Last fall, my husband, son and I took a short weekend trip to the small town of Brooksville, Florida. Our plans included a day trip to the beach but, we were rained out. As an alternative, the three of us ventured out to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park for kayaking.
Now, my idea of kayaking was an easy paddle on flat water. I thought we would spend an hour or so on the water working up an appetite for lunch. Oh, was I in for a surprise.
From launch to pull-out, the average trip down the river takes about three hours. I am not in very good shape. Remember, I’ve been sitting behind a desk cranking out numbers; not in a kayak pulling on paddles. I was very hesitant but, my son persisted and my loving husband promised to tow me if necessary.
The very nice people at http://www.paddlingadventures.com geared us up and pushed us off. I had heard about Weeki Wachee but, for some unknown reason, I pictured a swampy dark river. What I discovered was a pristine spring fed river flowing at about 5 miles per hour. The water was so clear, the bottom was visible.
To my pleasant surprise, the current in the river moved us along at a good pace so we did not have to paddle very much. However, the river twists and turns – sometimes sharply – sending us (me) headlong into hanging tree limbs, the river bank and other assorted river hazards. No worries, I quickly regained my kayaking skills and maneuvered around the curves well.
The average depth of the river is 2 to 4 feet but, there are several deeper pools along the way that provide an opportunity for a quick refreshing dip. At one such pool, we beached our kayaks and my husband stepped out to take a plunge.
A young couple was approaching from down river. The girl pointed to a manatee approaching in the water. I shouted for my husband to look but, he ignored me – he thought I was poking fun at him actually. But there was a very large manatee moving towards us. It was thrilling to watch such a large animal swimming so gracefully.
According to the young couple, the manatees are very friendly and will allow people to pet them. However, it is against the law – manatees are endangered. We did not touch this one. We watched in awe as the blubbery mammal moved effortlessly through the river.
We encountered two more manatee along the way. They were much smaller than the animal we met earlier in the day and were feeding on the vegetation along the river bank. Fortunately, we did not see the resident alligator!
At a particularly sharp turn in the river we located a pool rumored to be bottomless. Overlooking the pool is a tall tree attached to which is a small wood platform of sorts. Several teenaged boys climbed the tree and jumped into the pool. For a few moments I wished I was younger and more agile – I wanted to climb the tree and jump off too. Common sense prevailed and we moved on.
The kayak route is about 5 miles long. The current pushed us along for the first four miles and the river remained clear and inviting. However, to reach the pull-out location, we had to paddle through an area of the river bordered by homes and boats. There was no current so we had to paddle. It was a tough mile (next time I’ll take an electric trolling motor).
At some point, the quality of the water declined as well. We found ourselves paddling through brown, murky, foul-smelling water. I was eager for the trip to be over at that point.
All-in-all, our trip down the Weeki Wachee was a lot of fun. We are planning another visit to the area and another trip to the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.
Save the Manatee
Manatee are considered endangered a the international level mostly due to human activity. In the past 40 years, 34% of all manatee deaths have been attributed to watercraft collisions.
Visit Save the Manatee to learn how you can help save the massive beautiful creatures.
About Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
Home to the famous underwater mermaid show, Weeki Wachee offers something for the whole family. You can watch the show, ride Florida’s only spring fed water flumes, swim at Buccaneer Beach, or take a riverboat ride down the river.
Two hours west of Orlando and only 45 minutes north of Tampa, Weeki Wachee is a convenient alternative day trip that offers affordable, active entertainment – a nice change of pace from the major amusement parks.
To learn more about Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, visit: http://www.weekiwachee.com/