The Peace River is fed by several tributaries. The five most important are:
Horse Creek is the largest tributary on the Peace.
Horse Creek begins at the “Four Corners,” where the counties of Hillsborough, Manatee, Polk and Hardee meet. It joins the Peace River in southwest DeSoto County. It is 40 miles in length.
Horse Creek is famous for its scenic beauty and the purity of its water. Wildlife is plentiful and the banks are lined with moss-draped live oaks.
Its northern half, in many places, is shallow enough to wade across. The creek flows past Solomon’s Castle, one of Manatee County’s most unusual and interesting tourist attractions. A whimsical combination of art gallery and living space, the “Castle” was constructed by artist Howard Solomon from recycled materials, including hundreds of aluminum printing plates discarded by a local newspaper.
Paynes Creek joins the Peace River near the city of Bowling Green, about 10 miles south of Fort Meade.
It’s named for Captain George S. Payne, who, along with a clerk named Dempsey Whiddon, was shot and killed by a band of renegade Seminoles in 1849. A monument marks the site of the ambush.
At the Paynes Creek State Historic Site, one can see small oxbow lakes created when the river carved out new channels that bypassed old meanders. Waters that once flowed freely are now still, trapped by walls of sand.
On the Peace River, not far from the mouth of Paynes Creek, there’s a small but scenic waterfall, one of only a handful in Florida. It’s visible from the bridge on County Road 664A.
Located in the west-central part of the watershed, Charlie Creek joins the Peace River at the rural community of Gardner, just upstream from the boat ramp.
Charlie Creek is a favorite destination of amateur paleontologists, who scour the creek bed for fossils.
Like Charlie Creek, Joshua Creek is known for its fossils, which are often found in the creek bed. Waders have also recovered early projectile points and other stone tools, evidence of prehistoric Indian occupation.
Shell Creek is the southernmost of the Peace River’s major tributaries. To local paddlers, it’s one of the area’s best-kept secrets.
Shell Creek is narrow and scenic, meandering through lush pine flatwoods and riverine cypress swamps. A dam controls its outflow; above the dam the water is fresh, while below the dam it’s brackish and tidally influenced.
Next section: Canoe trail