When the wind is howling on the ocean making conditions unfit for paddle surfing or paddle boarding, Lofton Creek is the place to go! Located about 8 miles inland and protected by thick vegetation and trees the waters of Lofton Creek remain placid even when the wind is blowing 20+ mph. Lofton Creek is a black water creek from tannic acid released as a byproduct of decaying plants. The contrast between the black water, green foliage and blue skies make this paddle boarding tour truly picturesque and a fan favorite.
Lofton Creek is one of the most popular places to paddle board (SUP) in Amelia Island. You have the option to paddle north or south on Lofton Creek. Heading south you will find the creek much wider. It eventually turns more into a salt marsh as the creek dumps into the Nassau River. I prefer the north end of the creek for a number of reasons which I will share below.
Heading north you will quickly notice the sounds of civilization are quieted by the dense foliage along the banks of the meandering creek. You will also see a variety of vegetation as you paddle including cypress, sweet gum, azaleas and my favorite, saw palmetto. As you head further up the narrow creek you will have numerous opportunities to test your paddling skills navigating the many over-hanging tree branches. One branch in particular is at just the right height begging the adventurous paddler to try and limbo underneath it (pictured above). I have had no takers thus far...
With a careful eye you will also notice colorful wild flowers blooming along the banks. If you are paddle boarding during the spring, you may come upon clusters of spider lilies (pictured above). The spider lily is native to Florida and produces a beautiful and delicate white flower when in bloom. Knowing where to turn off the main creek you can paddle thru dense water ferns (pictured below) in bloom during the spring.
Another big draw to Lofton Creek is the wildlife. You may see raptors, otters and herons during your paddle. While hard to spot, in certain areas you can also see alligators. “Mama gator” as we call her is an 8-foot alligator (pictured below) and along with her babies is a real treat to see if you are lucky.
Towards the end of the paddle board tour you will come to a railroad trestle (see photo below). It’s a great spot to take pictures. The tracks are active which can make for an epic photo should you time it with a passing train. From here you will continue a short distance to Pages Dairy Road, the turnaround spot for this trip. For intermediate and advanced paddle boarders, you can continue up the creek to a huge cypress tree. At about 6 feet in diameter it is unmistakable.
This paddle board tour starts and ends at the Melton Nelson Boat Ramp. The launch spot is about a 10-minute drive from Amelia Island. Make sure to time this paddle with the tide. Be mindful that the tide this far inland lags the tidal cycle along the coast by 2 to 3 hours. The length of the paddle is about 5 miles (2 hours), round trip.
Due to the fact the creek is relatively narrow and littered with submerged tree hazards I would suggest a paddle board lesson to learn the basics before doing this trip. Bias aside, a guided paddle board tour is recommended. You can learn more about our SUP lessons and tours here.
While you are close to the shoreline during this paddle be sure to bring your PFD (preferably an inflatable belt PFD). A marine whistle is also worth carrying. It can be useful if your group gets separated on one of the meandering sections of the creek. More importantly, be sure your board is equipped with a coiled SUP leash. You do not want a straight SUP leash dragging in the water. Enjoy!