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crystal h

usually see a couple of manatees in the summer. there’s a lot of houses right on the river so it’s very crowded. water is calm and pretty.

started at killarney station and went to apopka-vineland outpost, about 14 miles. some of the stations are well maintained and have nice bathrooms, playground. the trail is about 50/50 shade and no shade, passes through winter garden downtown and crosses many roads. there’s some cows many halfway through that might let you feed them.

there are multiple platforms you can get into the water from, and you can walk upstream to what i assume is the headspring. in furthest downstream you are allowed to swim, have encountered a tagged baby manatee who swam in circles and got super close to us. shallow water but was super cold at the time. or at least it seemed, i suppose it’s technically always the same.

i don’t come here intentionally for manatees but there are sometimes a couple by the entrance of the springs. i’ve been in there once when one went in for a bit. in the summer it’s quite crowded, we usually put in from kings bay and paddle over. springs themselves are super clear and pretty, but lots of rocks and you can’t tie up vessels so they will likely get scratched.

good for birdwatching and seeing gators in the summertime. the last i went most of the trail was still closed due to flooding. recommend bringing hat for shade. i think it can be biked to from the gainesville-hawthorne trail but bikes can’t go on the la chua trail. wear hiking shoes or else something you don’t care about, can be muddy and watch out for bison poop.

highly recommend. best place for seeing wildlife in central florida, if you want gators, manatees and monkeys. always pleasantly surprised every time i come, which is a lot. pretty, clear water until you get down to oklawaha. no swimming though. put in at headwaters and paddle to ray wayside is 5 miles, about 3-4 hours

lots of manatees in the winter. water is very clear and shallow in beginning, gets darker closer to lake george. not much actual water to kayak though, spent about an hour here because we took our time manatee watching.