Wakulla River - Kayaking

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About

Summary

This river, teeming with wildlife, makes a perfect day for any paddler from beginner to expert. There are multiple starting points and you can take your own boat or rent one from various outfitters.

Written by

Kelsey Kalinski

Distance

0.1 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

91.2 miles

Difficulty

2 of 5 diamonds

The Wakulla River is a tidal river. Therefore, it is possible to have to paddle against the current even when you are truly paddling downstream, if the tide is coming in. If you choose to paddle on this river on the weekend during the summer months, you will also have a lot of boat traffic to deal with, unless you get started very early.

Time To Complete

4 hours

It will generally take approximately 4 hours to paddle from the "Lower Bridge" to the "Upper Bridge" and to return, round-trip. If you are short on time you can turn around at any point before you reach the next bridge. If you are looking for a full day, you can paddle from the Wakulla River to the St. Marks or out to the mouth of the 2 rivers after they join in the town of St. Marks, FL.

Seasonality

Spring, Summer, and Fall

The springs that feed this river remain approximately 70 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, making this trip very refreshing in the warmer months. The water remains warm enough for winter paddling as well, with the right gear.

Dog Friendly

No

It is possible to bring a dog on your boat, but beware of the alligators and motorboats if the dog will be swimming.

Fees Permits

Yes

There are fees for renting boats, as well as a $5 fee for using the boat ramp at San Marcos de Apalache State Historic Site.

Review

Intro

This is a great river for beginners and experts alike to paddle, less than 20 miles south of Florida’s state capital, Tallahassee. The river is very refreshing during the hotter months as the water temperature remains in the low 70s. It is possible to take your own boat out or you can rent kayaks, canoes or standup paddleboards from various outfitters in the area. There are various points to launch from and you can arrange a one-way trip with a shuttle or make it round-trip and paddle up and downstream. The river is teeming with wildlife, from fish to eagles to manatees.

What Makes It Great

The Wakulla River is a lovely, peaceful river that is the perfect place to learn to paddle. It provides relief from the heat of the Florida summer. It also can provide a good workout for even the most experienced paddlers. Wildlife abounds, from fish to turtles and alligators to otters and manatees. Even the occasional dolphin will swim up from the bay to areas in the southern portion of the river.

Due to runoff into the aquifer that feeds the river, the water is not as clear as it once was, but restoration projects are underway to restore the river to its pristine state.

Wakulla Springs State Park, which protects the springs that feed the river, is a perfect place to start or end your day of paddling. There is a swimming area which has lifeguards during the busy summer months. If you are coming from out of town, the lodge in the park is a wonderful place to stay and use as a base to explore the area. The lodge has a restaurant that serves 3 meals per day and an ice cream parlor and bar. The park offers boat tours several times throughout the day, taking guests on a 2 mile loop through a protected wildlife sanctuary. No personal boats are permitted within the park boundary to protect the wildlife that inhabit the area.

Who is Going to Love It

Beginners will love this trip due to the slow current which is not very difficult to paddle against, but very nice to float with when traveling downstream. Outfitters rent boats, provide lessons, and even offer guided trips.

Experts will love the variety of trips that are possible to make on this river. Paddling southeast of US Highway 98 you will experience the effect of the tides, which may flow with or against the river current. The trip can start and end from the same boat ramp or you can arrange for a shuttle, either with your own vehicles or through an outfitter.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

There are 3 possible starting points: “Upper Bridge” on Shadeville Highway, “Lower Bridge” along US Highway 98, or the San Marcos de Apalache State Historic Site in the town of St. Marks, FL. To avoid the tidal effect of the river, starting at one of the 2 bridges is recommended.

To reach “Upper Bridge”, which is just outside of the fenced off boundary of Wakulla Springs State Park, travel south from Tallahassee along South Monroe Street. This will turn into Woodville Highway. Continue south until you reach the traffic light at US Highway 267. Turn right, and then take a left onto Shadeville Highway. The bridge will be approximately 2 miles from this intersection. There is parking along the road.

“Lower Bridge” is south of 267. Continue down Woodville Highway until you reach the stop sign at US Highway 98. Take a right onto 98 and follow it until you reach the bridge, approximately 2 miles down the road. Parking is available on an unpaved road that leads to a boat ramp beside the bridge. Here you can also find TNT Hideaway which rents boats and offers guided trips throughout the year. The fees for these boats vary, and there are single and tandem kayaks, canoes, and standup paddleboards available.

If you are looking for a full day outing, you may drive to the town of St. Marks to paddle up the entire accessible length of the river. To reach St. Marks, take South Monroe Street south until it becomes Woodville Highway, and continue to follow this road south until you reach the St. Marks River. Take a right at the stop sign when you reach the river and follow this road to the stop sign. Take a left and you will reach the San Marcos de Apalache State Historic Site, at the junction of the St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers.

The manatees can be very friendly with kayaks and canoes, but keep in mind that it is illegal to feed or harass them. Taking pictures is definitely legal and encouraged though.

Location

Wakulla River

30.212109, -84.26136

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