Marco Island Florida, Peace River Canoe Trip 

We were planning the trip for a couple of weeks, a trip from the head waters of the upper peace river down to the Gulf of Mexico, a total of 180 miles, all by river.  In the past, we had canoed the river in search of fossils, dating back to the Paleolithic era.  We put into the river on Monday, August 15th for a full weeks trip down the river.  The waters were swollen from the recent summer rains, and made the water move fast as we start out from the small town of Barto.  My son Zack is excited to find fossils and in the past we have found several large shark teeth, and even some of the elusive Megladon fossilized teeth which can get to the size of a mans hand.  The Megladon was the largest shark to ever roam the seas, and was related to the Great White shark of today.  The first day would we planned on going perhaps about 20 miles, and we would camp on a sand bar where the fishing and fossil hunting was good.  We set up camp with several creatures wondering who was invading their neighborhood.  The state bird of Florida, the Mocking Bird, was squawking at us from her apparent nest area.  We respected her turf and set our camp away from her domain.  The water was a bit high, however Zack still managed to catch some bass for dinner and some crayfish would serve as a side dish for two hungry campers.  We ate well and awoke to the sound of a wild boar grunting near by, rooting in the leaf litter for grubs and other morning snacks.  Today's leg of the trip would take us almost to Arcadia, a small town that is right on the river.  We broke camp after eating some jerky that we had taken along for a quick bite on the run.  Our plan was to live off of the land, eating fish, plants and animals that crossed our path.  This was Zacks idea, as I had told him stories of the settlers that put down stakes in this area to take up cattle farming during the time that Indians still roamed the banks of the river.  In fact, the Peace River got it's name from the fact that the river kept the peace after an accord was signed that gave the Indians all of the land to the East of the river, and the cattle ranchers, the land to the west, thus, the name of the river Peace River.  In the years before this, the name of the river was the Pea's River because of a plant that grew abundantly on it's banks.

Back to our trip...the day was bright, with a morning sun putting beams of splintered sunlight upon the water that reflected up into the overhanging trees.  We were making good time and decided to take a break to look for some fossils.  Zack found a great claw of a giant armadillo that roamed the river basin during the time of the dinosaurs.  The armadillo's during this time were the size of a small car!  There were also camels here in South Central Florida believe it our not!  I found a camel tooth and several shark teeth, including a big Megladon tooth that was about the size of an apple, but had a chip on the point of it.  Zack was looking for the rare elephant tusk or maybe a tooth of a Mastodon.  During this time frame, Mastodons and other elephant species flourished on the lush plants of the green river basin.  The Peace River is a prime hunting grounds for fossil hunters, with collectors traveling miles looking for the black mineralized bones and teeth.  We move on after finding various fossils for our collection.  Along the way we find a stand of cattails and realize that we should gather some of the fresh sprouts for lunch.  We stop and eat a lunch of "tails" and move on toward our planned camping spot.  We stop just past the Brownville Landing and set up camp on the top of the river bank in a clearing that was surrounded by majestic oak trees, some of which still bore scars from hurricane Charley, that rolled through this area a year ago to the month.  We were getting hungry, and Zack knew what he wanted to eat....Squirrel.  Zack loaded his pellet gun and put 10 pumps in, enough to take down a foraging squirrel.  He came back from a successful hunt with two, that we would skin and grill on our black iron camping skillet.  A little history on this skillet....the skillet belonged to my grandmother, and this type of skillet was used years ago, and was made of cast iron.  This skillet cooks so even, it is better than the ones that I use at home.  One thing you need to know about iron skillets is that you do not use soap on just wipe them out when done.  If you wash them normally with soap, they will rust.  Anyway, we cooked the two squirrels and ate them with gusto as the cattails just did not stay with us long, I guess that they are like Chinese food.  We settle in for a night and hear the crickets singing us to sleep.  

The morning greeted us with the song of birds and a hawk calling out to some unknown mate or just calling out to greet the new day.  We paddled down the river toward the Gulf of Mexico, and made good time as the river was still above the normal flow.  I will skip some of the days on the river as they were very similar...eating squirrel or rabbit, fossil hunting, sleeping, paddling.  

On Saturday, we were near Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico.  Now the water was salt infested and the type of fish we caught changed from fresh to salt water.  Sea trout were plentiful and were lunch along the way.  Several large boats were now passing by us, creating a wake that made our canoe surf down the waves and many times  almost capsized us.  Zack thought that it was funny, and laughed each time we stroked to escape the wrath of the rolling waves.  About noon, we saw the Gulf of Mexico and knew that we had made the trip, and with tired arms, awaited my wife to pick us up at the boat ramp.  

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