Hontoon Dead River

Hontoon Dead River

Unique Tree on Dead River
Unique Tree on Hontoon Dead River

Another new adventure for Florida Paddle NotesHontoon Dead River. The river, 5.25 miles long, located in Volusia county, is a tributary to the St. Johns River. It is considered a ‘dead river’ due to it’s minimal current.

We set out on a nice Fall day, sunny, breezy and high in the upper 70’s. Our goal for this 10 mile trip was to launch at French Avenue, head 2.5 miles north on the St. Johns River, paddle by Hontoon Island State Park and enter the Hontoon Dead River on the west side of Hontoon Island, head south and return to the St Johns River, paddling North with the current and completing the loop. Details below…James




Hontoon Dead River Paddle Map…

Hontoon Island Paddle Map
Hontoon Dead River Paddle Map

Hontoon Dead River Details:

Location IconLocation: Hontoon Dead River is located in Volusia County, 4 miles West of Orange City.


Kayak Launch IconLaunch and Take Out Point: The launch for this paddle is the French Avenue boat ramp, known as Volusia Blue Spring State Park Boat Ramp, 2100 W French Ave, Orange City, FL 32763.


Distance IconPaddle Distance: 10.1 miles


Duration IconDifficulty: Easy…unless the winds are strong on the St. Johns River. or blowing off of Lake Beresford.


Duration IconAverage Paddle Speed: 2.45 mph.


Width Depth iconWidth and Depth: The width of the St. Johns River averaged 350′ while the Hontoon Dead River runs 200′ wide where it flows into the St. John and thins down to 150′ at the second canal cut over. The canal is about 65′ wide. Water levels were just over 3′ gauge height.


Current tidal IconCurrent – Tidal: The current is very minimal on Hontoon Dead River.


Side Paddle IconSide Paddles: 2.5 miles into Hontoon Dead River is Snake Creek. The 3-mile winding creek cuts across the island, connecting Hontoon Dead River with the St. Johns River. Snake Creek averages 60′ wide but is often plagued with thick vegetative clogs that often prevent passage. It was clogged on this day.


icon-restroomsRest Areas: Porta-Potties available at the launch at the French Avenue, several spots to exit the kayak along the way and also at Blue Springs State Park.


French Avenue Launch:

French Ave Boat Ramp
French Ave Boat Ramp

The French Avenue Boat launch is nice. There is a concrete ramp as well as a sandy area for soft launching of kayaks and canoes. There is no paved parking but plenty of space to park. No restroom facilities, but there is a port-a-potty available there.

We set out on a nice Fall day, sunny, breezy, and high in the upper 70’s. We chose this launch in order to paddle the largest leg on the St. John River at the start of our paddle when we would be the freshest.

Hontoon Dead River:

Hontoon Island State Park
Hontoon Island State Park

The 2 1/2 mile paddle down the St. Johns River was uneventful. The shoreline was not very scenic, marsh grass and a few trees here and there. We did have a breeze to our side but it wasn’t bad until we reached the southwest corner of Lake Beresford. Here the wind was strong and the water quite rough!

Fortunately the St. Johns River flows briefly into Lake Beresford and we were soon sheltered from the wind as the river briefly flows West. This is the location of Hontoon Island State Park, accessible only by boat. The Hontoon Dead River creates the western boundary to Hontoon Island and we enter the river.

Entrance to Hontoon Dead River - Hontoon Island
Entrance to Hontoon Dead River

The paddle on Hontoon Dead River was easy and uneventful. It is a wide river and not very intimate, however, there was quite a bit of wildlife to include Gators, Herons, Egrets, Limpkins Hawks, and Eagles.

At 2.5 miles upriver on our left is the entrance to Snake River. Our original plan was to paddle this winding river as it connects to the St Johns River 3 miles upstream. Snake River is known to have numerous vegetative clogs. There was a large visible clog at the very beginning of the river so we continued south on the Hontoon Dead River.

Blue Springs Run:

Canal #2 - Hontoon Dead River
Canal #2 – Hontoon Dead River

There are several canals along Hontoon Dead River that connect over to the St. Johns River. Canal #2 is a 65′ wide waterway that is located on the left at mile 2.08. The canal runs east for a little over a quarter-mile before entering the St Johns River. Here we have a breeze coming at us but not a problem. We paddle a little over a mile to the entrance to Blue Springs Run at Blue Spring State Park.

The entire run is about 0.40 miles in length, however, there is a barrier, just under 1/4 mile preventing further passage between the hours of 10 am and 5 pm. The run is beautiful with numerous fish and Herons. During the winter months, it is a haven for Manatees. We enjoy the run then paddle our last 1/4 mile back to French Landing.

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