Tallulah Gorge State Park

Tallulah Gorge State Park

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Weeki Wachee River

Weeki Wachee,Florida

What an amazing and beautiful river!  I had forgotten just how incredible it was! 

Al on theWeeki Wachee River

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.

Weeki Wachee River   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

IMG_2364

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.

IMG_2322 They park had kayak carts you could use to get your boats to the river.  It’s a bit of a walk down to the river and a cart is nice…especially with those heavy tanks we have!

Weeki Wachee River

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. 

Paddling the Weeki Wachee River Dock at Weeki Wachee 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 :)

canoes on the  Weeki Wachee River

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.

IMG_2339

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.

Al Paddling the Weeki Wachee River

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.

turtle

We only saw one alligator and it was a small one.  It was the first one that I could see underwater.  I

Gator swimming in the clear water on the Weeki Wachee River

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.

IMG_2300

IMG_2302

We took our time and really enjoyed the beauty of the Weeki Wachee River.

Map picture

Weeki Wachee River

Paddling the Weeki Wachee River

IMG_2362

Red Blooms along the water on the Weeki Wachee River

IMG_2342

IMG_2363

Paddling 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.

Weeki Wachee River

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! 

IMG_2373

A beautiful house up on the hill for sale at a reduced price of only $650k.  What a beautiful view they had.

IMG_2356

IMG_2343

One of the many houses.  Notice the bear?

IMG_2368

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. 

Paddling the Weeki Wachee River

7 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing your paddle with us. My shoulders don't hurt a bit but I feel relaxed. Stay safe.
    Syl

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great post! Felt like being right in the kayak with those videos!

    ReplyDelete
  3. What a gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous river! Did I mention gorgeous? So glad you posted about the state park shuttle. We often try to find a shuttle and have laughed often about trying to figure out how to use the MoHo and the Tracker as our shuttle. Which rig do we park at the bottom, no the top, no, the kayaks will be at the bottom, oh someone has to stay at the bottom while someone goes to get the car...still need a flow chart to get it right, so we still haven't actually tried to be our own shuttle and just paddle hopelessly upstream before we fly back down in 1/10th the time.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sure can tell you folks enjoyed your time on the river. THANKS for sharing your journey with us.

    ReplyDelete
  5. What a gorgeous ride down the river. I love the colour of the water and how clear it is. The picture of the turtle swimming was great.

    Glad you had such a wonderful day.

    Kevin and Ruth
    www.travelwithkevinandruth.com

    ReplyDelete
  6. What a beautiful river You videos and pictures are fantastic. This river is definitely on our "to do".

    You gave great tips and suggestions that are so helpful for any of us who plan to kayak or canoe this beautiful river in the future.Thanks so much!

    ReplyDelete
  7. The clearness of the water is amazing! I've said before I've never wanted to kayak, but watching these videos make me really want to try it.

    Do your legs ever cramp up in the kayak?

    ReplyDelete

Please feel free to leave comments. We love to read them! To contact me directly you can send e-mail to rvtravels2@yahoo.com

Due to the amount of spam I was getting, I had to stop allowing anonymous comments. You will have to have a Google account to be able to respond. Sorry.