Durbin Creek – Bartram Canoe Trail

Durbin Creek Reflections
Durbin Creek Reflections

Another first for Florida Paddle Notes, Durbin Creek. In an effort to fill in some paddling voids in this northeast section of Florida, and with some suggestions from fellow paddlers, we headed up on this perfect Fall morning and were not disappointed! Due to time restraints, as well as having only one vehicle, we chose to paddle downstream three and a half miles and return for a 7-mile paddle. Going further leads to the numerous houses, a much wider and open creek as well as boat traffic. This was perfect! …James

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Durbin Creek is a ten-mile creek forming in the wetlands in northern St. Johns County and winding its way westward, flowing into Julington Creek and on into the St. Johns River. The 6-mile stretch able to be paddled is from Race Track Road to Julington Creek. This paddle is through the floodplain wetlands of the Julington Durbin Creek Preserve and offers up thickly forested wetlands with some very large specimen Bald Cypress! It is a gem in the middle of so much construction and development.


Durbin Creek Paddle Map…

Durban Creek Paddle Map
Durban Creek Paddle Map

Durbin Creek Details…

Location IconLocation: Northern St. Johns County.

 

Kayak Launch IconLaunch point and Take out: The launch and take for this paddle is Bartram Canoe Trail Launch, located at 4936 Race Track Rd, Jacksonville, Fl 32259. For those paddling the entire creek, there are take-outs at Clark’s Fish Camp on Julington Creek and Mandarin Holiday Marina, also on Julington Creek.

 

Distance IconPaddle Distance: For this up and back paddle…7.25 miles. For the entire paddle, it can be from 6.5 – 10+ miles depending on where you take out.

 

Duration IconDifficulty: Easy today. The water level was high so we passed effortlessly along. With lower water levels, tree obstructions as well as clogs could pose a problem.

 

Duration IconAverage Paddle Speed: 1.89 mph.

 

Width Depth iconWidth and Depth: At the launch, the creek is about 45′ across, at our turnaround it was 85′. Just under a mile from our turnaround the creek widens and soon reaches a width of 1200′ by the time it reaches Julington Creek. The entire length of our paddle today the depth was over 7′. The tide gauge data has the measurement at 1.9′ with flood stage being 3′. The channel was well lined with trees, however, the water was flooded well into the forested wetland.

 

Current tidal IconCurrent – Tidal: Current, was mild and increasing as the creek widened, but not a factor.

 

Side Paddle IconSide Paddles: NA

 

icon-restroomsRest Areas: There are no bathroom facilities at the launch and there was only one place to exit a kayak, which was at the old Russell Sampson road ( now a trail ) at mile marker 2.4.


Bartram Canoe Trail Launch…

Looking up into Durbin Creek from the launch
Looking up into Durbin Creek from the launch

The Bartram Canoe Trail Launch is finally completed! The address is 4936 Race Track Rd, Jacksonville, Fl 32259 and is just to the left after entering the entrance to the shopping complex.

The parking is all grass but does have a paved handicap spot. The launch itself is down a 750′ boardwalk, ending with a ramp to a floating platform. Some folks might be inclined to bring shuttle wheels for the yaks. We just slid our boats along the newly built, smooth boardwalk with no effort. Even on returning, we thought the haul back up to the parking lot would be a little difficult, but with such a gentle slope it was no problem.

There are no restroom facilities at the launch and no fees. You will need to scootch into your boat from the floating dock which was about a foot above the waterline.


An awesome floodplain forest …

Sentinel Cypress on Durbin Creek
Sentinel Cypress on Durbin Creek

What an interesting paddle this was. Such a diversity of trees and plants! Elms, Oaks, Palms, Ash, Tupelo, Swamp Dogwood, Buttonbush, Tillandsia, Saw Palmettos, Asters, Lilies, Wax Myrtle, Holly, Sea Mrytle, and the star of the paddle, the large, specimen Bald Cypress trees! I measured the largest and it matched the size of one along the Ocklawaha River than many people sit inside of! At the waterline, this giant had a 9′ – 10′ diameter and was solid. Quite impressive. Keep an eye out as you paddle, as several of these can be seen deeper into the flooded forest. Several of these trees, including this one, are located on the above paddle map.

The canopy was welcomed the entire paddle, creating a cooling mood. Along the side were small sections of Duckweed, Spadderdock, and scattered Pickerel Weed, which may, at lower water levels could create a problem, however today, they were a non-factor…the creek flowed smoothly. I will note also, at lower water levels, the hidden downfall that we effortlessly paddled over, could present a problem but was not the case today.

What also made this paddle interesting was the water level. While the channel is clearly defined with trees, the water continued on into the forest on both sides which created a very cool feeling.

To see photos of all the trees and plants listed above please check out the Florida Paddle Notes field guide page

The Flora along Florida’s Waterways


Points of Interest…

Old Russell Sampson Road

Hiking Trail at old Russell Sampson Road
Hiking Trail at old Russell Sampson Road

The history of this road goes back to the British occupation of the territory around 1783. The road was used as a way to cross the creek and get from Mandarin to Fruit Cove. It connected the community of Sampson, in northwest St. Johns County with the Russell family who lived nearby and was once called “From Sampson to Russells Road“. A brief history can be read here. Sampson Cemetery, founded in 1875, is the resting place of descendants of some of Florida’s earliest settlers.

This point of interest is found at mile 2.4. On river-right, you will see the old opening which is now a hiking trail in the Julington Durbin Creek Preserve, and on river-left, is Celestina Community Boat Launch, which is private.

Clean Waterway Society

Casey Diduryk - Wood Duck House Project

Along the paddle, you will notice several styles of nesting houses, either connected to trees or on poles in the water. Six of these large ones are Wood Duck houses and are the product of a 2013 Eagle Scout project by Casey Diduryk, Troop 474, St. Johns County.  Partnering with the Clean Waterway Society, these nesting boxes were put along the creek. The Clean Waterway Society…volunteer citizens advancing environmental stewardship, and instrumental in the cleanup of The Bartram Canoe Trail! Kudos to you young men! Read about their efforts and awards here.


Summary…

This paddle was brought to my attention from another paddler and I am glad we had the opportunity to explore. As mentioned earlier, time prevented us from perhaps paddling one more mile before it starts widening and we’d be encountering boat traffic. We wanted it to be intimate and my goodness, it was a treat. I am sure will return!


Guides, Maps & Info…


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4 Comments

  1. Daniel Britcher

    James, thank you so much for another wonderful trip report. My wife and I duplicated your journey today on Durbin Creek. The accuracy and attention to detail made it a very easy and enjoyable paddle following in your wake. Wishing you calm Waters and happy paddling adventures. Thanks Dan and Ruth

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