One of Florida’s most beautiful paddling trips, the Weeki Wachee River rises from first magnitude Weeki Wachee Springs and winds through lush floodplain forests as it is fed by hundreds of smaller springs along this 5.5-mile paddling run.
Location: Weeki Wachee
Address: 6131 Commercial Way, Spring Hill
Distance: 5.5 miles
Open: Sunrise to sunset
Land Manager: Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Phone: 352-597-8484 (rentals and paddling issues), 850-245-2118 (river quality issues)
Restrooms are available at both ends of the paddle. Rogers Park can also be used for access to the river, and in fact, unless you arrange a launch or rental plus shuttle at the state park, you’ll need to launch at Rogers Park and head upstream.
The kayak launch site is on the opposite side of the parking lot and downhill from the main entrance to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, which is along US 19 just south of the intersection with SR 50. Follow the narrow unpaved road down to the parking area that adjoins the outfitter. If the parking area is full, you’ll need to park in the main parking area and walk down here.
Alternatively, you can launch from Rogers Park, 7240 Shoal Line Blvd, Weeki Wachee Gardens, and paddle upstream.
An outstanding Florida waterway, Weeki Wachee springs forth from the first-magnitude head spring inside the state park, where the famed mermaids have been doing their underwater presentations since the 1940s. From the put-in at the outfitters at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, it’s a gentle paddling run of less than 6 miles to take out at Rogers Park.
While the put-in is downstream from the head spring and the route that the boat cruise takes up on the broader portion of the river, don’t feel like you’re missing out by launching below them. This waterway delights with dozens of springs, many of them adjoined by sandbars. In a handful of places, you’ll even see burbling waterways splashing down into the river from tiny springs in the floodplain forest.
The trick, however, is choosing a day and time when the river isn’t busy with other paddlers. Understandably, this is a popular paddling destination. We recommend early mid-week for the quietest time.
Don’t let the parade of paddlers and the line of houses near Rogers Park lull you into thinking this is not a wild place. We spotted a fair number of herons and egrets, as well as a cottonmouth and a young alligator.
This is a gentle, winding paddling run with lots of curves and a pretty steady current to keep you going. It opens up wider about a mile before the take-out at Rogers Park. Pay attention to signage along the right bank – where the houses are – so you don’t paddle up a side canal looking for the park. Also, the current is swift at the take-out, so plan your approach as you get within sight of it.
Although you pass several spots that look like access points between Weeki Wachee State Park and Rogers Park, they are privately owned. Respect private property and only pull aside along the river on public land.
Launching from Weeki Wachee State Park, you’ll rent (and shuttle with) Weeki Wachee State Park Kayak Rentals,. Reservations are required in advance. Reserve online or call 352-597-8484 before arriving for your paddling trip. Both kayaks and stand-up paddleboards are available.
Launches are limited to 70 per hour, so a reservation is required to launch from the state park even if you plan to use your own kayak. Bring water with you, but not from the store: no disposable containers are allowed on the river. Tote along your own refillable water bottles, as well as snacks and a towel in a drybag, where you will also want to keep your car keys. We saw several smartphones take a dive into the river, so be sure yours is inside an Otterbox or Lifeproof or similar waterproof case if you plan to have it available for photography.
Make sure you are at the take-out before your shuttle bus departs, or you’ll get hit with a hefty transporation fee on top of the usual rental fee. It takes about 3 hours to paddle the run. Plan for 4 if you take your time.
Check the website link at the bottom of this page to review all of the rules for paddling this waterway. Some of the more important ones include no pets, no alcohol, no disposable containers, and do not approach wildlife, especially the manatees you will see along the river.
While you’re in the area and enjoying the springs along this waterway, you’ll want to visit the others nearby. Jenkins Spring is in Linda Pedersen Preserve, where another paddling trail has its terminus. Don’t miss the mermaids – and the opportunity to peer down into the massive spring – inside Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.