Located about an hour north of Tampa, Weeki Wachee River is a 12 mile long river in Hernando County, Florida. Weeki Wachee Springs, a first magnitude spring, is the beginning of the river which then flows west towards the Gulf of Mexico. The crystal clear waters of the Weeki Wachee River have been designated as Outstanding Florida Waters by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Whether you are an avid paddler, a family looking for a weekend adventure, or you want to try your luck seeing some manatees – you won’t want to miss one of Florida’s hidden gems.
There are three different ways to paddle the river. In this Weeki Wachee River Paddling Guide, we will talk about the pros and cons of each.
- Start at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park and Paddle to the State Park Takeout Point
- Start at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park and Paddle to Rogers Park
- Start at Rogers Park and Paddle Upstream
- Weeki Wachee River Rules
- What Animals Call Weeki Wachee River Home?
- When is the Best Time to Paddle Weeki Wachee River?
- Hospital Hole – A Special Place
- Visit the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
- Helpful Addresses
Start at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park and Paddle to the State Park Takeout Point
One of the easiest methods for paddling the Weeki Wachee River is to rent a single kayak, tandem kayak, or stand up paddle board through Weeki Fresh Water Adventures. This company is the only outfitter at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.
After filling out your required waiver, you’ll enter the river at the State Park’s private boat launch and paddle 2.8 miles to the State Park takeout point. Here, Weeki Fresh Water Adventures will pick you and your rented gear up. They will then transport you back to the Weeki Wachee State Park to end your adventure.
Pros: If you don’t have paddling gear, you’ll be able to rent a kayak or stand up paddle board, life jackets, and paddles from Weeki Fresh Water Adventures. This is an easy paddle, perfect for kids and beginners.
Cons: For experienced paddlers, this short 2.8 mile paddle will go really fast. Unfortunately, you’ll miss some of the prettiest parts of the river.
Good to know: You’ll need an advance reservation for this paddle. Walk ins are not accepted.
Start at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park and Paddle to Rogers Park
This adventure takes a little more planning, and you’ll need your own kayak or paddle board. Here is how this works: 1) Drive to the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park and drop your gear off near Weeki Fresh Water Adventures. 2) Drive to Rogers Park and park your car. 3) Take an Uber or Lyft back to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. 4) Paddle from the State Park to Rogers Park. 5) Load your gear into your car. If you’d prefer not to rely on an Uber or Lyft, you can use two cars. If you use two cars, you’ll park one car at Rogers Park and the second at the State Park. Be sure that the car left at the State Park is in the parking lot outside the gates – which get locked after the last launch.
Pros: On this 6 mile paddle, you’ll get to see much of the river. Since your car will be waiting for you, you also aren’t bound to time constraints. It’s my preferred method of paddling the Weeki Wachee River.
Cons: You’ll still need to make a reservation and pay for a self launch through Weeki Fresh Water Adventures. Additionally, you will need your own gear.
Start at Rogers Park and Paddle Upstream
Another choice for paddling the Weeki Wachee River is to park and launch from Rogers Park. You can choose this method whether you are using your own boat or renting privately.
If you are planning on renting a kayak or paddle board, you have a number of choices. My preferred outfitter is The Kayak Shack, since it is located next to Rogers Park. If you’d like a different view of the river, consider Get Up and Go Kayaking who offer clear kayaks and a tour guide.
Pros: Starting at Rogers Park and paddling upstream takes less planning. You can paddle all the way to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park if you’d like. This will allow you to see most of the river.
Cons: The Weeki Wachee River is a tidal river. Depending on the tides, the swift current may make paddling upstream on the river more difficult. Also, be cautious of boat traffic around Rogers Park as you launch, as this is a popular boat launch ramp.
Weeki Wachee River Rules
Now that you’ve decided on how you will experience Weeki Wachee River, here are rules for the river.
- No single use plastics. Feel free to bring snacks and drinks, but they must be in a reusable container. This includes no candy wrappers, sandwich wrappers, and plastic water bottles.
- No alcohol. Alcohol is not permitting anywhere on the river. Again, if you launch from Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, your personal belongings will be checked for alcohol.
- No swimming within the boundaries of the State Park. You cannot exit your vessel within the boundaries of the State Park. If you’d like to swim or snorkel, you must wait until after the State Park Takeout Point.
- Life vest and whistle required. According to Florida kayaking laws, you must have a life vest for each passenger on your vessel and a sound producing device like a whistle. Children under 6 years old must wear the life vest.
Additional rules apply when inside the State Park boundaries. See the photo below.
What Animals Call Weeki Wachee River Home?
The spring-fed river provides a home to several species of wildlife. In the past, we’ve spotted fish, various birds – including bald eagles, snakes, alligators, and West Indian manatees.
When is the Best Time to Paddle Weeki Wachee River?
As you can imagine, Weeki Wachee River is extremely busy on weekends. If you can, the best time to paddle Weeki Wachee River is weekday mornings.
If you are visiting specifically to see manatees, the best time to visit is the winter months.
Hospital Hole – A Special Place
Near Rogers Park, you’ll paddle by an underwater sinkhole. This sinkhole is about 140 feet deep and popular with scuba divers, although interested divers will need to take special precautions due to a hydrogen sulfide layer.
Local folklore states that injured fish and animals visit and spend time at Hospital Hole to be healed, before returning to the Gulf of Mexico.
Visit the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
If you’ve never been to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, make time to visit this world famous park that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Known around the world for its live mermaid show, there is also a small waterpark, Buccaneer Bay, with four waterslides, as well as lounge chairs and a swimming area.
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park: 6131 Commercial Way, Weeki Wachee, FL
Rogers Park: 7244 Shoal Line Blvd, Spring Hill, FL
No matter how you decide to take in the beautiful scenery of the Weeki Wachee River, it is one of the best places in Central Florida to have an amazing experience on the water. If you are looking for more places to see manatees, read our article. Happy paddling!