Tour with Captain Mitch!

It’s been said that the only way to see this remarkable city is from the water, as there are some 185 miles of natural and man made waterways. In a city that was largely dredged up out of mangrove swamps, which created both the land and its waterways, a cruise up the New River provides a cruising experience unlike any other.

And in case anyone doubts why this city calls itself the “yachting capitol of the world”, this river trip will dispel any notions to the contrary, for you will see more boats in just a few hours than you’ve probably ever seen before. For boating is what this city is all about.

Even the geology of the river is unique, for it is not a normal river as most people know them. It’s not a drainage river, but is completely tidal saltwater. On a rising tide, the current flows upstream, even as far as five miles inland. Twelve thousand years ago, the lower Florida peninsula was a vast atoll, bordered by a coral reef on the eastern side. The New River was actually a cut or pass through the reef. As the earth cooled and ocean levels receded, this pass through the coral reef became this unusual river. It was cut by the tidal flow between what is now the Everglades and the Gulf Stream.

Because of this, the river does not silt up, and does not pose the usual threats of shifting sand bars and the like. It is cut deep into coral rock, and her depths do not change.

You’ll be amazed to see that the water is clean, not muddy or badly polluted. It is also very deep, up to 60 feet in places with a minimum draft of 12 feet. It’s not unusual to see 150 footers making their way up to the big yacht yards.

As you wend your way up this endlessly twisting river, the scenery is constantly changing. Lined with palatial homes at the mouth of the river where it meets up with the Intracoastal Waterway, with Las Olas isles to the north, and Lauderdale Isles to the south, it passes through Rio Vista, the highest ground in Fort Lauderdale, which is actually the top of the ancient coral reef.

After passing through a neighborhood of graceful older homes in a setting of lush tropical foliage, rich with flowering tropical trees like the flaming red Poinciana and blue Jacaranda, you soon pass over the New River Tunnel and into downtown Fort Lauderdale.

A recently completed redevelopment project had new public city docks installed that are a favorite layup spot for transients who like to be in the midst of the social scene. Here you’re within walking distance of the famous Las Olas shops and dozens of fine restaurants and watering holes. On weekends, it’s a beehive of activity.

Just a bit further up the river is River Walk where you’ll encounter a particularly lively scene on weekends with dockside shops, food and drink vendors. There are frequent public festivals with evening entertainment featuring live bands. A word of caution for early risers though: this is not a place for people who go to bed early. Dock elsewhere if you value your sleep.

At the point where the river passes through the city it becomes quite narrow with very heavy boat traffic between the two draw bridges. It’s entertaining enough just to watch boats and yachts of all sizes, many well over 100 feet, attempting to navigate this narrow section without crashing into each other. They are not always successful.

The New River Hilton graces the the south side of the river here, which is actually the county jail, so named by locals because where else could you get a waterfront jail cell with a view?

Just north of the rail road bridge, which is, thank God, normally open, is the River Front Marina and Shirt Tail Charley’s, a popular restaurant and watering hole for the boating crowd with water front dockage. It was named after a Seminole Indian- Shirt Tail Charley, who grew an excessive fondness for firewater, and developed quite a reputation for his drunken antics. So much so that he is remembered to this day.

arlier, you passed Cooley Hammock, named for an early pioneer family that was massacred by the Indians back in 1826. The city was named after army Major William Lauderdale who was sent in to subdue the Indians. Most of the early history of the city lies along the banks of this river, though it’s rapidly succumbing to the rapaciousness of developers with no limits to their greed.

Immediately up river of the downtown area are the historic Bryan Homes, now a fancy private restaurant, the Chart House.

Today the beautifully kept grounds with graceful coconut palms amidst a stand of ancient Live Oaks are part of Riverwalk and attract many waterfront strollers, as well as the lunchtime crowds from the nearby office towers. This is contrasted against the facility of Allied Marine and Sun Power Diesel on the south side of the river, two of the numerous marine facilities serving yachts on the river.

Heading around the next bend in the river we come to another notable landmark, the Theater for the Performing Arts. Set right on the river, you can attend a play, ballet, opera or just about any kind of theatrical event short of Rock concerts, by boat — that is if you’re lucky enough to get one of the few dock spaces available. But you could always top off a well planned evening’s entertainment by arriving on the Water Taxi, the colorful little green launches with yellow canopies that constantly ply the river.

There are numerous entertainment attractions in this area, including IMAX Theatre and Discovery Center, a great place for kids. It’s got everything from extensive nature displays, to amazing hands-on science exhibits. So much is going on here that I’ve hardly begin to scratch the surface. This is a place you need to explore for yourself to plumb its depth of amusement and entertainment.

As we continue up the river, we leave the inner city just as suddenly as it springs up. On the right bank, just before the Fourth Avenue Bridge, there is Chinnock Marine, another boat yard. On the other side of the bridge is yet another city marina which has both long term dockage and launching ramps. This is one of the most popular spots for transients as it is well landscaped with good facilities. It is also tranquil on weekdays and evenings, with only the bridge noise to disturb you. Though seemingly well-hidden, people flock to this park-like area on weekends, an area that is loaded with flowering trees.

By now, the river has made so many twisting turns that you probably have to look at your compass to find out which direction you’re going, but the general direction is west, or inland.

We next meet with yet another residential neighborhood, that is also lush with tropical foliage and homes of distinctive character. Lining the banks are boats and yachts of all sizes and description. Boats, boats, everywhere there are boats. This is the aptly named Sailboat Bend neighborhood, recently reclaimed from a deteriorating slum area. You’d never guess by looking at it that this neighborhood was once a dangerous place to be on foot.

Now we come to the Davie Boulevard Bridge, about two miles inland, but at this point you have now traveled five water miles, what with all the twisting turns. Passing under the bridge you enter the Citrus Isles and River Oaks neighborhoods that are crammed with unique architecture set within a south Florida hammock (our word for jungle). Here on the north side of the river residents respect their natural surroundings so that many homes do not have yards, so to speak, but are homes built into the original Florida landscape. It’s one of the few places where you get a glimpse of what the original landscape used to look like.

On the left are the Citrus Isles, a series of residential canals that are just jam packed with boats. Here, many homeowners pay for their mortgages by renting out dock space to non-residents for long term dockage. Far inland, the area is well protected from hurricane storm surge. When hurricanes approach, there’s always a huge armada of yachts heading up river to seek safety far inland. Indeed, yachts as safe as they can get here.

Your next vision is that of a forest of sail boat masts as you approach Summerfield Boat Yard and River Bend marine, obviously the two yards where most of the sailors go. Rounding the 90 degree bend you’ll see the remnants of Broward Marine, Destroyed by fire several years ago. But the large sheds for mega yachts still remain and about a dozen such are docked here and being worked on at any given time.
At this point we’re now moving into the area where the hard work of the boating industry gets done. Cable Marine, Roscioli and  Rolly Marine are a few of the better known yards, along with New River Marine Center and Lauderdale Marina, finally ending with Bradford Marine, where at any given time you’ll see a half dozen mega yachts dry docked for repairs, or undergoing the endless series of modifications that millionaires can’t seem to resist spending their money on. Yep, come to Ft. Lauderdale, spend your money and help keep the natives happy and busy. This area is known as Marina Mile and is home to many fabricators and custom shops, everything from tuna towers to prop shops. If you can’t get it done here, you probably can’t get it done anywhere. We count nine boat yards in this area.

We’re now approaching the end of our journey up this busy but seemingly laid back river as we come to yet another natural landmark, a large preserved section of mangrove jungle named Secret Woods. Here you get a good look at the way things used to be before Fort Lauderdale became a magnet to the unimaginably wealthy.

This is a great place to take the kids. You can tour this marshy terrain on a series of board walks through the old Florida jungle where all sorts of wildlife can be seen, especially the armies of land crabs that are constantly at work digging holes. If you’re in a small boat, there’s even a dock you can land at.

On the right are the Riverland Isles, another unique neighborhood that is a well-kept secret because it is well-hidden and isolated from the city proper. Once again, most of these homes are set within a large expanse of Old Florida jungle with few sculpted yards, but rather all natural landscape. And once again, there are many, many boats docked on private canals covering a very large area.
By the time you reach Bradford Marine, you’re ready to turn around, head down river, and see it all again. No need to worry about getting bored with that, for you didn’t begin to see it all the first time. This is probably one of the most amazing rivers set in the midst of a quasi-urban setting that often looks anything but urban. If you come to Fort Lauderdale without making this river trip, you are definitely missing seeing Fort Lauderdale at its best.

actually the top of the ancient coral reef.

After passing through a neighborhood of graceful older homes in a setting of lush tropical foliage, rich with flowering tropical trees like the flaming red Poinciana and blue Jacaranda, you soon pass over the New River Tunnel and into downtown Fort Lauderdale.

A recently completed redevelopment project had new public city docks installed that are a favorite layup spot for transients who like to be in the midst of the social scene. Here you’re within walking distance of the famous Las Olas shops and dozens of fine restaurants and watering holes. On weekends, it’s a beehive of activity.

Just a bit further up the river is River Walk where you’ll encounter a particularly lively scene on weekends with dockside shops, food and drink vendors. There are frequent public festivals with evening entertainment featuring live bands. A word of caution for early risers though: this is not a place for people who go to bed early. Dock elsewhere if you value your sleep.

At the point where the river passes through the city it becomes quite narrow with very heavy boat traffic between the two draw bridges. It’s entertaining enough just to watch boats and yachts of all sizes, many well over 100 feet, attempting to navigate this narrow section without crashing into each other. They are not always successful.

The New River Hilton graces the the south side of the river here, which is actually the county jail, so named by locals because where else could you get a waterfront jail cell with a view?

Just north of the rail road bridge, which is, thank God, normally open, is the River Front Marina and Shirt Tail Charley’s, a popular restaurant and watering hole for the boating crowd with water front dockage. It was named after a Seminole Indian- Shirt Tail Charley, who grew an excessive fondness for firewater, and developed quite a reputation for his drunken antics. So much so that he is remembered to this day.

arlier, you passed Cooley Hammock, named for an early pioneer family that was massacred by the Indians back in 1826. The city was named after army Major William Lauderdale who was sent in to subdue the Indians. Most of the early history of the city lies along the banks of this river, though it’s rapidly succumbing to the rapaciousness of developers with no limits to their greed.

Immediately up river of the downtown area are the historic Bryan Homes, now a fancy private restaurant, the Chart House.

Today the beautifully kept grounds with graceful coconut palms amidst a stand of ancient Live Oaks are part of Riverwalk and attract many waterfront strollers, as well as the lunchtime crowds from the nearby office towers. This is contrasted against the facility of Allied Marine and Sun Power Diesel on the south side of the river, two of the numerous marine facilities serving yachts on the river.

Heading around the next bend in the river we come to another notable landmark, the Theater for the Performing Arts. Set right on the river, you can attend a play, ballet, opera or just about any kind of theatrical event short of Rock concerts, by boat — that is if you’re lucky enough to get one of the few dock spaces available. But you could always top off a well planned evening’s entertainment by arriving on the Water Taxi, the colorful little green launches with yellow canopies that constantly ply the river.

There are numerous entertainment attractions in this area, including IMAX Theatre and Discovery Center, a great place for kids. It’s got everything from extensive nature displays, to amazing hands-on science exhibits. So much is going on here that I’ve hardly begin to scratch the surface. This is a place you need to explore for yourself to plumb its depth of amusement and entertainment.

As we continue up the river, we leave the inner city just as suddenly as it springs up. On the right bank, just before the Fourth Avenue Bridge, there is Chinnock Marine, another boat yard. On the other side of the bridge is yet another city marina which has both long term dockage and launching ramps. This is one of the most popular spots for transients as it is well landscaped with good facilities. It is also tranquil on weekdays and evenings, with only the bridge noise to disturb you. Though seemingly well-hidden, people flock to this park-like area on weekends, an area that is loaded with flowering trees.

By now, the river has made so many twisting turns that you probably have to look at your compass to find out which direction you’re going, but the general direction is west, or inland.

We next meet with yet another residential neighborhood, that is also lush with tropical foliage and homes of distinctive character. Lining the banks are boats and yachts of all sizes and description. Boats, boats, everywhere there are boats. This is the aptly named Sailboat Bend neighborhood, recently reclaimed from a deteriorating slum area. You’d never guess by looking at it that this neighborhood was once a dangerous place to be on foot.

Now we come to the Davie Boulevard Bridge, about two miles inland, but at this point you have now traveled five water miles, what with all the twisting turns. Passing under the bridge you enter the Citrus Isles and River Oaks neighborhoods that are crammed with unique architecture set within a south Florida hammock (our word for jungle). Here on the north side of the river residents respect their natural surroundings so that many homes do not have yards, so to speak, but are homes built into the original Florida landscape. It’s one of the few places where you get a glimpse of what the original landscape used to look like.

On the left are the Citrus Isles, a series of residential canals that are just jam packed with boats. Here, many homeowners pay for their mortgages by renting out dock space to non-residents for long term dockage. Far inland, the area is well protected from hurricane storm surge. When hurricanes approach, there’s always a huge armada of yachts heading up river to seek safety far inland. Indeed, yachts as safe as they can get here.

Your next vision is that of a forest of sail boat masts as you approach Summerfield Boat Yard and River Bend marine, obviously the two yards where most of the sailors go. Rounding the 90 degree bend you’ll see the remnants of Broward Marine, Destroyed by fire several years ago. But the large sheds for mega yachts still remain and about a dozen such are docked here and being worked on at any given time.
At this point we’re now moving into the area where the hard work of the boating industry gets done. Cable Marine, Roscioli and Rolly Marine are a few of the better known yards, along with New River Marine Center and Lauderdale Marina, finally ending with Bradford Marine, where at any given time you’ll see a half dozen mega yachts dry docked for repairs, or undergoing the endless series of modifications that millionaires can’t seem to resist spending their money on. Yep, come to Ft. Lauderdale, spend your money and help keep the natives happy and busy. This area is known as Marina Mile and is home to many fabricators and custom shops, everything from tuna towers to prop shops. If you can’t get it done here, you probably can’t get it done anywhere. We count nine boat yards in this area.

We’re now approaching the end of our journey up this busy but seemingly laid back river as we come to yet another natural landmark, a large preserved section of mangrove jungle named Secret Woods. Here you get a good look at the way things used to be before Fort Lauderdale became a magnet to the unimaginably wealthy.

This is a great place to take the kids. You can tour this marshy terrain on a series of board walks through the old Florida jungle where all sorts of wildlife can be seen, especially the armies of land crabs that are constantly at work digging holes. If you’re in a small boat, there’s even a dock you can land at.

On the right are the Riverland Isles, another unique neighborhood that is a well-kept secret because it is well-hidden and isolated from the city proper. Once again, most of these homes are set within a large expanse of Old Florida jungle with few sculpted yards, but rather all natural landscape. And once again, there are many, many boats docked on private canals covering a very large area.
By the time you reach Bradford Marine, you’re ready to turn around, head down river, and see it all again. No need to worry about getting bored with that, for you didn’t begin to see it all the first time. This is probably one of the most amazing rivers set in the midst of a quasi-urban setting that often looks anything but urban. If you come to Fort Lauderdale without making this river trip, you are definitely missing seeing Fort Lauderdale at its best.

is a well-kept secret because it is well-hidden and isolated from the city proper. Once again, most of these homes are set within a large expanse of Old Florida jungle with few sculpted yards, but rather all natural landscape. And once again, there are many, many boats docked on private canals covering a very large area.

By the time you reach Bradford Marine, you’re ready to turn around, head down river, and see it all again. No need to worry about getting bored with that, for you didn’t begin to see it all the first time. This is probably one of the most amazing rivers set in the midst of a quasi-urban setting that often looks anything but urban. If you come to Fort Lauderdale without making this river trip, you are definitely missing seeing Fort Lauderdale at its best.