Florida: Just a retreat from the snow… I think not. The state of Florida is not just for snow birds anymore. Many of my fellow water sporting friends are making Florida’s picturesque lakes, rivers, and oceans their winter sporting stomping grounds. Through many long hours of pouring over past trips and various humorous events, I decided to share my top 5 River Trips in Florida.
My top five, must paddle list comes from Central Florida because of my numerous visits to old college buddies in Tampa. Without further delay, here are:
Victoria’s Top 5 Florida River Paddling Victories
1. Hillsborough River- (14 miles) I like Hillsborough River because your kayaking adventure can extend anywhere from 4 miles to 14 miles long if you have someone willing to pick you up at the end of the trip. The Hillsborough River tour is divided into four segments, allowing you to paddle them all at once (14 miles one-way, requiring a complete day), or try each section individually. You get to see a plethora of wildlife, and an old railroad bridge that makes for great photos. There are other more difficult sections on this river that I would not recommend unless you are an experienced paddler, because the entire trip in one day can be quite exhausting for beginners. I’m anxiously awaiting our next college reunion so I can explore a different route, do some fishing and just enjoy the scenery.
2. Little Manatee River- (6 miles) A half dozen miles one way located in southeastern Hillsborough County, this paddleway has many opportunities to stop and rest, which makes it great for beginners. Depending on the water level, the Little Manatee can be more difficult for experienced paddlers as well. The river heads into Marsh lands and sadly there are some housing developments expanding toward the river, but it still makes for a pleasant paddle and offers opportunities for photographing wildlife.
3. Chassahowitzka, pronounced “Chaz-wits-kuh” – (7 miles) This waterway is a 7 mile round trip loop of the springs that make up the river. It has the advantage of offering you a nice paddle in some very clear water, but beware of the alligators. Safety tip: If you leave them alone they will leave you alone! Take along some bug repellant… the mosquitoes are fierce, and I do recommend getting a GPS unit to keep you from getting lost. The park rangers recommend getting a map at the Campgrounds, and go during the week or you won’t be able to find a parking spot.
4. The Alafia River pronounced “Al-a-fy” – (10 miles) This tributary offers a 10 mile long trip from Alderman’s Ford County Park to Lithia Springs Park. The canal is a bit of a challenge with a few rapids, sharp turns, and cypress branches that you have to navigate, but the scenery more than makes up for it. A state park resides further up the road, but my friends and I did the 10 mile run and then went for a nice cozy swim at Lithia Springs before we camped for the night.
5. Homosassa River- Homosassa Springs trip- When my friends and I decided to go on a short paddle trip my last Day in Florida, I told them I wanted something easy, relaxing, and scenic. The Homosassa Springs fulfilled that wish and so much more. We stopped off at Monkey Island, and yes there are partially tamed monkeys that were very interested in the fruits I had packed for a snack. We continued on to Homosassa Springs and Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park where the wildlife photo ops were plentiful.
Central Florida is such a beautiful and picturesque state. It is well worth planning a winter trip to enjoy everything the semi tropical environment has to offer.