Last January Geoff and I visited Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with our newly gifted Florida State Park Pass. We went to check out the kitschy Florida attraction which features “mermaids” that perform in the spring for guests to view in an underwater theater. While the show was adorable, the best part was our discovery of the Weeki Wachee River and the kayaking access it provided. We promised to get back to do some kayaking.
About 16 months later we fulfilled that promise and brought along Geoff’s parents as well. It was Mother’s Day weekend, so finding a place to rent kayaks was a little tricky. We got lucky with The Kayak Shack who had a last minute cancellation, so we were able to rent two single kayaks.
The Kayak Shack was very reasonable, $35 per single kayak for the day, and they arranged transportation to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park so that we only had to kayak the five and a half miles downstream. The only downside was that they would not transport our kayaks due to liability reasons, so we followed their van in our truck.
Arriving at Weeki Wachee State Park, Mel and Sydney followed their group and were quickly in the water where they waited patiently for Geoff and I to unload our own kayaks. While Geoff found a place to park, I went inside of Paddling Adventures to pay our launch fees and have our coolers checked. They are very adamant about the no alcohol policy inside of the state park. Park rangers were even on the river this particular day as well. $18 covered the cost of our launch fees and paid for Geoff to ride in their van back to our truck.
Finally, it was time to head to the launch point. Geoff left our kayak wheels in the truck (which was now parked very far away) so we started carrying the boats when a good Samaritan offered us a cart. We quickly took that offer, stacked the kayaks, and rolled with ease down to the river.
We showed the ranger our paperwork, and noticing that we had own kayaks he asked if we really wanted to go kayaking today. With a smirk, he warned us that the river was very crowded. The subtext there was that there were a lot of people who did not know what they were doing. We were already two hours into this adventure, so there was no turning back now.
I plopped into the kayak, dipped in my paddle, and pushed off for our trip. Geoff was quickly behind me. A few breaths to calm myself and erase the stress of getting the kayaks into the water, and we were off.
The translucent waters sparkled in the sun and allowed us to see straight to the bottom. After less than a mile of paddling we found our first sandy shore to pull off and dock. This place was the remnants of an old spring called Hospital Hole. We ate a few snacks, tested out the GoPro, and did some swimming in the cool waters.
Our trip continued this way for most of the afternoon. We paddled, we snacked, we maneuvered around the hundreds of people doing the same thing we were. Everything was going great until I looked up in a tree branch as saw a black and white striped snake precariously perched just ahead of me. With a sharp inhale of breath and increased heart rate, I furiously paddled to the other side of the river yelling about a snake. Then I heard Geoff laughing. It turns out I had just paddled furiously away from a rubber snake someone zip tied to the tree branch. Trauma averted we paddled on.
As we continued down the river, there were numerous ropes and boards tied and nailed to trees respectively. We approached an area where people were climbing a tree and jumping off. It had been awhile since we stretched our legs, so we stopped. Geoff decided to climb the tree like the 18-year-olds before him and jump into the river. I, not being that brave, jumped off a dock instead. The river was so deep that when Geoff jumped from 50 feet in the air he said his foot just brushed the bottom of the river. Even Geoff’s mom got into the action and jumped into the river.
As we approached our return point, we were lucky to run into a few manatees. Geoff dropped the GoPro into the water as one swam under his kayak, but the best manatee was the one that was trying to climb the river bank to feast on some elephant ears.
All too soon, five and half miles had passed, and we were back to The Kayak Shack. Despite all the people on the river, I loved this trip. The weather was perfect and the company was even better. This will be a river we explore again, but hopefully on a day when there aren’t as many people.