Paddle the Weeki Wachee River

Added by Kyle Deschenes

Explore one of Florida’s historic spring-fed rivers by boat or board with this insider guide.

The Weeki Wachee River begins its 7.4-mile journey at the world famous Weeki Wachee spring. Named by the Seminole Indians who inhabited the land around the body of water in the early 1800s, Weeki Wachee means “winding river” or “little spring.” One of Florida’s 33 first magnitude springs, the underwater cave connects to the Floridan aquifer and has been dived to depths greater than 400 feet. Approximately 112 million gallons of water gush out of the spring every day, eventually draining into the Gulf of Mexico. Though the spring boasts great depths and an immense amount of natural fresh water, it’s the surrounding park that hosts mermaid shows, dating back to 1947, that make the river a popular attraction.

One way to witness the natural beauty and explore the Weeki Wachee river, referred to as the “Weeki” by locals, is to paddleboard the river’s entirety from freshwater to saltwater.

TIP: Plan to launch at 8:00 am to get a head start on your journey and avoid any crowds.

Start your paddle early on a cool winter morning, to beat the crowds and witness the ephemeral steam that rolls off the river’s clear warm waters. Winter is also the best time of year to encounter Florida’s state marine mammal, the West Indian Manatee. The large sea cows can be seen swimming toward the springs, seeking sunshine and warm water.

TIP: As an endangered species, the manatees are protected by Florida law. Touching or feeding manatees is strictly prohibited.

You can launch your boards or rent kayaks from Paddling Adventures, which is located directly behind the main entrance for the Weeki Wachee State Park. From here, it’s all downstream!

TIP: Bring a waterproof camera to capture the day’s adventure.

When you first launch into the clear blue water, fish scatter in all directions. Common species found in the Weeki include largemouth bass, bluegill, snook, mullet and sheepshead. At the water’s edge, you might observe raccoons, herons, alligators and otters. If you’re lucky you could even spot one of the last remaining Florida black bears from the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge sub-population.

The Weeki stays wide and shallow during the first mile or so, narrowing once you weave out of state park property where the bottom fills with deep holes and smaller springs. Adventure lovers will also find rope swings and platforms to jump from in this section of river.

As the river continues winding, the brush grows thicker and the trees above give the appearance of traveling through a tunnel of greenery. Even farther downstream, the river winds though a few small neighborhoods.

TIP: Be courteous to Weeki residents by not stopping on private docks.

With about a mile left, you’ll want to take a left turn toward Hospital Hole in order to avoid paddling down a dead-end. The mysterious hole is a perfect circle that drops to almost 200 feet deep. Local legend says that injured fish swim in from the ocean and the hole heals their maladies. This is a good spot to see manatee or massive schools of fish including jack crevalle and mangrove snapper.

Soon after Hospital Hole, you’ll arrive at Rogers park where you pull out your boards or kayaks and can shuttle back to your car.

TIP: Don’t forget to pre-plan your shuttle by parking a car at the park or making arrangements for the shuttle to transport you back to where you started.

 

About a half mile downriver from Rogers park, the Weeki joins the Mud River. From here you can make your last few paddles through the tidally influenced salt marsh, to the Bayport park boat ramp, on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico.

 

 

Want to see more of my adventures? Follow me @kyle_deschenes on Instagram.

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Tags

Stand Up Paddle
Canoeing
Chillin
Photography
Kayaking
Swimming
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Food Nearby
River
Scenic
Wildlife
Swimming Hole

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

Beautiful, but crowded

It’s a very lovely area, but there were so many other people on the water when we were there that it was hard to truly enjoy. It felt more akin to bustling around a big city than the peaceful respite we were seeking in nature. Oh well, I can’t blame everyone for having the same idea.

This is great!

Paddling Adventures staff is awesome! In case they're booked, there are a couple of other rental places nearby: https://www.findlocalrentals.com/kayak-jet-ski-paddleboard-rentals-at-weeki-wachee-river-fl.shtml

Love Going Here!!

The staff over at Paddling Adventures are very friendly and nice. Kayaking is always fun and a real sight to see if you're looking for clear waters and want to spot some wildlife (many large fishes in the state park area as well as otters and sea cows/manatees) You get free reign once you get out of the Protected State Park (1 mile/5-ish miles): you can get out and swim, rest, jump off into the water with designated ropes that they set out, etc. as long as you get back by 5 pm for the shuttle buses.

Great Paddle

I've kayaked and SUP'd this river on a couple of occasions. Amazing crystal clear water, great wildlife view and fun!

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