by Chris Anders, Contributing Writer
Paddling the Florida Springs can be a never ending quest. There are 100’s of springs to paddle, each with their own unique characteristics. First you need to pick your springs based on the time of year. Some are better in the winter than other due to the aquatic scenery. My recent destination was Weeki Wachee Springs, in Spring Hill, Fl. Weeki Wachee has a lot to offer for all ages. They have a water park in the spring, river boat cruises, camps and my favorite, the mermaid show.
I wanted to share my suggestions to make it easy for you to SUP the springs. The distance on the river is 5.5 miles and they say it takes about 3 hours by kayak. We did it with 12 people on SUP in about 2.5 hours, but we stopped often. There is no need to bring your own board. I traveled with 12 of my SUP Club friends and we had 2 trucks loaded with boards. I know we all love our boards but when you are traveling in a big group it’s better to rent. They rent boards at Weeki Wachee for $32.50 which includes your shuttle ride back. If you bring your own board the entry is $6.00. Return shuttle with board is $10.00 or just shuttle without the board is $5.00. Other important things to know is that the last drop in is at 11:00 a.m. If you do decide to bring your own board make sure you have a short draft fin because the depth can be as low as 6 “ in some places or there can be submerged trees. This goes for all springs.
Now let me tell you about our experience. The staff is amazing and helpful. The drop in area is very convenient. The water is about 72 degrees. When we went in January the weather was overcast, windy and the high temp for the day was 59 degrees. We all had some type of wet suit which helped with the cold air. Take your time going down. We saw 5 manatee which I believe one was an albino, 3 deer and earlier there was a black bear sighting. By the end of the 5.5 miles we were freezing because it was 59 degrees, but at the haul out there is a bar & grill to get warmed up and filled up. They brought us all back in the van and we headed out for our next adventure, Crystal River. If you would like more information on paddling the springs, go to www.floridasprings.org