A Boating Adventure off the St. Johns River, near Palatka, FL
Maybe it is all the “gunk-holing” we used to do in the Chesapeake or the river-running we did in coastal Georgia, but this is the kind of boating adventure my family loves. And as Skipper Gorham attests, unmarked waterways like Dunns Creek are often very beautiful and just require slow travel and a sharp lookout. Good for you Skipper Gorham! Dunns Creek exits the St. Johns southward between Murphy and Rat Islands, south of Palatka.
A St. Johns side trip down Dunns Creek to Crescent Lake
Crescent Lake is the third largest Lake in Florida, and is connected to the St. Johns River by Dunns Creek. It doesn’t get many visits from cruising size craft, probably because Dunns Creek is a bit intimidating, but we recently took an overnight trip to the charming town of Crescent City, and it was worth the trip.
Dunns Creek joins the St. Johns near marker 16 upstream of Palatka and winds for about 5 miles through beautiful hardwood swamp to the north end of Crescent Lake. Most of the creek is quite deep at 20 to 40 feet, but there are no navaids, and in places the depth rises very sharply to shallow sandbars that you cannot see due to the tannin stained water, which can cause a little anxiety. By favoring the outside of the creek bends and paying attention to the very accurate bathymetry on our Navionics chart chip, we never saw less than 6 feet. There is a broad shallow area at the north end of the lake, but we also never saw less than 6 feet crossing that.
Once in Crescent Lake, there is a uniform depth of 10-12 feet all the way to Crescent City. At 29 degrees 25.822’N by 081 degrees 30.338′ W, there is a public ramp and landing with about 6 feet of water and a 50 foot face dock. Also here is the restaurant 3 Bananas, which has docking for dinghies and small craft. We had a fine dinner there and were allowed to overnight on their dock. Just offshore within dinghy distance to the docks is Bear Island, which has 7-10 feet of water 360 degrees around the island and good holding in sandy mud for an overnight anchorage.
The town of Crescent City is very pleasant to walk around, with huge live oaks and a lot of antique stores. Also don’t miss the 600 year old white cypress right behind 3 Bananas – it is one of the largest and oldest trees of its kind in Florida.