The 2022 Gerry Blackstone New Year’s Day Memorial Paddle around Ft Lauderdale.

The fourth annual

Gerry Blackstone New Year’s Day Memorial Paddle

took place on January 1st, 2022.

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Gerry Blackstone New Year’s Day Memorial Paddle route around Ft Lauderdale is an 18 mile loop.
CLICK for large version.

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This is an 18 mile paddling loop around Ft Lauderdale which connects the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), the New River and the Dania Cut-Off Canal. The route was popularized by the late Gerry Blackstone, who was an active New York City based paddler. He loved to spend his winters paddling around South Florida and pioneered this paddle for close to 15 years. After he passed away in 2018, the annual event has been named in his honor.

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Gerry Blackstone was an active New York City based paddler who spent his winters paddling in South Florida and pioneered this paddle around Ft Lauderdale each New Year’s Day.

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This year’s trip started at the I.T. Parker Community Center inside Harbour Towne Marina in Dania. Beware the adjacent boat ramp there is extremely slick! However the location was an excellent choice with the day’s tides. We chose to paddle counter-clockwise to get across Port Everglades inlet early so as to avoid most of the boat traffic!

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The slick boat ramp at the I.T. Parker Community Center inside Harbour Towne Marina.

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flex maslan kayakfari dania kayak ft lauderdale new year river Jerry Blackstone paddle loop canal south florida

These giant gantry cranes were delivered to Port Everglades in November of 2020.
Paddling past the largest low profile Post-Panamax gantry cranes in the world!

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Paddling up the intracoastal waterway in the early morning of January 1st, 2022.

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flex maslan kayakfari dania kayak ft lauderdale new year river Jerry Blackstone paddle loop canal south florida

Kayak Ted has spent many years paddling the “New Year’s Loop” around Ft Lauderdale, and pioneered the route along with Gerry.
Ted is also a Watertribe competitor and has been instrumental in organizing many paddles of the annual Winterfest Holiday Boat Parade.

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En-route we met up with a Lanakila Iki Outrigger Canoe Club OC-6 paddling troop on their own version of this adventure. However they launched at Holland Park off Johnson Street in Hollywood and they would end up putting in even more miles! Next, we paddled under Ft Lauderdale’s iconic 17th Street Causeway bridge.

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flex maslan kayakfari dania kayak ft lauderdale new year river Jerry Blackstone paddle loop canal south florida

Ft Lauderadle’s Water Taxis are a common sight on the waterways around town.
Their constant speed and hull shape create a wake that is perfect for kayak surfing.
I’ve caught many excellent rides in my surfskis, some almost two miles long! 🙂

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After paddling past downtown Ft Lauderdale, the natural place for a break is at Cooley’s Landing. Their boat ramps are nowhere near as slick as Harbour Towne! 😉

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Paddling around Ft Lauderdale’s waterways means sharing the water with many boaters, not all of whom play nice or respect paddlers.
It’s important to always be fully aware of your surroundings and paddle within your skill set. Know your limitations!

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Heading due west, the New River splits into it’s forks shortly. The north fork ends up as a dead and near the Swap Shop on Sunrise Blvd, but on this trip we headed southwest on the south fork. This is an area lined with beautifully landscaped waterfront homes, followed by a large section devoted to the marine industry. It’s where big yachts come in for service, refitting and dry dock. This is why you see these large ships threading their way up and down the New River in downtown Ft Lauderdale!

Just past this and roughly half way through the trip there is a very small community nature center on the south fork of the New River called the Bill Keith Preserve. There was enough space for us to maintain social distancing protocol!

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It’s 2022 and Covid-19 Omicron variant is rapidly spreading throughout the population.
Here we are maintaining social distancing protocol outdoors at our lunch break at the Bill Keith Preserve on the New River!

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The lovely Leah, a Miami based paddler is also a long distance hiker extraordinaire!

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flex maslan kayakfari dania kayak ft lauderdale new year river Jerry Blackstone paddle loop canal south florida

In honor of Gerry, Ted baked us some brownies.
While tasty, Ted conspicuously left out one ingredient – the walnuts, I think! 😉

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flex maslan kayakfari dania kayak ft lauderdale new year river Jerry Blackstone paddle loop canal south florida

About 20 mins later at the Bill Keith Preserve .. ha ha.

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The small nature preserve is within earshot and right next to I-95. It’s a very tall overpass and only the main channel connects all the way through. Paddling due southwest, we paddled past the Secret Woods Nature Center, where the boardwalk is still in disrepair for some reason. After this there is another giant overpass, this one for I-595 and the ongoing construction. Just past this is the very last remnant of natural wetlands in Ft Lauderdale called Pond Apple Slough. This is (used to be) a freshwater habitat with lots of – you guessed it Pond Apple trees! Back in the early 1990s I used to be able to paddle up inside there a ways. It was real pretty, there was even a two story wooden tree house there. I remember sunning myself of the roof of the structure. Sometime later it was burned down and there is nothing left. The area is overgrown today and probably more disturbed. C’est la vie!

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Past the Pond Apple Slough, we paddle on a canal that intersects the Dania Cut-Off Canal in a few miles. The east bank is lined with invasive species, mostly Australian Pine and Brazilian Pepper. From the looks of google earth this is all disturbed land of old limestone quarries that are now lakes. It has the feel of a DMZ! To the west is a very industrial section along Hwy 441 where the Broward County incinerator resides, processing waste. The remaining ash has been piled up into “The Great Pyramid at 441”, visible for miles around.

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flex maslan kayakfari dania kayak ft lauderdale new year river Jerry Blackstone paddle loop canal south florida

A new FP&L power plant under construction at the intersection of the south fork of the New RIver and the Dania Cut-Off Canal.

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After intersecting the Dania Cut-Off Canal, we paddle east about five more miles on the last stretch of our trip. The south bank is mostly residential homes, nice living, but not overly opulent as on the New River. There is a small boat launch Griffin Marine Park, with just one ramp. This is another launch option for this trip, depending on the tides. The canal parallels Old Griffin Road and takes us past FLL International Airport and back to our launch spot.

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It’s good to do this kind of trip once or twice a year to see what’s new in town. It’s an excellent overview of Ft Lauderdale from the water!

More info and pics:

https://www.meetup.com/kayaking-130/events/282687774/

See you next year!

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flex maslan kayakfari dania kayak ft lauderdale new year river Jerry Blackstone paddle loop canal south florida

We’ll really have to watch our speed next year guyz, ok?!

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! Bless UP

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With that said..
Blessings friends!

🙂