2018 Central Florida Trip
Submitted by Chris Hugo
For the 5th year in a row, the Bluff City Canoe Club returned to paddle the beautiful rivers of Florida. This year we stayed at Nature’s Resort RV Park in Homosassa Florida which is about 75 miles north of Tampa on the Gulf Coast. From here, we explored 7 different rivers!
The weather was a bit colder than usual which made for some chillier camping for the tent campers, but it brought the Manatees up into the rivers in huge numbers. The trip also brought out BCCC members and friends in huge numbers! There was a total of 50 folks on the trip. Loading, unloading and shuttling took a bit longer than normal, but everyone was prompt, efficient, and patient and it worked with a minimum of confusion most days.
Patty McLaughlin hurt her knee the first morning and had to head back to Memphis, so she didn’t get to join us. Thanks to Charlie Bright and Susan Moffat for taking her down to the Tampa/St. Petersburg Airport so she could get home.
On day 1 we explored the Crystal River. This is one of the premier places in the world to see manatees. 3 Sisters Spring is at the head waters of the river. It’s a beautiful spring as well as a magnet for manatees. We could not paddle into the spring because there were over 150 manatees in there! From the spring we continued down the Crystal River to the gulf including a lunch stop at the Crystal River Preserve State Park. A fairly strong headwind and an incoming tide made this a bit of a challenging paddle, especially for folks in shorter boats.
Day 2, we had a relaxing morning then spent the afternoon paddling the beautiful Weeki Wachee river followed by a group dinner at The Upper Deck.
On Day 3, we paddled out from our camp to the Homosassa River. We went upstream into an area that borders the Homosassa Wildlife Park and were treated to a huge group of Manatees. Richard Sojourners grandson, Parker, reached out to pet a manatee that was floating next to him, and the manatee turned over and let Parker scratch his belly. In the afternoon, we went over and explored the Chassahowitzka River. We saw several more manatees here and some of the group had fun swimming through a short underwater tunnel at the headspring. We ended the day with a group dinner at a local favorite restaurant called The Freezer.
Day 4 had us driving down to Tampa to paddle the Hillsborough River. This river is a wildlife photographers paradise. We saw several species of birds as well as a bunch of alligators. Cindy and Patrick’s son and grandson were able to come up from Tampa and join us for this river.
On Day 5, we paddled the Rainbow River. We paddled from an area called KP Hole up to the headspring and spent some time relaxing and swimming in the spring. We then did an easy 5 mile paddle down this beautiful, crystal clear river to our takeout.
On our last paddling day, we headed over to Ocala and paddled the legendary Silver River. The park at the headspring, Silver Springs State Park, was the first tourist attraction in Florida. In addition, the headspring is one of the largest artesian springs in the world. There have been several movies and TV shows filmed here over the years. Today, it’s most famous for the wild monkeys that live along the river. The river treated us to lots of birds, fish, alligators, monkeys and even a few manatees made it up into the river.
All in all, we had an awesome trip. The weather was beautiful (even it was a little nippy at night), the rivers were spectacular and, most of all, we enjoyed time with other BCCC members and friends!