If you're ready for a paddle adventure with a taste of Old Florida, set your GPS to Linger Lodge on the Braden River in Manatee County. You'll need the GPS or a printed map to find this off-the-beaten-track destination, even though it's just a few miles from busy I-75.
The Braden River is a 21-mile waterway between Bradenton and Sarasota and the largest tributary of the Manatee River. It's a narrow, winding, slow-moving river which may be easily paddled in either direction so good for beginners. It's also considered a good river for bass fishing.
The most popular run for paddling is between Jiggs Landing in Bradenton and Linger Lodge (or vice versa) - an easy four miles each way. You can also put in at Jiggs Landing and do a loop around Ward Lake and Evers Reservoir (3 miles) or paddle the Lower Braden from the mouth of the river at State Road 64 to Evers Dam on the north side of the reservoir. Manatee County offers online Paddle Guides to various rivers, click here for a look. ∞
Braden River allows paddlers to get up close and personal with the occasional cormorant, river otter, turtles and herons. While the river trip is scenic and relaxing, for many a trip on the Braden would not be complete without a stop at the Linger Lodge, an old fishing camp turned campground and home to the venerable Linger Lodge Restaurant.
Large, live oak trees dripping in Spanish moss shelter the restaurant and campground, which rests right on the river bank. Listed as one of the nation's "weirdest" restaurants by Al Roker, Food Network and Forbes magazine, the Linger Lodge is filled with preserved native Florida animals and memorabilia. Frank Gamsky, the original owner and an amateur taxidermist, filled the walls, ceilings and display cases with local critters from massive rattlesnakes to coyotes, a 10-foot alligator, bobcats and more.
Be sure to take time to browse the many mounted fish and the strangest of animals, the Blub-Billed Orthlock or the Turkey Rattler. The menu focuses on Southern cooking from alligator bites and frog legs to fried green tomatoes and barbecue. Gumbo is a specialty and portions are very large. Don't worry, you can still find salads, pasta, burgers and chicken if your palate is not so adventurous.
If you want to stick around for the weekend, there's an RV campground here, along with some tent sites and cabins, boat docks, a ramp, and laundry facilities.
Both Jiggs Landing and Linger Lodge have boat ramps but no rentals. Jiggs Landing, a county preserve, also offers picnic pavilions, a concession, playground, boardwalks and a boat ramp. Four cabins will be available to rent by summer 2012. Call (941) 742-5980 Ext. 1807 for more information.
Braden River and Linger Lodge
7205 85th St Ct East
Visit Jiggslanding.com ∞
Visit Lingerlodgeresort.com ∞