Blissful solitude of the Banana River “No Motor Zone”

Internal combustion or electric trolling motors are prohibited

"NMZ", no not the DMZ, the NO motor zone of Kennedy Space Center.

The official name of the NMZ is: Banana River Manatee Sanctuary, however others call it..........

“Jurassic Park!” said the excited paddler who was gliding into the Banana River launch point as I was heading out to paddle some miles for race training.

 “19 tarpon I hooked today! I did not even count the reds and trout!” exclaimed the paddler unloading his fly rod.

I was catching his enthusiasm, sadly however I had omitted bringing a fishing pole because I needed to practice for the MR340 kayak race.

Dawn & Ten Thousand acres of water to yourself!

However on other days I brought a rod and gold spoon.

Holding only long enough for a photo and then released.

The "No Motor Zone" of Kennedy Space Center: You might have heard the fishing stories already- Voracious redfish. Rolling tarpon, killer jacks, schooling seatrout. Silver Snook on the mangrove edges and monster tailing black drum.

On the horizon of the NMZ: multiple rocket launch complexes and in the air above the Banana River; Magnificent Frigate birds and hovering osprey. Pink Spoonbills, feasting terns & migratory waterfowl.

And so it was as I pushed into the “No Motor Zone” or “NMZ” The southern boundary water of Kennedy Space Center that has been closed to as motorized vessels since 1990 and my favorite place to paddle on the Florida East coast.

In this 10,600 acres of open water,-roughly  35 square miles of solitude and silence- a busy day might be a dozen kayaks or canoes, a sail boat and an athletic paddle boarder or two. Most week days—we are the sole users-which is utterly amazing.

Escape to a silent Florida!

The No Motor Zone is marked by Kennedy Space Center on the west side, NASA Causeway on the North and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the east side.

Oh there is the occasional zip-zip of the fishing reel drag

My sole companion for 10,000 acres!

Nearly all of the Banana River north of Port Canaveral and the Beach Line Highway (SR 528) is reserved for sail or human powered water craft only. “No Motor Zone”–and the silence is stunning!

Internal combustion or electric trolling motor are prohibited- consequently you might hear a manatee exhale two hundred or more yards away. The NMZ often has one of the highest concentrations of manatees in Florida.

In the summer you can hear jacks hitting the bait fish from a half a mile away!

In the winter the noise of migratory ducks lifting from the water is so majestic it is only rivaled by the launch of rockets in the NMZ or the sonic booms of SpaceX boosters returning to CCAFS.

A flock of Roseate Spoonbills getting ready to take flight

 YouTube of spaceX launch of the Falcon Heavy and landing of the boosters.

A KSC airboat or security boat might be the only motorized vehicle seen in the sanctuary.--If you step ashore in the prohibited areas -KSC security will find you

Prohibited to touch Native American Indian Artifacts

And of course, as this is Federal property, you are not allowed to pick up either Native American Indian Artifacts or the odd Spanish gold coins - once collected from ship wrecks as a curiosity by the Ais Indians of the Space Coast

Small warning: Do not paddle north of the bridge or the SWAT team will find you. Photo: a NASA barges pushes towards the KSC Turn Basin. Photo Credit: NASA

A look from under the NASA Causeway bridge.

Cross under and KSC security is on you like an osprey on a trout.

Let me repeat: If you foolishly paddle north of the NASA causeway under the bridge---The SWAT team will.....very quickly escort you out the restricted area. Very impressive sight!

The Shoreline on the north, east, and west side of the lagoon is within the “Security Area” of the NASA, Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

How to launch a canoe or Kayak in the No Motor Zone?

Access to the NMZ is from the 528 Beachline, KARS Park or if you happen to possess an ID badge you can launch from NASA causeway to the north. (That is if the area is not closed due to an upcoming rocket launch.)

If you do not possess a KSC or CCAFS badge, the quickest way into the Banana River Manatee Sanctuary is via KARS Park.

Directions to KARS Park, exit the Beachline (State Road 528) at State Road 3 and turn north to Hall Road.  Take Hall Road east until it dead ends into KARS Park.

Note: KARS park is a private Membership only park. However "Non-members" can pay a $5.00 per boat launch fee to use the primitive kayak/canoe launch area.    -Best five dollars ever spent! For five dollars you get reduced paddle time, KARS park security from vehicle vandalism and an available bathroom.

Required for fishing the No Motor Zone or Launching from KARS park

(Fishing license, Escort badge if on NASA causeway and KARS Park Membership card) or pay the $5.00 to use the KARS Launch.

Simple mud warning about the KARS Park canoe/Kayak launch areas. Both the Members launch area and the $5.00 guest launch areas are MUCKY AND MUDDY. Not a problem going out-except if you lose a shoe in the muck.

However for the return & exit from the river:  I try to keep a spare half gallon of water to wash off before getting into my truck.

Update: Spring 2020: KARS Park has repaired the shoreline from the last hurricane damage. This process has added a LOT of boulders to the shore line. The launch is still mucky, with a limited kayak/canoe opening in the boulders.

The improved primitive launch at the north end of KARS Park

Camping at KARS Park

You Tube video of Kars Park and the wide expanse of the No Motor Zone

And of course the scary stuff.

Storms, lightning and rain. The NMZ is a LONG paddle. And it is not unusual for the weather to turn bad.

Photo: A squall line sweeps the Banana River. Rocket launch tower in the background.

Wind & Rain!

With all the open water, east coast sea breezes and Florida Summer storms one should always use caution in the NMZ-Know your paddle abilities. Have a plan! I always check the wind forecast before launching into the north Banana River.

While on the water: Keep an eye out for black (lightning) clouds on the horizon.

We have had the misfortune to get caught in at least two violent thunderstorms while paddling the NMZ. "Exciting to type about-terrible to experience"

I dwell upon summer storms in the NMZ in my Safety on the IRL page. During one such storm we had to shelter from a savage lightning storm resting only a few feet from on of the KSC giant alligators. Yes it was that bad of a lightning storm.

Finally found another companion in the NMZ

(Other alligator photos)

OFF LIMITS AREA of the No Motor Zone

Besides the restricted area north of the NASA Causeway and both shore lines being restricted areas; there are a few other areas that extend into the river itself.

In some sections of the north Banana River along the Air Force Station, the restricted area extends as an arc into the river.

These areas are easily identified by large red and white buoys.

One of the "Restricted Area" bouys tossed onto NASA Causeway during a hurricane.

Map of the No Motor Zone, North Banana River.

(I omitted the 528 Beachline and the power poles that mark most of the southern boundary of the NMZ)

Redfish Capital of the World

The No Motor Zone of the Banana River and the North end of the Space Center--Mosquito Lagoon compete for the title: Redfish Capital of the World.

One noted difference: the Mosquito Lagoon allows $50,000 Flats boats and commercial guides to stalk the flat waters.

The NMZ, paddle power only. So one might suspect which body of water gets the lion share of claims to the title.


Catch and release Red Fish (Red Drum)

If fishing in the No Motor Zone, you must print and sign the FREE Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge Fishing Permit

Depending upon which area you launch from, cell phones are mandatory safety equipment. That might suggest that dry bags for your phone is a good idea.

Port Canaveral in the distance to the south. The just visible power lines are a good marker for the southern boundary of the NMZ

Final note on the No Motor Zone. The protected waters serve both as a conservation area and a security area. Consequently there are rocket launch days when the NMZ is closed north of KARS park.  Launching north in a canoe or kayak is prohibited. A security vessel parks at the entrance as an extra reminder the area is closed.

The fact that the NMZ is closed may not be public knowledge. So please be aware that any rocket launch from the south area of CCAFS might temporarily close the zone.

If not watching the launch: the closed days are my Econ river paddle days!

Have to admit I do not keep up my rocket launch schedule page.

Been real busy at the center. The word is out: Astronauts on the moon in four years

For example rolling the new mobile launcher out to the pad and then into the VAB

And back to the river......

Getting out of the boats for a little summer wade fishing in the NMZ.

Fast action Catch and Release trout on gold spoons!

AND the reason we preach the "Sting Ray shuffle"

This rather large sting ray was hunting near our kayaks. I shhssshed it away with my rod.

Safety on the Indian River Lagoon

In closing.....The Banana River 'outside' of the Space Center No Motor Zone?

Well, what can I say....

Ski Island near the Port Canaveral Locks. A launch viewing party.

Photo credit: NASA

Never forget you are guest in a wildlife sanctuary! (navigates away from this page to my other website)

Wild Turkeys of Kennedy Space Center

Return Home from the NO Motor Zone page

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