By Ed Killer for Martin County
The egrets barely flinch as nine people silently cruise along the cool black waters of the St. Lucie River’s winding mangrove-lined South Fork. As the wading birds preen their white feathers, a group of rowers reach forward until the blades of their oars catch the water. They then pull back while sliding the seat with their legs, driving the boat forward.
The birds are conditioned to seeing the humans gliding by, so they almost never spook or fly off. Rowers have inhabited these calm wind-protected waters for more than 20 years. Since 1997, when the Martin County Board of County Commissioners approved a lease of land at Leighton Park in Palm City, the Treasure Coast Rowing Club has grown along the banks of Florida’s largest natural river on the state’s Atlantic Coast. The Treasure Coast Community Boat House contains the 300-member club’s equipment, boats and oars.
The youth rowing program has garnered the most attention racking up five state champion boats. In 2019, the youth program’s most successful season ever, the club sent seven boats to the U.S. Southeast Regionals in Tennessee where all earned third place finishes or better including two golds for two women’s boats. At U.S. Rowing Nationals two weeks later, three women’s crews earned a fourth, a fifth and a 12th place finish in the country. Alumni have earned rowing scholarships at major universities and the club has served as the winter training site for collegiate crews such as Yale and the U.S. Naval Academy.
One of the best things about rowing, however, is it is a great all-around activity for people of all ages seeking exercise. Rowing is also low impact, saving knees and backs from the pounding of jogging. At the Treasure Coast Rowing Club, no experience is necessary, either. A team of coaches available at flexible hours is ready to help guide newcomers into a lifelong sport.
Dropping in for a row during a visit to Martin County is easy to do. Simply contact the rowing club and rowing director Stefanie Falkner to set up an introduction. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 772.444.6006.
One benefit of rowing the brackish waters of the St. Lucie River’s South Fork is the marine wildlife and bird life observed. It’s not uncommon for rowers to stroke alongside dolphins, see manatees, fish like mullet which jump, and silver-scaled tarpon which chase them in these waters. Birds along the shorelines include large American egrets, great blue herons, yellow-crowned night herons, green herons, snowy egrets and birds of prey such as swallowtail kites, ospreys and even occasional bald eagles.
A HUGE THANK YOU to Ed Killer, Outdoors columnist with Treasure Coast Newspapers and the USA Today Network for providing the copy.