||Scenery: Very Good
|Location: Weeki Wachee,
|Distance: From 4
to 16 miles depending on tour selected
|Atlas: Page 76 D-3
|Last Update: May 2006
||Canoe OK: Yes
You probably first heard about Weeki Wachee because of its famous
commercial attraction, Weeki Wachee Spring and Buccaneer Bay. Shows
are held 16 feet underwater, featuring young women
as mermaids performing children's storybook tales. The performances
are interesting, the mermaids are beautiful and the park definitely
worth a visit, however, the spring and river are what makes Weeki
Wachee truly special.
Weeki Wachee a first magnitude spring discharging over 64 million
gallons of crystal-clear water a day. Along the river an observant
paddler will see many types of animals including the famous Florida
(West Indian) manatee, alligators, raccoons, otters and numerous
birds. It's easy to spot ducks, ibis, pelicans, herons, osprey,
wood storks and cormorants. Approximately 8 miles later the Weeki
Wachee River meets the Gulf of Mexico near the small village of
Lazy Days on Weeki Wachee.
| Since the opening of the canoe outfitter at
the head springs, Weeki Wachee is very popular and can be crowded,
especially weekends. Go during weekdays and you will be much
happier. To help reduce congestion on the river, it is my sincere
hope that one day Hernando County commissioners will limit power
boat traffic on the narrow upper section of the river.
There are a number of different put-in locations available, depending
upon your skill level and endurance. The first (and easiest) is
provided by a canoe and kayak outfitter located next to the Weeki
Wachee Spring attraction on the corner of US 19 and Florida SR 50.
The next two put-ins are several miles west of US 19 on SR 50.
Boat, Paddle, PFD
Put-in fee for downriver-only trips
Rogers Park Entrance Fee, $2
Parking at Weeki Wachee Spring, $3
First Magnitude Spring
Freshwater River (upper river)
Saltwater Marsh (lower river)
Cypress, Oaks and Palm trees
Many animals including Manatee
Tour #1: Weeki Wachee to Rogers Park (6 miles - easy)
This downriver-only trip begins at the canoe and
kayak outfitter located immediately south of the Weeki Wachee Spring
attraction. You can either bring your own boat or rent a kayak or
canoe. The trip usually takes between 3 and 4 hours, depending if
you stop for lunch on the way to Rogers Park.
Fees: If you bring your own boat, the
launch fee is $7 and a return shuttle is $15 per boat. If you decide
not to use the outfitter's shuttle, leave a car parked at Roger's
park for your return trip. Prices current as of May 2006.
Starting at the canoe outfitter, you can paddle about 200 yards
upstream to where a sign in the river indicates no vessels can proceed
past that point. The "Wilderness Cruise" boats from the
Weeki Wachee attraction are docked here. The tour boats may be your
companion for the first 1 1/2 miles of the river. Fortunately, they
are electric and generally well-behaved.
Turn downstream and paddle approximately 3 miles to reach the first
beach. This, and a second beach located about 1/2 mile downstream,
have undergone much development in the past few years. Both are
property of the Withlacoochee Wildlife Management Area and a $3
landing / access fee applies. At the top of the 15' tall sandy terraced
bluff are picnic tables that make a nice place for lunch. Expect
crowds at both beaches.
About one mile past the second beach you will reach a developed
area with canals. Be sure to go left at every junction in the river.
Rogers Park is on the south side of the river just before the SR
595 bridge. If you have rented canoes or kayak, your takeout will
be near the Weeki Wachee Christian Camp. Call the shop and they
will retrieve you and the boats. If you brought your own boat, you'll
need to use your shuttle vehicle to get back to the canoe outfitter.
Tour #2: Bayport to Rogers Park (4 miles - medium)
This mostly saltwater tour begins 10 miles west of US 19 and SR
50 near the village of Bayport. Now a waterside park with fishing
pier, this port of access was originally used to export cotton,
farm produce and timber during the mid-1800's. A historic marker
located at the park says Bayport was an important trade route during
the War Between the States and Bayport attracted attention of the
Union Blockade Squadron and blockade runners alike.
To begin, follow SR 50 until the road dead-ends in a county park.
Parking is free but usually crowded on weekends. It's recommended
to put-in at the boat ramp as other areas have oyster bars and lots
of mud. The river tour from Bayport to SR 595 is medium in difficulty
as the river is influenced by the tides.
Start paddling south along the roadway and turn east (left) at
the main river. At this point, the Weeki Wachee River is about 150
yards wide where it enters the Gulf. The water can be a bit rough
depending on tidal conditions.
Continue paddling east-northeast for about 1.5 miles until the
river narrows considerably at a housing development. Follow the
left split to avoid the bulk of the development. About 1/2 mile
after encountering the development, the Weeki Wachee River passes
under SR 595. Just beyond the bridge is Rogers Park, a 3-acre park
complete with boat ramp, swim beach, restrooms and soda machines.
Continue paddling 6 miles up river to the Weeki Wachee Spring if
you want to make a 16 mile trip. Otherwise backtrack to return to
the boat ramp at Bayport.
Tour #3: Rogers Park to Weeki Wachee Spring (12 miles
Starting at Rogers Park (7244 Shoal Line Blvd.), the river narrows
considerably and its twisty curves and swift current can prove to
challenging even for advanced paddlers. To add to the challenge
power boat traffic can be annoying and sometimes dangerous. Be sure
to allow for up to 6 hours to make this trip.
From US 19 and Florida SR 50 travel 5 miles west to SR 595. Turn
left and go two miles. Rogers Park is located southeast of a bridge
crossing the river. A nominal fee is charged for parking. Starting
at the boat ramp, paddle north to the main channel of the river
and turn east (up river). The current is quite swift and the 6 mile
paddle up-river will be a challenge. Be careful as you navigate
turns in the river to avoid taking an accidental swim or running
into downstream boat traffic.
The first two miles of the trip pass through a developed area with
housing on the north side of the river. As you approach the half-way
mark, you'll find two small beaches (about 1/2 mile apart) that
make a great lunch stop. Many small fish can be found here and they
will surly enjoy any breadcrumbs that make their way into the water.
At 4.5 miles, the river enters property owned by Weeki Wachee Spring
and Buccaneer Bay. During the 1990's, the company kept a few zoo
animals and injured bird recovery area along the river. Watch for
large sightseeing boats along this stretch of the river. Continue
east to reach Weeki Wachee Spring. You will not be allowed to dock
here and all areas along the river are private property. Take a
well-deserved break and proceed downstream for 6 miles to return
to the park.
September 2003 - Weeki Wachee Spring (the amusement and water park
at the headsprings) was threatened with permanent closure if it
couldn't make repairs and return to profitability.
Land owner Southwest Florida Water Management District (aka SWIFTMUD),
may close the attraction and replace it with a State park. In August
2003, Weeki Wachee Spring was donated to the tiny City of Weeki
Wachee (pop. 9) by the former private investment group after it
failed to find a suitable buyer. The City, in an attempt to save
America's last live mermaid attraction is asking for donations to
under its "Save Our Tails" campaign. See weekiwachee.com
for more information.
More Weeki Wachee News - March 2006 - After being tied
up in court for the last two years, Weeki Wachee Spring and SWIFTMUD
were ordered to mediation regarding the property lease and some
apparent dredging operations conducted by the park. Stay tuned for
more information on this long standing feud and be sure to support
the mermaids by visiting the park in 2006.
For those who prefer to view the magnificent Weeki Wachee Springs
without the effort of paddling, you can try the Weeki Wachee Spring
and Buccaneer Bay attraction. Located on the corner of US 19 and
Florida SR 50, this park was founded over 30 years ago by US Navy
frogman Newton Perry. He created an underwater amphitheater where
young ladies dressed as mermaids act out various plays such as Hans
Cristian Andersen's Little Mermaid and The Disney movie Pocahontas.
It's amazing to see the performers remain underwater for 25 minutes
without SCUBA gear. The park also features a Wilderness River Cruise,
where visitors can stay high and dry while visiting the upper 1.5
miles of the Week Wachee River. Also located in the park is Buccaneer
Bay, a water park with several slides, beach area and "river
The Florida Manatee (more specifically west Indian Manatee) is
a marine mammal that is grayish brown in color, can grow to 13 feet
in length and 2,000 pounds in weight. Manatees spend most of their
time feeding, resting and playing in warm coastal waters, bays and
Manatees are sometimes called "sea cows" because their
preference for eating aquatic grasses. Perhaps they should have
been called Sea Elephants, as their closest living relative is the
elephant. This endangered species, is found in both salt and fresh
water. Approximately 2,500 animals remain in the wild.
Paddling to Bayport-lower river.
| GPS Location Aid
|Weeki Wachee Spring
Confluence with WW River