of the water, riding the waves created by boats, and even interacting with humans.

Responsible Dolphin Viewing

Like manatees, dolphins are also protected in Florida, and it is illegal to harass, feed, pet, or chase them. Visitors to the lagoon should not attempt to feed or touch the dolphins, as this can be harmful to both the dolphins and the humans.

 

Kayaking in the Indian River Lagoon:

One of the best ways to experience the beauty and diversity of the Indian River Lagoon is by kayaking. Kayaking allows visitors to get up close and observe the animals that call the lagoon home, and it is a great way to explore the many nooks and crannies of the estuary.

Popular Kayaking Destinations in the Indian River Lagoon

There are many places to rent kayaks in the area, and there are also guided tours available for those who want to learn more about the ecosystem and the animals that live there. Some of the most popular kayaking destinations in the lagoon include the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, the Sebastian Inlet State Park, and the Fort Pierce Inlet State Park.

Tips for Kayaking in the Indian River Lagoon

Kayaking in the Indian River Lagoon offers visitors the opportunity to see manatees and dolphins up close, as well as many other species of marine life. It is important to remember to respect the animals and their environment when kayaking in the lagoon. Visitors should avoid disturbing the animals or their habitats, and should be careful not to damage the mangroves, seagrass beds, or other fragile ecosystems.

Amazing sunsets during guided kayak tour along Canaveral National Seashore. These guided kayak tours travel through Canaveral National Seashore and launch from Edgewater or New Smyrna Beach.
 

Other Outdoor Activities in the Indian River Lagoon

In addition to kayaking, there are many other outdoor activities to enjoy in the Indian River Lagoon. The lagoon is a popular spot for fishing, with many different species of fish available in the shallow waters. Visitors can also enjoy birdwatching, hiking, and biking in the many parks and wildlife refuges that surround the lagoon.

The Indian River Lagoon is also a popular spot for boating, with many marinas and boat ramps located along the coast. Visitors can take a boat tour of the lagoon, or rent their own boat and explore the estuary on their own from areas like Canaveral National Seashore.

 

Conservation Efforts in the Indian River Lagoon:

The Indian River Lagoon is an important ecosystem that is facing many challenges. Pollution, climate change, and habitat loss are all threats to the health of the lagoon and the animals that live there.

In recent years, there have been many efforts to protect and restore the Indian River Lagoon. These efforts include the removal of invasive species, the restoration of seagrass beds, and the reduction of pollution from stormwater runoff and other sources.

Visitors to the Indian River Lagoon can also do their part to help protect the ecosystem by following Leave No Trace practices. Leave No Trace practices like those displayed in Canaveral National Seashore. The “Leave No Trace” principles are a set of guidelines for minimizing the impact of outdoor recreation on the environment and preserving natural and cultural resources. 

The 7 Principles of Leave No Trace:


  1. Plan ahead and prepare: Research the area you plan to visit, and make sure you have the proper gear, supplies, and skills to minimize your impact.
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces: Stick to established trails and camp in designated areas to avoid damaging fragile habitats.
  3. Dispose of waste properly: Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter. Bury human waste at least 200 feet from water, trails, and camp.
  4. Leave what you find: Don’t disturb natural and cultural features, such as rocks, plants, and historical artifacts.
  5. Minimize campfire impact: Use a stove for cooking and avoid building campfires, especially in areas with fire restrictions. If fires are allowed, use established fire rings and burn only small sticks and twigs.
  6. Respect wildlife: Observe animals from a distance, and don’t feed them or approach too closely. Store food securely to avoid attracting wildlife to your campsite.
  7. Be considerate of other visitors: Keep noise levels down, respect others’ privacy, and yield to hikers going uphill.
The Eldora Statehouse at Canaveral National Seashore is preserved for it's historic significance by the National Register of Historic Places. This part of the National Park is in the Indian River Lagoon.
The Eldora Statehouse at Canaveral National Seashore is preserved for it's historic significance by the National Register of Historic Places.
 
Pedal kayaking tour viewing Turtle Mound
Florida pedal kayaking tour viewing Turtle Mound at Apollo Beach.

Exploring Canaveral National Seashore

Canaveral National Seashore is a beautiful National Park that is located on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River. It has huge beaches, dunes, and other nature areas with plants and animals like manatees and sea turtles. 

Visitors to Canaveral National Seashore can enjoy hiking, fishing, birdwatching, and kayaking. Many people also enjoy exploring the many historic sites and exhibits in the park.

Highlights of the park include Apollo & Playalinda Beach, which are known for beautiful white sand and crystal clear waters. Canaveral National Seashore is also home to the Apollo Beach Visitor Center, which offers educational programs and exhibits on the history and ecology of the park.

Exploring the Indian River Lagoon Responsibly and Sustainably

 
Conclusion

The Indian River Lagoon is a unique and beautiful ecosystem that is home to a wide variety of marine life, including manatees and dolphins. It is a popular spot for kayaking, fishing, and other outdoor activities, and it is also an important habitat that is facing many challenges.

Visitors to the Indian River Lagoon can help protect this important ecosystem by respecting the animals and their habitats, and by doing their part to reduce pollution and other threats to the health of the lagoon. By working together, we can ensure that the Indian River Lagoon remains a vibrant and diverse ecosystem for generations to come.