Posts Tagged ‘Wekiva River’

I stood at the water’s edge of Katie’s Landing State Park with my paddle buddy, Bill Belleville, looking across the Wekiva River, so glad I had remembered to bring my rain jacket. The wind had picked up, and the cloudy sky promised rain sometime soon. For the first time this season, I felt a chill in the air—the kind that nips your nose and makes you think about hot cocoa and fireplaces. Brrr…

Splashes of Color on the Wekiva

The Wekiva is one of only two National Wild and Scenic Rivers in Florida. (Loxahatchee is the other.)  Twenty-seven miles of this waterway is also a Florida Designated Paddling Trail. Three years ago, I paddled the Upper Wekiva with my sister, Michele.  On this day, Bill and I planned to paddle the Lower Wekiva.

So, we put in, trying to keep our feet dry, and paddled away from the shore, crossing the river. Bill wanted to show me around a little island in the river, but we had to push and pull our way through the thick pennywort to get there.  Amazing how the winter brings a completely different kind of beauty to the rivers.  The gray sky darkened the water, creating an eeriness as I looked at the eel grass waving from the river bed below us.  The cypress, bared of their foliage, draped themselves in silvery moss shawls.  Green ferns and tall grasses, along with yellow-flowered spadderdock lilies, added splashes of color to the wintry brown and gray landscape.

We didn’t really believe we would make it the eight miles to the St. Johns and eight miles back, but we did think we might make it to the point where the Blackwater Creek empties into the Wekiva.  We paddled northward to the Lower Wekiva (the Wekiva flows north, so the lower is the north and the upper is the south), enjoying the scenic shoreline and feeling blessed to be there.

A Posturing Wood Stork
A Wood Stork Poses for Us

Of all the rivers I’ve paddled, the Hillsborough River gets the prize for having the most birds.  However, after this paddle, I would give Wekiva the prize for the most variety.  Great blue herons waded through the tall grasses, little disturbed by our presence. A wood stork seemed as curious about us as we were about him, turning on his branch, moving this way and that, so we could see him from various angles.  We spied egrets, ibis, anhingas, moorhens, and even a red shouldered hawk and a pileated woodpecker.  Tiny warblers filled the trees as we paddled beneath them. I felt a bit like a “nature voyeur,” peeking in Mother Nature’s windows, quietly watching her do those things she does when we humans aren’t around.

Of course, we didn’t make it to the St. Johns—or the Blackwater for that matter.  And the rain did come (thank you, handy rain jacket).  So, we turned around after a couple of hours and headed back to Katie’s Landing, still chatting about all we had seen.

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How delightful to spend a day paddling one of the prettiest rivers in Florida, the Wekiva River.  Wekiva means “flowing water,” and Boning explains that it is the only Florida river to receive the recognition of a Wild and Scenic River at both the state and federal level.

Paddling the Wekiva River

I paddled the Wekiva with my sister, Missy.  Our experience was wonderful.  We put in at the Wekiva Marina late morning and paddled north for two to three miles on a quiet little river canopied with vegetation. We did not see a lot of wild life, (except the teenagers that appeared later in the day), most likely because we paddled on a Saturday, and by the end of our day, the river bustled with kayakers and canoers.  We did see egrets, a great blue heron, and a few other species that we were unable to identify.  Turtles sunned themselves on logs.  Beautiful lilies and deadly water hemlock (it resembles Queen Anne’s lace) encroached the waterway, giving us only a narrow passage in some parts of the river.  Oak, cypress, and cabbage palms decorated the banks.  Below us, golden eel grass swayed with the clear current.

Someday, I would love to return to this river to continue the paddle!  We did not paddle the south end from the Wekiva Marina to King’s Landing which according to Huff is considered the most scenic part of the Wekiva–what she describes as the “paddler’s dream.”

(Outfitter: Wekiva Marina. Wekiva Island. 1014 Miami Springs Drive, Longwood, FL 32779. https://www.wekivaisland.com/water-rentals/. (407) 862-1500)

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