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Moonlight paddle through Robinson Preserve offers nighttime wonders


What goes bump in the night might be your kayak or canoe hitting up against a mangrove root while paddling Robinson Preserve by the light of the full moon on Friday night. Keep an eye out for raccoons, otters, foxes and coyotes during this 2-mile adventure down the waterways while learning about coastal Florida's ecosystem..


What: Full Moon Adventure Paddle Trip at Robinson Preserve.

When: Friday, Sept. 4, starting at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Robinson Preserve Canoe Kayak Launch.

How much: Free. Just bring your own canoe/kayak and a light.

Why: To offer an adventure while learning more about coastal Florida.

RSVP: Reservations are required with Melissa Nell at (941) 742-5757.

Robinson Preserve
Guests at Robinson Preserve explore the coastal waterways in their kayak. 

Melissa Nell, the volunteer and education division manager for Manatee County's Natural Resources Department, said the moonlight views are different from what people see during the day.

"There are a lot of wading birds coming into Robinson starting at sunset," Nell said. "Wading birds poking around the evening atmosphere coming into the preserve to roost for the evening."

Apparently, this is a very unique opportunity to paddle by moonlight through Robinson Preserve.

"It's magical at night when no one else can go in," Nell said. "Only the participants can go into the preserve after hours with a preserver, and paddle underneath mangrove trees.

"People like to feel like they are having an adventure," she said.

Robinson Preserve
A visitor rests in his kayak and observes the natural surroundings of the coastal waterways. 

Aedan Stockdale, a naturalist and New College student interning for the department, will guide the paddle tour and educate guests along the way. He has worked with the department since March and has a background in marine and environmental science.

But don't expect to see any alligators on the tour. The water is pretty salty and it's a slim chance that they'd be passing through. However, glowing microscopic animals might grab the attention of some paddlers.

"Bioluminescents are essentially the things you can't see in the water that suddenly glow in the dark," Nell said.

Navigating glowing waters under a full moon, paddlers are certainly in for a treat.

Robinson Preserve is located in northwestern Bradenton, in the Palma Sola area, across the street from the Palma Sola Botanical Gardens. It's a 487-acre preserve and has been transformed from disturbed farmland to coastal and wetland habitats.

The Natural Resources Department partnered with a number of state and local agencies to restore the land to its natural state.

Funding was provided by the Florida Communities Trust Florida Forever Program, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, Florida Communities Trust, Army Corps of Engineers and the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

Robinson Preserve
A boardwalk along the water at Robinson Preserve provides a path to explore the preserve.

Exotic invasive plants were also removed to open up the land for the native plants to flourish, and the preserve's new waterway system helps to restore tidal flow within the coastal habitats.

The NRD has been offering paddling excursions for three years. Although paddling trips are done throughout the state and some are done through a private outfitter, the department's tours and groups are free.

Nell attended New College to study biology and NOVA Southeastern University to study environmental education. She is a certified interpretive guide and heritage interpreter, and she grew up in Florida.

"I have watched it change so much," Nell said. "We want to grab these people coming down and new to this beautiful place and show them why it's important to preserve."


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