While traveling abroad recently the statement was made by a fellow vacationer that whenever they pictured Florida they didn’t think of it as having places to kayak, instead they envisioned palm trees and endless stretches of white sand beaches. While in fact Florida does have seemingly endless miles of sugar-white sand beaches, the interior of the state has thousands of miles of some of the most interesting kayaking destinations in the country.
Florida has a wide variety of creeks, rivers, keys, lakes and bays to explore ranging from darkened rivers to amazingly vibrant crystal clear ribbons of azure blue. Florida’s diverse waterways offer something magical for every paddler’s choosing. Slow rivers may wander and meander only to round a bend to reveal swiftly moving rapids or tranquil springs. Paddlers can follow these blueways past limestone bluffs, tropical and hardwood forests, cypress swamps, mysterious mangroves and more.
The mild Florida winters afford paddlers year-round opportunities to explore, and even though Florida can sometimes get downright chilly, frozen lakes won’t be on the agenda. In fact, the West Indian and Florida manatees seek out the spring-fed rivers during the colder months and are a welcome site on any paddling trip.
Must-see Florida Kayaking Destinations
So where are the best places to kayak in Florida if visitors are limited on time? Well, it depends on what visitors want to see and experience. Paddlers can view an exotic mix of alligators, waterfowl and monkeys by visiting Silver River near Ocala. Just a few short miles away lies a trio of notable paddling hotspots: Juniper Creek, Alexander Spring Run and Salt Spring Run making this an excellent destination for experiencing several great locations in a relatively short period of time. If there’s time left visitors might consider traveling 65 miles southeast to Apopka to explore the wild and beautiful Wekiva River, one of two federally designated Wild and Scenic Rivers within Florida.
If Florida’s gentle manatees sound more appealing than grinning alligators then head over to King’s Bay in Crystal River. Manatees are more abundant in the bay and springs during the cold winter months but a small herd seems to enjoy hanging out in King’s Bay year-round. Located less than an hour away, paddlers can check out Rainbow River, Homossassa River, and Chassahowitzka River to round out their trip.
Adrenaline seekers may wish to test their mettle at Big Shoals and Little Shoal rapids north of White Springs on the famous Suwannee River that cuts across much of Florida. Although Florida doesn’t have much in the way of white water, Big Shoals weighs in at a Class III when water conditions are favorable. Another notable whitewater destination is Turket Creek, on the Jennings to Alapaha section above the town of Live Oak. This one mile section of whitewater also clocks in at a Class III.
So the next time someone asks if there are any places to paddle in Florida the answer is a resounding “Yes!” Check with local paddling clubs in almost any portion of the state to get an idea of where the best paddling is in the location where you’ll be staying. They may be able to provide names of shuttle services and lodging as well as update travelers on current river conditions. Happy paddling.
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