I was excited as my plane touched town in Tallahassee, Florida. I had a week of warm weather and kayaking some of Florida’s crystal clear, spring fed and black water rivers, and saltwater tidal marshes ahead of me. I was to meet up with an intrepid group of Sierra Club adventurers from across the country for this kayaking trip.
Having visited this part of Florida in the past, I knew there were some beautiful places to explore by kayak. About 20 miles south of Tallahassee is the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park and Lodge, our digs for the week. The lodge, built in the 1930s, is tucked away amongst a Spanish-moss draped hardwood forest and is an excellent example of Mediterranean Revival architecture. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated as a National Natural Landmark.
The amazing thing about Florida is the Floridian Aquifer. The Floridan Aquifer is one of the world’s most productive aquifers and underlies all of Florida. Springs are classified by the volume of water they discharge. The largest springs are called “first-magnitude,” defined as springs that discharge water at a rate of at least 2800 liters of water per second. You can picture a 2-liter bottle of soda, now picture 2800 of those bubbling from the ground every second. Wakulla Springs is one of those first-magnitude springs with an outflow of 200-300 million US gallons of water per day. It has had a record peak flow in April 1973 of as much as 1.2 billion gallons per day. So, it’s easy to see how such an outflow can produce, not a stream, but a river of crystal clear spring water. To kayak on one of these sparkling, clear rivers is a special treat.
We set out each day with a new river, or salt water marsh to explore, new wildlife to view and a new experience. We started the week with a portion of the Wakulla River that originates at the Wakulla Spring outflow, and were treated to some manatee sightings.
Many of these rivers, as well as the salt water marsh, are tidal waters. Timing is of the essence if you want to paddle these waters.
You could be paddling with or against the tide, or find the spot you want to put your kayak in, or take out at, is way, way out there, if you happen to hit a beach at low tide.
Each paddle location during the week held its own uniqueness and challenge. From getting in and out of the kayaks in calf deep tidal muck, racing the tide one direction or the other, skimming over razor-sharp oyster beds with only inches of water under your boat, to paddling a spring fed river so spectacular that you just didn’t want it to come to an end. It was a special treat all week to spot many monarch butterflies enjoying the warm sunshine just like the rest of us.