Kayaking the Weeki Wachee River
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
If you’re looking for a great outdoor adventure on your next trip to the west coast of Florida check out Paddling Adventures Kayak and Canoe trips down the Weeki Wachee River. Located about an hour north of Tampa, the Weeki Wachee River is a spring fed river that meanders its way into the Gulf of Mexico.
The first thing you will notice about the Weeki Wachee River is the crystal clear water that allows one to view the many species of fish that call the river home. The trip covers 5.5 miles of the river and ends at the pick up point in Rogers Park. Along the way you are apt to see a wide variety of wildlife including Bald Eagles and Manatee.
The Weeki Wachee River actually covers twelve miles from its source at the Weeki Wachee Springs to the Gulf of Mexico. The spring feeds over one hundred million gallons of 74-degree water every day from a subterranean cavern that is so deep that the bottom has never been reached.
Paddling Adventures is located at the junction of routes 19 and 50 and is easy to find. Located at the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park the folks at Paddling Adventures will have you heading down the river in no time at all.
Rent a single or double kayak or canoe, grab your paddle and life vest, and you are ready in a matter of minutes. The facility has plenty of parking and a van will deliver you back to the starting point after you complete your journey down the river.
If you love wildlife you will really enjoy this trip. The river winds its way through the forests and mangroves and there is plenty of wildlife to spot. Just a few minutes into our journey we spotted a Bald Eagle sitting in it’s huge nest. What a great way to start the day.
Depending on the season you will also undoubtedly come across manatee. Our first encounter happened just a half mile into the trip when we came across two manatees, a large adult female with her youngster. Not expecting to see a manatee this far up the river this was certainly an unexpected surprise.
While the folks at Paddling Adventures did tell us that the river is home to an alligator or two we did not encounter one on our trip. There are river otters here also but we did not see them on our trip either. We did however see numerous schools of fish, turtles and other wildlife.
In addition to spotting the bald eagle we also saw osprey, hawks, many turkey vultures, ibis, blue herons, egrets, butterflies, and numerous other species of local aquatic birds. Another unexpected surprise was seeing a large male deer at the rivers edge getting a drink.
The highlight of the day, however, belonged to the beautiful manatee that we saw throughout the day. There is a place on the river near the end of the journey called the Hospital Hole that had upwards of ten manatees there. The Hospital Hole is an eighty-foot deep hole in the middle of the river that is a popular location to spot manatee. It got its name due to the relatively large number of people requiring a trip to the hospital after scuba diving in the hole.
On our trip through the Hospital Hole there were a few folks trying to swim with the manatee, which is not recommended. The manatee is a critically endangered species and attempting to get in the water with them is a no-no. It is illegal to harm or injure a manatee in the state of Florida.
Seeing this many manatees in one location was certainly a wonder to behold. These large graceful creatures are endangered due to the high number of incidents with boats and today they are protected across the state of Florida. When a ten foot, thousand pound manatee surfaces right next to your kayak for a breath of air it’s hard not to be impressed and in awe of these amazing creatures. You almost get the feeling that they are coming up to check you out.
The manatee like the Weeki Wachee River because of its warm spring fed water. During the winter months the water temperature in the Gulf of Mexico can get down to the low to mid sixties while the water temperature in the river remains at a warm 72 degrees.
Manatee, sometimes referred to as sea cows, are mammals and as such cannot survive in water below 60°F. Even prolonged exposure to water up to 68°F can cause extreme stress and death. This is why during the winter you will find manatee congregating in the warm spring feed rivers and also near the warm outflows of water generated by power plants.
Our trip down the Weeki Wachee River took us about two and a half hours to cover the 5.5 miles. You can go as fast or as slow as you like but there should certainly be no hurry to rush through the trip. A nice leisurely pace will give you plenty of time to take in the wildlife and scenery.
The only time constraint to be aware of is that you want to be at the pickup point at Rodgers Park by 3pm as that is the time the last shuttle leaves to bring you back to the parking lot and your car. If you are late they will charge you a $50 fee to bring you and the equipment back so make sure you plan your day accordingly.
- Be sure to bring water and snacks. A small cooler will fit perfectly in the kayak or canoe.
- If you bring a camera, place it in a plastic zip lock bag when not taking pictures. Best to be safe than sorry.
- Don't forget the sunscreen and a hat.
It is also recommended that you call ahead to reserve your canoe or kayak. While they have plenty on hand they can run out during peak periods and school breaks. A simple phone call to place a reservation will insure that you are not out of luck on the day you arrive.
- Plan Your Paddling Trip | Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
Kayak and Canoe Rental at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park in Florida. Please call (352) 597-8484 for more information.
The cost for renting a single kayak is $30 and for a canoe or double kayak the fee is $35. The fee includes your paddle, life vest, and a ride back up the river to the parking lot when you have completed your journey. The launch window is from 8am until 11:30am and this is to make sure that everyone has plenty of time to reach the pickup point at Rodgers Park by 3pm.
For something a little different on your next trip to the Tampa area check out Paddling Adventures. A kayak or canoe trip down the Weeki Wachee River is a great way to spend a day in the great outdoors while enjoying the best that Florida has to offer.
© 2013 Bill De Giulio