Looking to explore a Florida river by kayak or canoe? Wekiwa Springs State Park is a hassle free starting place to launch a rented boat and explore the Wekiva River. This was my first river kayaking experience in Florida and I was not looking to do a long or strenuous trip. Being familiar with the Wekiwa Springs State Park and the surrounding area, the launch at the state park was the easiest choice for a quick out and back kayaking trip that filled up a Friday morning. It is $6 to enter the state park, and canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards can be rented from the concession stand located near the spring head for reasonable prices. While swimming in the spring is the main draw of the park (I wrote about swimming here), today I want to focus on what you can expect when kayaking the river!
My mother was visiting so we chose a two person kayak. Rental fees for the double kayak were about $24 for two hours, with each additional hour being $5. I recommend setting a timer for just less than half the time you want to be on the water to ensure you have enough time to get back. Boats can not be reserved ahead of time. On the weekends they run out pretty quickly so there may be a long wait for rental if you do not arrive very early. We went on a Friday morning and it was relatively quiet, though the lady said it often picks up in the afternoon on weekdays. If you do find yourself having to wait for a boat, the spring is just a few feet away and would be a great place to kill some time. Once you get your blue boat rental ticket from the concession stand, walk out the doors and head to the right, down the board walks, and then continue right again. You will find the boats and launch just past the designated swimming area of the spring.
We boarded our kayak and headed out to the right, away from the spring head. We were immediately greeted by beautiful scenery. You actually have to paddle out of the spring head to get to the river proper. To get to the river takes about 30 minutes at a leisurely pace, then you have a choice to go right or left. There is clear signage to direct you when you come to the fork. Right takes you with the current, towards Wekiva Island and the St. John’s River. Left takes you against the current towards King’s Landing and Rock Springs. Either way, you have to return to the canoe launch in the park, so you will be going against the current eventually. The current is not terribly strong, but we did feel a slight difference when paddling against it. We chose to go right!
Keep your eyes peeled for alligators and turtles, they usually hang out on the logs at the edge of the river. We saw four alligators on our 2 hour trip and too many turtles to count. The river itself is quite shallow in most place and there is not much of a riverbank, as the trees and foliage creep up to the very edge and hang over the river in many places.
If you do go right at the fork, you will come up on Wachiva Island, a bar and restaurant on the river. I believe there is a boat launch you can pull in at just past the buildings and to the right, though we did not check it out. From the launch at the park to Wekiva Island was about an hour. We continued down the river for a short while and then turned around to head back to the park to back within our rental window (also, my arms were tired, not going to lie!).
There are various boat launches along the 14 mile long Wekiva River, and, while our trip was just 2 hours, one could certainly take a much longer trip by starting out at another launch, or by paying for more rental hours. There is also an option to rent canoes overnight and camp at one of the designated sites along the river. For beginners or those who want to spend a shorter time on the river, the canoe/kayak launch at Wekiwa Springs State Park is a great choice!
Boat rental information (the prices listed here may be a few dollars off, at the park we were told it was $5 for each additional hour past 2 hours, not $3).
You may be wondering why Wekiwa the park is spelled with a “w,” while Wekiva the river is spelled with a “v.” Read more about this strange variance in spelling here.