Surrounded by North Miami’s hustle and bustle, traffic, and condos lies Florida’s largest urban park, Oleta River State Park. Located on Biscayne Bay, it covers more than a thousand acres, providing metro residents and visitors with places to camp, picnic, fish, hike, and mountain bike. Relaxing on the 1,200′ sandy beach along Biscayne Bay is a big draw, too.
It is a paddler’s destination as well. Today I would be joining Colleen Guido, owner of Blue Moon Outdoor Center, for a paddle through and around this state park. Blue Moon’s headquarters and outfitter store offers bike rentals, paddleboards, and kayak rentals, plus guided paddling trips.
As Colleen and I we left the beach and turned down a mangrove-lined waterway, we met a group of stand-up paddleboarders. It was their first time on a SUP, and they were having a blast.
Colleen told me about how this was a dream business for her, and how she spent as much time out on the water as she could. She had taken Blue Mountain Outdoor Center from the drawing board to the successful business it had become. Even on a weekday, dozens of people were launching from the beach and crowding the store for rentals.
My paddle through the park was just that. “Thru” the park. Twice we paddled through large culverts that roadways and trails ran across above. At one of these points, we crossed paths with Sandy and Phyllis, who were checking out the walking path and nature trail.
As Colleen and I entered Biscayne Bay and made it over to Sandspur Island, the sky began to darken. Not wanting to be caught by a sudden thunderstorm, we didn’t paddle all of the way around this beautiful little island. Unfortunately, taking a detour to avoid the storm, we missed seeing any manatees or dolphins, which are often seen in these waters.
Instead, we stayed close to shore and paddled just outside of the buoys of the swimming area and its white sandy beach. As the sky grew more threatening, we could hear thunder off in the distance. It was time to get off the water and seek the shelter on a bench under Blue Mountain Outdoor Center
It was a nice kayaking trip in a place I had not expected to see this much nature, within sight of downtown Miami.