Winter is coming, and with it many will feel the urge to head south for respite from the cold. Florida’s Weeki Wachee provides a great opportunity to escape for those of us with latitudinal challenges.
Weeke Wachee (population 12) is home to the eponymously named spring that meanders through the small township and drains into the Gulf of Mexico some 7-8 miles down stream.
The water maintains a 72 degree temperature throughout the Winter, making it, along with other nearby springs a winter haven for Manatee.
The river is tight and twisty and can be crowded at times. From the Rogers Park launch it is just over five miles one way to the source and then a pretty fast returning five . I paddled a 17 foot Folbot Greenland II with my young son (who seemed to be paddling in reverse) and I can honestly say it was quite an effort to keep the barge moving forward. A twenty-one foot Surfski would work but might get a bit tight at times. Shorter skis and sprint boats would fair a bit better.
The water is translucent and the foliage and wildlife are reminiscent of a Costa Rican jungle sans monkeys; a great touch for those escaping colder more desolate climates.
If you paddle up to the source of the spring you will have made it to the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park and can take in the famous mermaid show.
If you travel down in February, you can get your early season race on with the informal Jensen Classic kayak race.
When you've had your fill of mermaids, Tampa Bay and Clearwater beach are less than an hour south and offer a bit more of an urban environment for those looking for more dining and entertainment than the small town has available.
Jensen Classic https://www.facebook.com/Jensen-Classic-at-Weeki-Wachee-618244311614095/
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park http://www.weekiwachee.com/index.php/mermaids/mermaid-shows