What an amazing and beautiful river! I had forgotten just how incredible it was!
Our plan was to drive the 60 miles to paddle the Weeki Wachee River. It’s north of Tampa, near Spring Hill. Al and I had been on this river several times, but it had been a while.
There used to be a kayak livery service on the river near the main Weeki Wachee water park and head springs. You could either rent their kayaks or use your own. As far as we knew, there was no other place to launch your boats near the head springs (the best part). They would pick you and your kayaks up down river at a private Christian camp. We found these same people online, but had they had moved to a different location. We tried many, many times to reach them by phone, but all we got was their mahine advising us to leave a message stating how many boats we needed. We didn’t need to rent their kayaks and just wanted to get a price for a pick up down river. We just needed to verify we could still launch our own boats, and the price. We left several messages, but never got a return call. We were pretty aggravated, but as far as we knew, they were the only game in town. I even tried leaving them a message on Facebook. If you want to paddle this river do not use Weeki Wachee Canoe and Kayak Rental. Their customer service is non-existent!
We finally decided to just head over to the river and hope for the best. When we got there, we found this place, but they were no longer even located on the river. There was a locked gate around their entire lot and no signs of life. Uh oh…. We had just drug our friends Dean and Shirley 60 miles here for nothing.
Al figured we would just go to their old location and see if we could find them there launching boats.
When we got to the location it looked pretty much the same, but there was a lady inside with a State Park uniform on. The state of Florida now runs the livery service and canoe and kayak rental. We told her of our frustrations with the other people and she had heard the story before. Evidently their bad service is well known.
We knew that several years ago, the Weeki Wachee theme park (the place where the mermaids swim) was about bankrupt and the state of Florida bought them out.
It is a very nice operation now. Check out the website Weeki Wachee Springs for an interesting history of this famous Florida Attraction. Each day 117 million gallons of water flow from the head spring into the river. The river is crystal clear as you can see from our pictures. It’s amazingly beautiful! You can get info on the kayak trips on this site as well.
It costs $5 to launch a kayak or canoe. If you want to be picked up down river, it’s an extra $10. The cost for a single kayak is $30 and $35 for a tandem or a canoe. That comes with a pick up down river. They offer onsite instruction if you’ve never paddled a kayak or canoe. Life preservers are included with all the boats. It’s a relatively easy 6 mile paddle downstream. They say it’s a 2 1/2 hour leisurely paddle. It took us longer because stopped at a beach for lunch, and I took a lot of pictures and videos.
Shirley and Dean at our picnic beach
The first part of the river is beautiful. There are no houses, the river is wide and pretty straight. The flow is gentle. You mostly just have to steer.
We initially headed up river toward the Weeki Wachee head spring. In past visits we found a family of otters under their dock and they provided a lot of entertainment. You cannot go into the area of the head spring like you can at Silver Springs.
Unfortunately, we didn’t see the otters. We didn’t get too early of a start and there were a lot of people already on the river.
We ended up launching about the same time as a few other boats and they kept getting in our way :)
My idea of paddling a river is not to see other people or boats! Unfortunately it rarely works out that way.
We finally got away from the other group and had the river to ourselves again. Our friends from the campground, Shirley and Dean were with us. They are enjoying their Sea Eagle 330 kayak.
They do allow motor boats on the river, and during the summer you’ll see a bunch of them at the lower part of the river, near Rogers Park. Those boats bring many people and they park their boats on the side of the river and spend the day. It’s very crowded with noisy people who have probably been drinking all day. They have rope swings into the river and you have to watch that someone won’t land on you…or worse yet, get your camera wet! That’s the bottom part of the river and you never seem to get too much traffic on the upper part near the spring. That’s the part of the river we prefer. You can also launch at Rogers Park, in Springhill. It’s about 3-4 miles from their to the gulf and 6 miles upriver to the headsprings and kayak launch where we started.
I would definitely not recommend paddling from Rogers park up river. That part of the river is no where near as pretty. The water is not as clear (especially in the summer when 10,000 people are swimming in it) and there are lots of houses. I don’t care if I ever see that part of the river, but I definitely want to go back to the upper part.
If you want to save money, launch at the state park, pay the $5.00 and paddle back up when you’re done.
We didn’t see much wildlife. Here is a turtle we saw swimming frantically to get away from me.
We only saw one alligator and it was a small one. It was the first one that I could see underwater. I
We rarely see gators in this river, for some reason.
We usually see manatees on this river, but were disappointed yesterday that we didn’t see any. I think it may have been because it was low tide and pretty shallow nearer the gulf. The tides affect this river. You get tidal influence from the gulf on one end and on the other end, the millions of gallons of water flowing out of the spring.
I flated by a Great Blue Heron that was right by me. He had his wings out like he was posing. I didn’t see him in time to get a picture but turned around. By the time I got back he had changed positions. We think he/she may have been sitting on a nest.
We took our time and really enjoyed the beauty of the Weeki Wachee River.
The water was so clear you could see the rocks and trees on the bottom. Most of it was pretty shallow, but there were some deeper areas and the depth is deceiving due to the water clarity.
There were a few beach areas where you could stop and have lunch, sunbath or just stretch your legs.
We had our lunch on one little beach but had to hurry. We had to be at Rogers park by 3pm to be picked up at their last pick up of the day. Next time, we’ll start earlier and have a little longer and more relaxing day.
Once we started coming to the part of the river where there are houses, the river narrowed and became more winding. It was more of a challenge to paddle even though we were going with the current. You had to be really careful not to hit anything as the current was pushing you along. That was a big problem for me as my eye was usually in the camera lens and not paying attention to where I was going. I hit more than one tree, sand bar and stump!
A beautiful house up on the hill for sale at a reduced price of only $650k. What a beautiful view they had.
One of the many houses. Notice the bear?
The last couple miles was not nearly as enjoyable. There were more motorized boats, houses and people. It was harder to paddle, I think because the tide was coming in and working against the natural flow of the river. Plus we were running late, and had no idea where or how far the take out place was! Al and I had been on this river before but took out at a different place before and couldn’t exactly remember. They didn’t give us any information and we had forgotten how tricky it can be towards then end. You just keep going left at any forks in the river. We had forgotten that! I had my GPS with me which would have given us our distance and helped a lot, however I had forgotten to put fresh batteries in it!
The next time, I think we’ll launch at the head spring for the $5 a boat and just hang around the upper part and then just paddle back up to take out. I lower part of the river is just not as pretty.
We made it back to the park by the 3pm deadline. They came with a large van for the people and a trailer for the boats. They loaded up our kayaks for us, which was very nice because we were whooped by that time! My shoulders were sore and tight and Shirley gave me a wonderful massage and worked the knots right out! Thanks Shirley.
We didn’t know how they were going to load Dean and Shirleys inflatable Sea Eagle on the cart. When asked, they told them to deflate it. They just put it under the seat with us in the van. I’m wondering if they would have had to paid for the kayak pick up? Next time, we’ll ask.
I neglected to get any pictures at the pick up or at the place we launched. We were tired at the end and at the start, we were rushing to get into the water before the crowd got worse!
It was a wonderful, wonderful day on a gorgeous river. If you get in the area, it’s definitely one to put on your list. I’d forgotten just how beautiful the Weeki Wachee river is. I believe it’s the prettiest river that I’ve ever seen. Our other favorites are the Silver River in Ocala, Florida and the Rainbow River in Dunellen, Florida.