As a marine fisheries biologist, I love the salt water. Charlotte Harbor’s back bays and estuaries are where I work and play, and our barrier islands are some of my favorite places to kayak and explore. But as beautiful and pristine as those ecosystems are, the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserve has even more to offer by way of freshwater rivers and tributaries. We all know that the Peace and Myakka rivers flow together to create the body of Charlotte Harbor, but in addition to those there exist hundreds of other smaller creeks and rivulets that are home to thousands of animals, many much different than those we find in the salty waters of the Harbor or the Gulf.
One of my favorite freshwater creeks to explore is Shell Creek, located just off Washington Loop Road in Punta Gorda. Shell Creek is aptly named, as it contains a plethora of fossils. Shark teeth, Native American artifacts, and fossilized shells and bones can easily be found along the shoreline and in the shallow areas of the riverbed. Kayaks and other paddlecraft are ideal modes of transportation along this creek, and having the ability to jump in and out of your vessel easily to explore makes fossil hunting, bird watching, and hiking a breeze.
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