Paddling in Central Florida, Eco-Tourism Destination

The Orlando area of Central Florida, home to Walt Disney World, also features paddling opportunities to kayak or canoe on several outstanding spring runs:

Blue Spring is the largest spring on the St. John’s River and is a designated manatee refuge. The spring run to the river is short (only about a mile) but notable for its beauty.

Wekiva River and Rock Spring Run together comprise the 27-mile Wekiva Paddling Trail. Located in the Orlando suburbs, they nonetheless maintain a natural, pristine beauty with the Wekiva a designated Wild and Scenic River. Rock Springs Run is notable for its many twists and turns and diverse vegetation, and includes three primitive camp sites.

Unlike the other stream-fed rivers, the Econlockhatchee River is a blackwater stream with tannic waters. The river includes a 19-mile designated trail through the Little Big Econ State Forest and also follows portions of the Florida National Scenic Trail.

On the Atlantic (Space) Coast of Central Florida, paddling includes saltwater and tidal influences:

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge provides access to the Indian River Lagoon and Mosquito Lagoon. Kayaks or canoes can be launched from several public access roads throughout the Refuge.

At New Smyrna Beach, paddle on Callalisa Creek at the north end of Canaveral National Seashore. The tidal creek goes through mangrove swamp and salt marsh, also linking to the Indian River and Intracoastal Waterway. An easy and free launch is from the riverbank at Callalisa Park.
The western Nature Coast of Central Florida includes some more remote areas for kayaking and canoeing. Highlights are:

The beautiful Rainbow River is entirely designated as a Registered National Landmark. The springs are popular for swimming, tubing, and diving.

The Weeki Wachee River is formed by Weeki Wachee Spring, home of the Weeki Wachee Mermaids attraction. Manatee are common during the winter.

North-flowing Withlacoochee River includes a 76-mile designated paddling trail through diverse vegetation and wildlife. The river can be shallow during periods of low rainfall, thus holding down on the motor traffic for a natural, peaceful paddle with lots of areas along the riverbank to stop for picnicking.

Extend your Central Florida trip by taking advantage of its eco-tourism opportunities. Complement your Disney and theme parks vacation with kayaking or canoeing paddle adventures and enjoy natural Florida.