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Calusa Blueway festival paddles to the islands

By Staff | Oct 14, 2011

The 6th annual Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival will be coming to Captiva and Sanibel islands in November. It celebrates Southwest Florida’s 190 mile marked paddling trail, the Great Calusa Blueway. Paddlers, competitors, families and outdoor enthusiasts nationwide travel to Southwest Florida to attend this unique event.

The Great Calusa Blueway trail meanders through coastal waters and inland tributaries of Lee County from its southern tip at Bonita Springs to its northern-most points around Pine Island Sound and up the Caloosahatchee River. The trail encompasses three distinct regions of the Gulf of Mexico coast.

The first portion meanders through Estero Bay; the second segment centers on Pine Island Sound and Matlacha Pass; and the third leg takes paddlers inland to the Caloosahatchee and its tributaries.

Southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast is dotted with sugar-sand beaches slivers of paradise on barrier islands. What’s harbored behind the islands, though, is a maze of mysterious mangroves leggy, saltwater tolerant trees and wildlife that rivals destinations North Americans need passports to visit.

The trail’s trek through shallow waters keeps paddlers safely away from places powerboats travel, and it puts them closer to nature, where bush-colored roseate spoonbills feed at dawn, schools of silver-hued fish dart beneath their boats and lumbering manatees feed on sea grasses.

Calusa Blueway Paddling festivities include competitive canoe and kayak races, a kayak fishing tournament, paddling clinics and demonstrations, seminars, family activities, equipment displays and sales, archaeological and environmental events, speakers, a film festival and evening socials. There will also be stand-up paddle boarding activities, guided tours, on-the-water instruction, as well as green events.

The festival also gives those who attend a chance to get competitive and participate in two races the Calusa Classic and Calusa Dash. A photo contest and a catch and release fishing tournament provide opportunities to win cash and prizes.

The four-day all inclusive festival pass costs $60 and includes:

Trolley transportation to the festival site for three days of paddling equipment demo and new product testing with Canoe & Kayak magazine.

Admission to the speakers tent and on-water demonstrations

Subscription to Canoe & Kayak Magazine

Entrance to three evening paddler’s socials with refreshments, including the O’Brien Subaru reception Nov. 3, the first-ever Canoe & Kayak Film Fest Nov. 4 and the Florida Paddling Trails Association evening picnic, which features live music, dinner and The Water Tribe panel discussion plus a kayak cooking demonstration.

A ticket to win a 16-foot touring kayak made by Seaward Kayaks, valued at $3,875

Short-sleeved festival T-shirt

Tanger Outlet Mall coupon booklet

Surprise gift for the first 200 who buy four-day passes

Fishing tournament, race entry and some on-water course fees are not included. One-day passes are available for $8 and include trolley and on-water demos.