I last paddled Deep Creek several years ago before I created Florida Paddle Notes. I had several inquiries about the creek, so I decided to re-visit and finally document the paddle. It was another warm morning/afternoon and I paddled the 4.6 miles to the St Johns River and returned, making for a 9-mile paddle. For those with two vehicles, this can be a one-way paddle by making use of the relatively new, Stanton Landing, located on the St. Johns River at the Saint Pauls Episcopal Church, 124 Commercial Avenue, East Palatka, FL 32131. This one-way, 6-mile paddle would begin at the HWY 207 bridge, outside of Hastings, follow Deep Creek to the St. Johns River, and end at Stanton Landing.
Deep Creek is a unique paddle through the floodplain swamp of the Deep Creek Conservation Area…James
Deep Creek is a 12-mile creek, originating in the low, agricultural land 6.5 miles southeast of Hastings, Fl. and flowing in a westerly, then northwest, direction, to the St. Johns River. The basic navigable portion of the creek is from the Hwy 207 bridge, just east of Hastings to the St. Johns River. According to the St. Johns River Guidebook, by Kevin M. McCarthy, the creek is thought to have been given its name due to its 18 – 20′ depth and was popular with fishermen boating in from the St. Johns River.
Also in researching the source of Deep Creek, I realize that it was part of the boundary control surveying work I did for the development Flagler Estates back when it was a swamp plain in the early ’70s!
Deep Creek Details:
Location: Deep Creek is a 12-mile creek, originating in the low, agricultural land 6.5 miles southeast of Hastings, Fl. and flowing in a West, then northwest, direction, to the St. Johns River. The basic navigable portion of the creek is from the Hwy 207 bridge, just East of Hastings to the St. Johns River.
Launch Point: The southeast side of the bridge, East of Hastings on HWY 207.
Paddle Distance: From the bridge to the cove on the St. Johns River it is 4.6 miles, making for a 9-mile paddle out and back. A one-way paddle, all the way to Stanton Landing would be a 6 mile paddle.
Difficulty: Easy. Could be difficult if trees are downed.
Average Paddle Speed: 2.0 mph.
Width and Depth:
- Deep Creek at launch 60′ wide, at the turnaround 360′ wide
- Depth – 10′ – 20′. Gauge reading at launch 0.65′ NAVD88. Flood Stage = 1.7′ NAVD88
Current – Tidal: Gentle current very slight effect from tides, though the water level is affected by the level of the St Johns River.
Side Paddles: NA
Rest Areas: There is an island around 1.2 miles into the paddle that is shady and easily accessed to exit a kayak if need be.
Important Information: Watch for downfall. Be prepared for the sun and heat and also for winds on the St. Johns River if choosing to paddle to Stanton Landing.
Deep Creek Paddle Map…
Hwy 207 Launch…
The launch site is on the southeast side of the bridge on Hwy 207 East of Hastings. There is an asphalt drive almost up to the creek, but it is a soft launch, with ample space to stage numerous kayaks. Plenty of parking but no facilities or fees.
One very noticeable thing about the launch is the gnats…numerous gnats!
If you are lucky to paddle Deep Creek in June and July, you will be treated to the hundreds of Scarlet Rose Mallows in full bloom on the north side and middle of the bridge at the launch. It is stunning!
Entering the canopy over Deep Creek, I am greeted with floating Duckweed, but nothing overwhelming. The canopy of Ash, Tupelo, Gums, and Cypress provide shade and cool the warm air. There are numerous trees down but today none of them blocked the paddle route although several times I was startled when the kayak would pass over a submerged trunk or branch and it scraped along the hull. It is wise to be conscious of these submerged branches as they could lead to a tip-over!
The first 2 miles of the paddle was silent, as I paddled through this floodplain swamp known as Deep Creek Conservation Area. As mentioned above, the dominant trees were Ash, Tupelos, and Gums, along with Bald Cypress. Small shrubs included Wax Myrtle, Willow, Swamp Dogwood, and Saw Palmetto.
Early in the paddle, around 0.6 miles, I pass under the Palatka to St, Augustine Bike Trail, once the East Coast Railroad tracks. At 1.5 miles into the paddle, the loosely floating patches of Duckweed gathered into a large, massive sea of the weed, over 200′ long! Looking ahead at it was like observing a large green pasture. I was prepared for the worst, but instead of struggling through this massive amount of Duckweed, the kayak simply glided through it without any resistance! I was amazed and relieved. I came across one other section of Duckweed and again, it presented no problem.
While approaching the second large sea of Duckweed, I heard noises ahead. From around a Wax Myrtle, 5 tandem kayaks emerged, gliding over the Duckweed. They were young kids and having fun and I learned from the instructor and guide that they were part of the St. Johns County Summer Science Program! I talked with the instructor briefly, shared Florida Paddle Notes with him and he proceeded to talk about how much he loved Deep Creek. Mentioning that he has paddled the creek for many years, that it was his favorite creek, he also let me know I would be paddling by a large Bald Cypress tree after a few bends ahead. I was then informed that if I look up near the top, I would see an arrow in the tree. 50 years ago, as a boy, paddling with a friend, the arrow was shot into the tree by his friend and has remained ever since! Sure enough, I paddled to the Cypress tree, and looking up, saw the arrow…pretty cool! I marked its location on the above paddle map.
From here Deep Creek widens, there is no more canopy and it’s getting hot! Along this final section, large Giant Leather Ferns are predominant along the shoreline. As I paddle, Gar roll on the surface while Ospreys fly overhead and Herons stand along the banks. The air smells of freshwater and I know I am approaching the St. Johns River! As rain clouds begin forming, I turn around and return to the Hwy 207 launch, load up and the rain arrives! This was a quiet, soothing paddle…I enjoyed it.
Guides, Maps & Info…
- Deep Creek Topo Map…
- Deep Creek Water Data…
- Deep Creek Historical Info…
- Palatka to St. Augustine Trail…
- Deep Creek Conservation Area...