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Imperial River

The Imperial River runs through Bonita Springs, FL from east to west. It flows into Fish Trap Bay to the west and Little Hickory Bay to the south, both of which connect to the Gulf of Mexico.  It is a part of the Great Calusa Blueway.

The 3 Sections

The name Imperial River is something of a misnomer. It leads you to believe that it is a grand, wide river that moves tons of water, much like the Caloosahatchee River to the north. The original name of the river was Surveyor's Creek, a name derived from the original name of Bonita Springs, which was Survery, FL. The Imperial River really is more of a glorified creek, especially true as you start east of I-75. The river can be unofficially broken into 3 sections. The first is a windy bald cypress and water oak filled maze of overhanging limbs and stunning natural beauty stretching roughly from the Bonita Grande Weir to the Murat Ct (see map) ramp. The second is lined by a mix of modest homes and natural Florida landscape, and stretches roughly from Murat Ct. to the Imperial River Boat Ramp. The bottom section opens up a bit and features some magnificent river front, gulf access homes and grants access to the bay. The westernmost section can be accessed from the Bonita River Park or Fish Trap Marina. 

Paddling the Top Section 

Difficulty: 

The top section of the Imperial River offers drastically different paddles during the wet and the dry seasons. During the summer months, the daily rains cause the easternmost portion of the river to flow through and sometimes over the dam built to control the flow of the water. This causes the water level to rise drastically, widening the river well past its wintertime boundary. Many bald cypress and cabbage palms that are normally on the bank feature prominently smack in the middle of the river. Compounded by the excess water flowing around corners much more quickly than normal, this makes paddling the top section of the river a rather challenging but exhilarating and beautiful paddle. 

We canoed the top section during a particularly rainy July. Several sections were all but impassible without receiving a Totch Brown comb-over, the not entirely unpleasant experience of having a wet cypress branch decide your newest hairstyle. Each time we paddled the river, a few dozen ogre spiders and several other threatening but harmless species joined us for much of the ride. Our vessel was filled with leaves, sticks, and branches from the many low hanging branches. We even very nearly pierced Ryan Y straight through the heart with a sharp, broken limb sticking straight out of a 500 year old cypress tree directly in the center of the river. 

Despite all of this, I'm itching to get back to the trail because of the unique enchantment that it offered. 


 

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