Florida on a Tankful: Backwater Volusia County eco tour

By Scott Fais, Feature Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, August 11, 2017, 5:10 AM EDT

Through a gate built from new lumber, past colorful kayaks stacked in a row, awaits its a voyage departing Bethune Beach, bound for untouched Florida.

Here, you can cast off your cares, as the crew casts off into the Indian River. Even on an overcast summer day, boat from Turtle Mound River Tours depart for an up-close look at the wildlife.

At bay here, the softer side of Volusia County. In these waters, among spoil islands are the place where wild dolphin come to feed.

"Look at the waves," shouts a young mother over the engine to her three-year-old son, as the boat begins to pick up speed.

At the helm, find Captain Rodney Bennett driving and sharing about Florida's Manatee.

"Now these guys here, got to swim all the way up to Jacksonville to get into the St. John's and then comeback to get into any of the springs,” Rodney says about manatee frolicking off the portside bow.

Turtle Mound River Tours has a reputation for finding wild dolphin and manatee and many more creatures in their wild habitat.

"There's actually over 350 different plants and animals out here that are either on the endangered or restricted spices list,” Rodney shared with the group assembled on the catamaran boat.

Passengers feel the wind in their hair, while others have a song in their heart.

"Yo ho maties away ..." the mother sings as her son looks for pirates.

"You're on the Jolly Roger?"

Instead, coastal real estate glides by as the real world drifts away.

Soon, Turtle Mound River Cruises heads towards their namesake: the Turtle Mound at the Canaveral National Seashore.

This hill is a Native American “midden,” a mound made of oyster shells. The midden towers more than 50 feet above sea level.

While it looks vast and deep, the water here is only three to five feet in depth. That makes this area perfect to find mamma dolphins and lazy manatee.

"This is what is known as an estuary. It's more or less like a nursery for everything,” Captain Rodney shared.

However, when afternoon skies do get too dark, Captain Rodney turns the cameraman back towards the dock. Passengers can then take cover in their cars or the popular JB’s Fish Camp diner next to the dock.

Know Before You Go:

With summer weather patterns, Turtle Mound River Tours will refund ticket costs for any ride lasting less than 1 hour, or canceled for the weather.

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