Three Central Florida Kayak Paddle Adventures

Kayaking in Florida, where the weather is so splendid that we can enjoy paddling every month of the year, is such a great way to be in nature.  And what a variety of water we have. . .the ocean, rivers, lakes, springheads and spring runs. . .there is no way to be bored once you learn to move a kayak through the water.

Let’s get one thing cleared up straightaway – I am often asked about alligators and snakes.  Yes.  Florida has alligators, and Florida has snakes.  Fortunately, they don’t enjoy being in a kayak.  If you are careful and aware, there is no reason to have an unpleasant encounter with either of these reptiles. If you see a snake or alligator sunning itself, just leave it alone and move away.

I’d like to share with you three of my favorite kayak adventures in Florida.  They are in the central part of the state, but if you are anywhere in the state of Florida, you’ll easily find beautiful water and rental kayaks.  Once you have your boat and paddle, make sure your personal flotation device fits properly. Also, is there a safety whistle attached to your flotation device?  There should be.  Bring plenty of water and sunscreen, and snacks if you’ll be on the water for more than an hour.  Got everything?  Then don’t waste another minute!  Let’s get started!

If you’d like to see wildlife including manatee and river otters, the Withlacoochee River is a fun paddle. We begin in Yankeetown.  We usually launch from Winding River Garden Park and paddle downstream through Yankeetown neighborhoods into less populated areas.  When we pass the fringes of town, it is nothing but wilderness. As we near Withlacoochee Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, there are creeks and canals that beg to be explored. You’ll see many different types of water birds.  On either side of the river, you may notice small beaches. These are nice spots to beach the boats and enjoy a break – did you pack lunch?  After just a couple of hours, you will leave the river and enter Withlacoochee Bay. We have spent many pleasant hours exploring this area.  Depending on whether the tide is in or out, you may see small islands formed by oyster shells, or you be curious about the many out islands. Do some poking around and see what you can see!

The paddle through the Juniper Springs Wilderness is often on Top Ten lists for the best kayaking in the United States. Juniper Springs may not be suitable for beginner paddlers, but at the same time, if you have a spirit of adventure you should not miss this opportunity to spend a day on one of the finest spring runs Florida has to offer. Be aware that no single use plastics are allowed on the river, and chances are excellent that your kayak hatches and your cooler will be inspected.  Do the right thing, and obey the rules, which can be found hereOn this trip, you will enjoy crystalline water, snow white sand, and abundant wildlife. Wading and swimming are not allowed on the Juniper Run, but don’t be surprised if you end up in the water; at times, the current is challenging and I’ve seen many kayakers on the wrong side of their kayaks.  Fortunately, the water is not deep and getting back into your boat is not too difficult.

One of my very favorite kayak activities is the Rock Springs Run from King’s Landing  to Wekiva Island. You can rent canoes or kayaks at King’s Landing, or you can take your own boat out. If you rent a kayak, consider renting one of the clear boats! Either way, the staff at King’s Landing are friendly and happy to answer any questions you may have.  When you launch, you will head out to the river on a small canal.  At the end of the canal, you’re likely to see people jumping from rope swings and just hanging out in the clear, cool water.  If you turn to the right, you will be heading up Emerald Cut.  

This is a beautiful and wild area with clear water and a rapid current, where you are just as likely to see deer as other humans.  You will be paddling upstream at this point, so it’s hard work, but worth the effort to enjoy the beauty of the water, wildlife and trees. Eventually a bridge will block further passage, and the return trip will be a much easier downstream paddle. When you pass King’s Landing canal on the return trip, you’ll be on the Rock Springs Run headed for the Wekiwa River. This paddle is easy and relaxing, and there are places where you can beach your kayak and wade or swim in the bracingly cool water.  

Of course, be mindful of your surroundings – it is best practice to assume that there are alligators nearby.  Over the course of the paddle, the run changes character several times.  It starts as a quick moving, very clear run.  Gradually, the run becomes wider and slower, and you’ll notice the vegetation change as you get closer to the river.  Once you reach the river, head left.  Wekiva Island will be ahead on your right.  If it is a weekend, it’s likely that you’ll hear it before you see it: this is a popular party spot.  If you can handle the crowd, it’s a great place to grab a bite to eat and grab a drink before you head back upstream or use the livery service to return to King’s Landing.

About The Author

Now you have some general information about three different paddles in the Sunshine State, so come paddle our waters. There is a wealth of information online, and you can always visit www.myexquisiteflorida.com  to learn more.  Feel free to reach out to pam@myexquisiteflorida.com if you have questions about specific sites. Visitors to Florida often forget that we have so much more to offer than theme parks – do yourself a favor and spend a day with our natural side.

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