Several years ago, my dad sent me a beautiful picture of manatees frolicking in a clear blue Florida spring. This picture struck a chord with me, and I even shared it on this blog. Since then, I always wanted to visit and go on my own Weeki Wachee Springs canoe adventure.
Weeki Wachee Springs canoe adventure a few years in the making
This picture was taken in 2011, but it took a few years to make this a reality. One year I visited it was really cold, so this really hampered our resolve to do a lot of paddling although we did make it to Three Sisters Springs for some epic manatee viewing.
I made another Florida road trip earlier this year, and once again I thought the Weeki Wachee would not be on the table. I got the itinerary and it was nowhere on the list. The list had some quality rivers, so I did not mind. When I arrived to the Chassahowitzka campground, I was delighted to find that we were going to do the Weeki Wachee after all.
Sometimes when you have something so built up in your mind, it turns out to be a disappointment. I did not think this would occur with the Weeki Wachee. One look at the crystal clear river, and I knew a let down was not in the cards. We immediately saw a manatee as soon as we entered the river, so in two minutes we saw the star of the show. A water moccasin swam across the river at the same time, but I missed this one.
Beautiful day, beautiful river
As I mentioned before, the last time I visited Florida, the weather was cold and rainy. In fact, I ended up going all the way down south parallel to Miami to find warm and dry weather. This trip turned out to be the complete opposite. It was two weeks of 80 degree plus weather and sunshine. I think there was only one overcast day the whole trip.
Sunshine makes a big difference when you are paddling a spring fed river like the Weeki Wachee. The brilliant aqua color of the water as the sun beat down on it is something I will not soon forget. Our group loved this trip so much, they came back on Friday to paddle it again the day after I left. I don’t blame them as it is the kind of river that deserves second helpings.
Crowded river but worth it
If you are looking for a scenic river with solitude, this is not the one for you. It is absolutely gorgeous, but the river can be very crowded especially if paddled on a weekend. We paddled on a Tuesday or Wednesday and it was still quite congested. I usually prefer quieter rivers, but the scenery is so spectacular it is worth mixing it up with the crowds.
We did luck out and grab the preferred lunch stop. About four miles down on the right there is a wooden planked landing and jump off spot over a deep pool at a bend. There was one couple there, but we pulled down a little farther from them and then got the goggles and fins and enjoyed one of the best swimming holes I have had the pleasure to take a dip in. I had to get the GoPro out to mark the occasion. In fact, the GoPro was busy during the paddle too.
There is the potential for alligators, but that is the case with any body of water in Florida; however, on such a crowded day and with a group of other swimmers, the potential for their appearance is close to nil. We did not see one all day. One negative with the lunch stop was the overflowing garbage can – another pitfall of such a busy river.
Weeki Wachee was worth the wait
The first section of this river is the best as it goes through your typical Florida flora. We also saw the usual Florida birds including anhinga, ibis, heron, and egrets. The manatee we saw at the beginning was the only one we saw on this day, but our group saw more on the second trip.
After lunch, the river was more built up with houses along the river, but it was still pretty because the clarity of the river remained the same. We soon pulled into the takeout and thus ended the long wait for my Weeki Wachee adventure. I highly recommend paddling this river if you find yourself in northern Florida.
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