Weeki Wachee River Report

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Report By:  ed    Date: 11/25/2008 
Rating:Trip Rating     Photos: See 3 photos     Map & Directions: View

I rarely take mid-week trips but when John Norris from FPTA emailed and said that a few friends were paddling Weeki Wachee on Tuesday morning, I took notice. Between fall colors, paddling buddies and manatee sightings, it was a great trip!

My Report:

You probably heard about Weeki Wachee because of its famous commercial attraction, Weeki Wachee Spring. Shows are held 16 feet underwater, featuring young women as mermaids performing children's storybook tales. The performances are interesting, the mermaids are beautiful, 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 Bayport.

John Norris from Florida Paddling Trails Association invited me on this mid-week paddling trip. Now I usually don't go mid-week, as I like to keep to an "honest" work week, however a chance to see the fall colors on the Weeki Wachee River with John, Terry and Beth was a tempting invitation.

The plan for this trip was to meetup with John and crew at the Hardees near US 19 and SR 50. That's just north of the newest addition to the Florida State Park system. For those not in the know, as of November 1, Weeki Wachee Springs has become a state park. If you plan on visiting the state park be sure to check out their schedule on the website as hours vary by day / season.

Of course, I arrived late at Hardees and missed them by a few minutes. The skies were cloud covered, gray and a light rain. Not a good morning for paddling, or was it?

Backtracking to the put-in at Rogers Park I finally joined the group. After a brief diversion and giving the rainstorm some time to pass, the clouds gave way to sunny blue skies. It was chilly by Florida standards but "Polar Bear Terry" from Montana had no trouble with the weather.

We quickly launched and headed up river. A few manatees were spotted at Hospital Hole and along the river purple asters were in bloom. Fall colors were everywhere and a quite startling difference from my October Weeki Wachee trip.

About halfway to the spring we ran into a young manatee at a large bend in the river. At first we thought he/she was alone, but soon spotted mama and sibling nearby. The manatee was curious and kept following Beth around the pool. Terry decided to get a closer look and borrowed a mask / snorkel from Beth and went for a swim. Twenty minutes later the manatee decided he had enough of human play and went back to his family and we continued up river.

As I mentioned earlier, Weeki Wachee Springs is now a state park. The first noticeable difference was a large yellow floating barrier to keep boats out of the springhead. Previously, a steel cable was suspended in the river near water level.

There is no place to get out of your kayak / canoe at the headsprings, so plan on staying in your boat during the upper part of the river. In an emergency you can exit at the springs or nearby canoe rental, but otherwise plan on eating / resting in the boat.

Our return trip took only about 1/3 the time as it did going up river. It almost happened too fast and I still had 30 or so photos left on my camera. Drats! I'll have to come back and shoot more fall foliage soon.

Get Map & Directions for this trip

Location Data:

Distance (miles): 13
Fees/Costs $: Free

Photos from Weeki Wachee River:    (Click image to view full size)

Beth and manatee Restricted
Beth and manatee

Beth and young manatee playing in wide area on Weeki Wachee River.

Weeki Wachee Fall Restricted
Weeki Wachee Fall

Fall comes to the Weeki Wachee River in west central Florida.

Terry Weeki Wachee Restricted
Terry Weeki Wachee

Terry paddling his handmade canoe on the Weeki Wachee.


Special Interests and Comments:

Special InterestsThe Florida Manatee (more specifically west Indian Manatee) is a marine mammal that is grayish brown in color, can grow to 13 feet and 2000 pounds in weight. Manatees spend most of their time feeding, resting and playing in warm coastal waters.

Post Date: 12/3/2008

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