A perfect summer day and about 15 happy paddlers marked the official opening of the Sedge Island Kayak Trails at Island Beach State Park as Senior Naturalist Diane Bennett-Chase guided the first group of paddlers through the Sedge Island Conservation area near the Barnegat Inlet.
Including myself, paddlers also included members of the local press, members of the local environmental group Save Barnegat Bay, Island Beach State Park staff and officials from the State Division of Fish, Game & Wildlife.
We launched into Barnegat Bay about 9:30 am from area 21 at Island Beach State Park and paddled some very calm water in the Barnegat Bay out to the recently established Conservation Zone, which prohibits personal watercraft and commercial shellfishing activity. Recreational fishing and clamming are permitted.
Deep channels are found within a paddle's length of shore, while the widest spaces between islands can be ankle-deep.
After paddling a while, we finally landed on one of the islands while the naturalists pointed out a number of bird species including laughing gulls, cormorants, Ospreys and Peregrine Falcons which call this area their home. The naturalists also demonstrated how to find and dig for clams. One area of water in the conservation zone was so crystal clear it made the scene look like the Bahamas.
We paddled a nice leisurely pace for close to 6 miles and completed our inaugural tour of the trails at about 12:30 pm. It was just so beautiful, that no one wanted to the tour to end.
Here are some tips to help make your trip to Sedge Islands a safe & enjoyable one:
* Carry an adequate supply of drinking water, insect repellent, and a compass.
* Beware of fog and strong currents, especially during peak full and new moon tides.
* Check the marine forecast, tide tables and be aware of wind conditions. An outgoing tide, accelerated by wind, can leave unsuspecting visitors stranded for hours on a sandbar.
You can launch kayaks at Island Beach State Park on the bay side only at areas 15 and 21. Because the conservation zone contains threatened and endangered species, park officials request paddlers visit the area in small groups only.
There is a daily fee to enter Island Beach State Park.
A kayak trail map was created in Save Barnegat Bay's office with funding from a National Recreational Trails Act grant from the Office of Lands Management at the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, and the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine and Research Reserve. The map shows parking areas and access points for launching boats and also highlights suggested routes. There are Global Positioning System (GPS) points given for some key locations, to help kayakers who carry pocket GPS receivers.
Paddlers can obtain the free map by requesting it at the visitor/interpretive center at Island Beach State Park or by contacting Save Barnegat Bay
The map is also available online at: