Monday on the Weekee Wachee: Elvin and Nancy Hilyer accompanied Gaby and me on the Weekee Wachee on Monday. We got a pretty early start so we could head back early, and so Nancy and Elvin could make a dinner engagement at 6:00 in Sarasota. We were actually on the water at 10:15 after dropping off boats and setting shuttle downstream at Rogers Park.  I’ve driven past Weekee Wachee many times on the way to other Florida river destinations and never given a thought to paddling it. There’s a big theme park looking place right on the highway there with a huge parking lot and signs advertising watching the mermaid show. 
     We had decided on Sunday evening at dinner to try it because it was fairly close and in the right direction for Nancy and Elvin’s dinner engagement. We chanced upon a local paddler at Chassahowitska Campground Monday morning and asked about Weekee Wachee. He gave it high marks and filled us in with all the logistical details of putin, take-out, shuttle and good directions, including a good eatery close by (more on that later).
      This was arguably the prettiest Florida river I’ve paddled so far, and I’ve been on a lot of them. It rivaled the Wekiva / Rock Springs Run and Juniper Springs. The clarity of the water and the white sand bottom was reminiscent of Juniper, but with a much wider riverbed and a stronger flow. Birds and other wildlife were everywhere. The fish were even more visible than in the Silver River / Silver Springs. And the manatee we saw grazing on the aquatic plants was so clearly visible in the shallow ultra-clear water, it was almost surreal. We watched nesting herons feeding their young. As we drifted under a tree limb about 10 feet over our heads we watched an anhinga sitting on the limb drying its feathers as a cat bird mewed in the brush by the river.
We passed a raccoon who was calmly washing his paws in the water on river left as we drifted by only a few feet away. He barely even noted our presence until I got my camera out. By the time I got ready for a shot, he had climbed up the bank and disappeared into the brush.
      For several miles, we had the river to ourselves. No other paddlers, no power boats, no fishermen, no stream side visitors. After 1-1/2 to 2 hours of solitude, we encountereda single recreational kayaker paddling upstream.Then soon afterward the spell of solitude was absolutely crushed by a jet ski cruising upriver (at idle speed) piloted by none other than a Ranger — incredibly disappointing.You’d think they could patrol the river in human powered craft. Soon we found out why they used motors — we started seeing more and more power boats the closer we got to the take-out.The upstream paddle boat traffic also increased toward the end of the run. It seems putting in at Rogers Park and paddling upstream and back down is a popular run. There was a section of private homes part way down the run, then more of the wild area, and then for the last mile or so there were lots of private homes. Most of them had been there a while and were tastefully done, but we’d have been happier if they were not there at all.
The clarity of the water remained remarkable for quite a distance downstream until finally a pretty sizable black water stream came in from river right, followed by a couple of smaller ones on the left. Soon after that, the stream showed signs of being tidal, with some exposed mud banks and root systems (it was low tide).
      After taking out at Rogers Park, we followed the river trip up with a wonderful lunch at the Bayport Inn on Rte 50 on the outskirts of Hernando Beach. Their grouper sandwich came highly recommended, and did not disappoint us. The fried ice cream dessert was wonderful as well. The biggest problem with the place was the large number of really good looking items on the menu. As we said our goodbyes, we all agreed that Weekee Wachee had been well worth the time we spent getting there, and we’d all do it again in a heartbeat.  
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I hope some of you who haven’t experienced Florida’s spring fed paddling can join us next year.
– Mo