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Posts Tagged ‘Withlacoochee River South’

Florida rivers are amazingly beautiful, mystical, and fun, and after paddling them for over ten years, I feel a touch of guilt selecting favorites. However, I admit it! There are those to which I would return more quickly than others. So, here goes.

Fisheating Creek. I have paddled Fisheating Creek more than any other river—at least four times. If you want an awesome Florida wilderness paddling experience, Fisheating Creek is your waterway. It originates in a swamp in Highlands County and flows south, then east, into Lake Okeechobee.

Entering the Cypress Swamp

I paddled from Burnt Bridge, a four-hour (eight miles) ever-changing paddling experience, and ended at the Fisheating Creek Outpost. (Longer trips are available.) The paddles begins in the wide river, tall cypress dripping with Spanish moss and air plants on each side, but within thirty minutes, you are lured into the cooler, darker waters of the swamp, twisting and turning through the cypress trees and their knobby knees as you pass gators, herons, egrets, anhinga, and so much more! Then, just as quickly, you emerge from the swamp into the river of grassy banks. If the water is low enough, you may even be able to pull up on a sand bank for a stretch and a snack before heading into the swamp once again.

My go-to outpost for Fisheating Creek was the Fisheating Creek Outpost with friendly faces, great attitudes, but kayaks that could use some attention. However, they are happy to drop you with your own kayak if you choose.

Withlacoochee River South. I love Withlacoochee River South and wish it was closer to me. A Native American term, Withlacoochee means “little big water” or “crooked river.” I have experienced both the little and the big of it—paddling it twice, once during the dry and once during the rainy season. I started from two different locations, but basically the same route—just one further into the swamp.

The Withlacoochee Dressed in Browns and Grays

This waterway is a “must paddle” if you haven’t yet. Picture yourself paddling down these dark, cool waters—beautiful cypress, red maple, and live oak along the riverbanks providing shade from the hot Florida sun. The water quietly twists and turns as it moves slowly from the Green Swamp to the Gulf. You hear nothing except the occasional splash of a turtle or gator or the calling of a bird. During low water levels, you spy ibis, vultures, herons, anhinga, cormorants, and egrets along the banks, as they enjoy the tranquil waters and their only slightly interrupted day with you floating by. During the rainy season, the water floods into the forest and through the trees creating magical, picturesque reflections, a beautiful backdrop to your serene paddle.

My go-to outpost for Withlacoochee River South was Withlacoochee RV Park and Canoe Rental.

Hillsborough River. When I describe my most amazing river paddles to people, I always include the Hillsborough River—which is why I find it unbelievable that I have paddled it only once. Why???

Clear Waters of the Hillsborough

Like the Withlacoochee, the Hillsborough originates in the Green Swamp. Its clear waters, fed largely by Crystal Springs, twist and turn for fifty-four miles west to empty into Tampa Bay.

This river is awesome! If awards were given for the most gator and bird sightings, Hillsborough would win. Picture this: in a four-hour paddle between Sargeant Park and Trout Creek Park (other trips available), you spy somewhere between fifty and one hundred gators—all looking very comfortable in their environment regardless of the intrusion. You feel as if you have entered a bird paradise, spotting more species of birds on this river than any other—egrets, herons, limpkins, roseate spoonbills, woodpeckers, wood storks, and ibis. Osprey dive; otters frolic; turtles sun, and you float through it all like a smooth ride at Disney World. Nature is in harmony, your paddle serene, peaceful, and delightful.

My go-to outpost for the Hillsborough River was Canoe Escape in Thonotosassa.

It seems pretty clear with my three favs that I am a bit of a swamp girl. I do love the seclusion and wildness of these cool, twisting waterways, but heck, after paddling more than fifty Florida rivers, there isn’t one that I would not return to. They are all pretty “awe”-some.

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