Join us as we take a tour in search of manatees! As the water begins to cool below 70 degrees and seasonal air temperatures begin to drop, the manatees move into warmer waters.
Florida Naturalist Narrated Tour
March through November, cruise the Caloosahatchee River on board the M/V River Queen. View Southwest Florida’s flora, fauna, and learn about its cultural heritage on this 2 to 2.5-hour Florida Master Naturalist narrated tour in and around the oxbows and uniqueness of our environment.
What to Expect
Come join us on a river cruise to get a glimpse back to the Caloosa River that was and the Caloosahatchee as we enjoy it today. We peek back to a time before the releases of tannin-colored water from Lake Okeechobee chased the blue crab from the river — before the 1965 construction of the Franklin Lock and Dam and before the winding river was straightened and the channel cut over 1000 feet wide and 25 feet deep to create C43, also referred to as the Cross Florida Shipping Channel.
Travel back to the late 1800s, when the Menge Brothers cut the 5-mile long Caloosahatchee Channel from Lake Okeechobee to Lake Hicpochee and Hamilton Disston removed the limestone rapids at the west end of Lake Flirt, at the original headwaters of the Caloosahatchee River. These actions combined to begin draining the mighty Lake Okeechobee and the surrounding wetlands to the Gulf of Mexico
The river at that time resembled a serpent as it twisted its way to the Gulf of Mexico at Punta Rassa. Many of the bends were so tight the steamboats had to use lines (ropes) tied to trees to turn the vessels. One such bend, named Devil’s Elbow, we traverse today as it is one of the six remaining oxbows in the river section between State Route 31 Bastille Bridge and the Franklin Locks.
See the flora that would have been present at that time all along the river before the development of the waterfront property with modern multi-million dollar homes. Common wildlife along the route even today includes great egret, snowy egret, cattle egret, great blue heron, and various species of raptors including osprey, hawk, and bald eagle.
Occasionally, we have the opportunity to see some rare, threatened, or endangered species of birds such as the swallow-tailed kite, limpkins, and sandhill cranes. We may even find a West Indian manatee in the area. More common species are sometimes seen, such as alligator, tarpon, and of course, the mullets that are jumping for joy just to live here in sunny Southwest Florida!
- What is an oxbow? An original river bend that is now connected to the new river channel at both ends.
- How many oxbows will we visit? At least three of the six.