Hi, and welcome to another video at Waterfront Gurus and this time we went down to Miami and paddled from Key Biscayne all the way to the ruins of Stilltsville.
Stiltsville has a colorful past, hosting fishing, drinking and partying clubs during Prohibition. There has been a lot written about the history of Stiltsville, so I’ve provided some links at the bottom if you’re interested.
We launched from Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. From the lighthouse or the beach, where we launched from, you can see the Stiltsville house in the distance if you look south.
Bill Baggs State Park has a rich history and nature
For paddlers and kayakers in South Florida, the Stiltsville area is easily accessible by launching from the kayak area on the beach north of the lighthouse.
The shortest path is only about 1.5 miles of paddling to the flats. As soon as you pass the Lighthouse and while this is a short paddling route, there are very strong currents that can rip around the tip of Cape Florida.
This is actually the northern boundary of a geographical feature called the “Safety Valve“. It’s a mixture of shallow sandy sea grass flats and deeper tidal channels that transfer water from Biscayne Bay out to the Atlantic Ocean and vice versa. A LOT of water moves through here twice daily!
FYI, the main power boating channel runs just south of the tip of Cape Florida where boats will be moving at full speed. Another main boating channel also runs right through the Stiltsville village – a ‘street’ of sorts. Do NOT linger in place in these high speed boating channels and make your crossings as brief as possible.
Come prepared. Bring water, snacks, sunglasses, hat, and reef-safe sunscreen.
Stiltsville – From Prohibition to Miami Vice
From tales of gambling and debauchery in the 1930s to ‘60s, to appearances on Miami Vice in the ‘80s, Stiltsville in Miami has represented the wild and kooky side of Miami.
The Stiltsville structures are quite robust, having survived several hurricanes. Still, rising sea levels and/or the next big hurricane or a fire could take them out. Chances are they would not be rebuilt. So while the future for Stiltsville looks good – it is not guaranteed!
We visited only the A-frame House because we wanted to paddle back before the tide changed and it would take us all the way out to the ocean.
To me, the A-frame house is visually the most interesting of the lot. It is the iconic image of Stiltsville!
Today the houses of Stiltsville are part of the Biscayne Bay National Park and like other communities inside parks, there has been tension about whether to tear them down and let the tide erase every trace they existed or to commemorate them as part of the colorful past of the area. Those tensions predate inclusion in the park and the park actually gets credit for coming up with a plan to help preserve them. For now, they are saved and exist with a public use clause through the nonprofit Stiltsville Trust.
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