Anton and I had originally wanted to go to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park and kayak downriver and then back, but we learned that the park might be busy that time of year because it had a water park and about the fee per person to use the kayak launch. So we took the vaguely cheaper and more secluded option of using a small park 6 miles downstream called Rogers Park that has $10 parking fee but otherwise free boat and kayak launch.
The times for park opening posted on line are inconsistent (one said 9am, another said 24/7, but most city/county operations open at 8 or sunrise) which resulted in a planned arrival for around 7:45am; is we were early we would drive around/explore and maybe find a gas station to get some coffee or snacks or something until it did.
We packed up and hit the road around 6:30am, took I-75 north for the first half and then a bunch of back country roads for the second until we arrived promptly as scheduled. There were two cars parked—one was parked flanking the kayak launch and the other was a county vehicle near the facilities where two persons in uniforms performed some sort of maintenance. There were no gates that can be locked, only some basic chain link border fences in places; when we drove in, we observed some signage that said it was cool to be there at that time and parked near the launch.
An old man with a long narrow touring kayak was getting out when we were unpacking our inflatable kayaks. Anton chatted him up for a minute and the man told us about the river and where to go. We’d take off left from the launch and then turn right out of the inlet, and continue to stay right to stay on the river because everything on the left are channels leading to private docks and such.
It only took about 10 min to inflate our kayaks with hand pumps; then we grabbed our straw hats and headed for the water.
I got in first, and you can see there’s Anton getting in second (teal and black shirt/straw hat).
To the right off the launch was an a channel, which wouldn’t lead us to Weeki Wachee…
Therefore, once Anton was with me, we went left.
We paddled past the park’s roped off swimming area and met the quaint river.
To our left, we could see the bridge we had crossed to get there as well as a two-story structure with red umbrellas called The Weeki Wachee Kayak Skack that opens at 8am and rents kayaks to visitors.
But the old man didn’t say to go left…
Therefore we went right.
Houses big and small lined the river on our left, most with private piers that warned against trespassing and tying boats there. Many of them gave off that lazy Florida beach house vibe. There was one long wall that had been painted with scenes of flowering trees and mermaids on rocks; farther down the wall, however, it seemed like the artist began to run out of kinds of mermaids to paint because they were gradually replaced by fairies, butterflies, grinning dolphins, a cartoon-ish man flailing in the water while a manatee speeds away in his motorboat while cheekily smoking a cigar.
The right side of the river was all nature.
There was no current initially.
The water was shallow in places where we could easily stand and not risk getting our shorts wet. Skies were clear, weather was warm, and water is 22 to 23 degrees celsius (72 to 74 degrees fahrenheit) all year round and and crystal clear. Schools of large silver fish constantly slipped beneath us (fish that I regrettably can’t name). The birds were quiet at first.
We didn’t meet any other paddlers for a while.
I stopped for a ton of pictures because the lighting was beautiful which slowed our progress a bit but we had no set destination. We were exploring, not racing.
Eventually “private property” signs, weathered docks, and tied off old rowboats faded behind us and gave way to uninterrupted nature.
I ran into snakes twice.
The first one was trying to cross the river just as I was paddling past and I think he was as surprised as I was, because there was a moment when we looked at each other where I forgot how to steer and he swam in circles before doubling back.
The second snake didn’t pay us any mind.
One of my favorite natural phenomena is morning sunlight through foliage. It was a beautiful morning for this and a delightful location. Yup, I have many pictures of trees.
Moving on from the trees.
We turned around after the 2nd mile, pleased our morning. On the way back, we ran into a bunch of paddlers.
The ride back with the current took half the time. 2 hours up, 1 hr back.
When we returned, we found Rogers Park packed with cars and boat trailers. Luckily we parked near the launch so we didn’t have to go far and had plenty of space to dry, deflate and repack our kayaks. We threw the rolled up kayaks in their bags, back into the trunk of my little dark blue sedan, and we struck out on our way back home while many visitors were only beginning to unpack their gear.
Less than a week later, I went back and did the same course again but didn’t get much farther.
Anyway, Anton and I are looking forward to doing the distance from Rogers Park to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park some day. It’s been added to the adventure list.