Trip Number: 13050A
Staff: Patrick Nichols
- Enjoy the expertise of local guides
- Kayak, swim, explore, and view wildlife
- Experience Florida's wildest and most pristine natural areas
- Kayak rental
- Lodging at the historic Wakulla Lodge
- Total van support, including airport pick-up and drop-off
Photo: Patrick Nichols
Dive into springtime and the peak of wildflower season at Florida's forgotten
coast. Spend your week paddling wild rivers, swimming in hidden springs, collecting
seashells on a beach hike, adding dozens of birds to your life list, and visiting
all six unique habitats that make up this area. Every day we will head out to
a different location to paddle and explore. At night we will return to our luxury
lodge with its cozy beds, hot water showers, and sumptuous riverside meals.
We are lucky to have one of Florida's best swimming holes (Wakulla Springs)
-- with its enormous diving platform -- only a few steps from our lodge.
Day 1: We'll have a 2 p.m. pick-up at Tallahassee Regional
Airport. Folks driving in will be sent a map and directions to the lodge. We
will then make our way (about 30 minutes) to our lodge. Once we settle in and
introduce ourselves, we will tour the park and spring.
Day 2: After a wonderful breakfast, our group will head to
the Waculla River. At the put in, instructions will be given on the fundamentals
of kayaking. Soon after we will float down this extraordinary waterway. The
source of the Wakulla River is Wakulla Springs. Because of the karst topography,
the eastern part of Wakulla is filled with freshwater springs, and circular
groundwater-fed ponds and sinkholes. Early inhabitants dubbed the springs, "strange
and mysterious waters" -- a seemingly accurate name because in some locations
spring water appears somewhat magically from the ground, runs downstream for
several yards, and disappears mysteriously below the surface once again. Of
the many beautiful clear water springs in the region, the most famous is Wakulla
Springs. Wakulla Springs is one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs
in the world. The spring flows up and out from an underground river at a rate
of over 400,000 gallons per minute. Even at its deepest point of 185 feet, objects
are sometimes visible near the bottom. As the spring water flows over land it
forms the equally clear Wakulla River.
Photo: Patrick Nichols
Day 3: The Sopchoppy River originates in the wetlands of the
Apalachicola National Forest west of Crawfordville in Wakulla County and runs
47 miles to the Ochlockonee River. Sixty percent of the blackwater river runs
in the National Forest and St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. It winds through
dense forest, passes high sandy bluffs and limestone outcrops, and flows around
white sandbars. The Florida National Scenic Trail follows the river for five
miles between Oak Park Bridge and Bradwell Bay Wilderness Area. On past trips
people always comment about how remote and wild this river feels. In addition
they say it seems as if they were the first to ever paddle the river. Our group
can expect to encounter the famous tupelo in full blooming splendor. The contrast
of a huge, white, blooming canopy with flat blackwater is incredible.
Day 4: Today we paddle the Gulf. We start at white sand beach
and explore a shallow saltwater bay. This area is frequented by Whooping Cranes
and mullet fishermen! After our paddle we head for San Marcos de Apalache Historic
State Park. This is the site of the confluence of the Saint Marks and Waculla
Day 5: The St. Marks River originates in the hardwood and
cypress river swamps of the Red Hills area and flows 35 miles to the Apalachee
Bay. The St. Marks River disappears underground at the historic site of Natural
Bridge in Leon County and resurfaces a short distance south of the St. Marks
Spring in Wakulla County. The St. Marks River joins the Wakulla River north
of the bay at the San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park. After our time
on the river we will make our way to St. Marks NWR. This is the home of abundant
wildlife, especially birds. Last year our group spotted two bobcats, four whooping
cranes, red cockaded woodpeckers, and numerous species of snakes. Wildflower
lovers won't be disappointed because the deeper sloughs and ditches are filled
with blooming irises, swamp lilies, arrow head, and coreopsis. The day's highlight
will most likely be the gulf sunset viewed from the lighthouse.
Photo: Patrick Nichols
Day 6: After breakfast, our group will head to the Wacissa
River. Soon after we will float down one of the state's most pristine waterways.
The Wacissa River is a clear, spring-fed river that originates in Jefferson
County and flows 20 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. The 12 known springs are located
in the upper 1.5 miles of the river. The river winds through swamps and marshes.
A little ways past Goose Pasture is the Slave Canal. This canal was dug more
than 170 years ago to transport cotton to the Gulf. In most people's opinion,
this is Florida's premier wild river.
Day 7: By now most everyone will be in the routine of waking
up, grabbing a cup of coffee, and taking a walk amongst state grand champion
trees and a quick swim in the refreshing spring. Being our last day together,
it's a good day to take a little bit longer to soak it all in -- it's been a
long activity-packed week. At 9 a.m. we leave for the airport. The trip back
to Tallahassee Regional Airport will take less than one hour.
Participants are encouraged to fly into Orlando International Airport. Folks
wanting to drive will be sent driving directions upon acceptance on the trip.
Accommodations and Food
Photo: Patrick Nichols
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Wakulla Springs Lodge,
built in the 1930s, features 27 guest rooms, each with a spacious marble bathroom,
walk-in closet, and antique or period furniture. All rooms have a telephone
and data port. For a quiet and relaxing stay, rooms have no televisions. Located
on the second floor, guestrooms are accessible via the elevator or numerous
staircases. Rooms are double-occupancy and have either a queen bed or two doubles.
The lodge has a resturaunt, where we will eat dinner at once (not covered in
the trip price). All other dinners will be prepared and served by the leaders
riverside. Meals will reflect traditional local cultures. Participants can expect
shrimp and grits, crawfish étouffée, and fresh Cuban roast pork.
People with dietary restrictions should call the trip leader to discuss their
options. Lunches will be picnic-style every day on the water.
This trip is appropriate for all levels of paddlers. There will be time for
instruction each day for those who request it. Even though we will be on the
water most of the day, only 4-6 hours will be spent paddling. While on the rivers
there will be time for breaks, swims, wildlife viewing. hikes, and general fooling
around. For those who need a day or part of a day to rest, there are a host
of activities available at the lodge.
- Ohr, Tim and Peter Carmicheal, Florida’s Fabulous Canoe and Kayak
- Ste. Claire, Dana, Cracker, The Cracker Culture in Florida History.
- Larson, Ron, Swamp Song.
- Carr, Archie, A Naturalist in Florida.
- The Wakulla Lodge: http://www.wakullacountytdc.com/wakulla-24.htm
- Florida's Big Bend Area: http://www.floridabigbendscenicbyway.org/
Photo: Patrick Nichols
The leader is certain the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil disaster will be the major
topic of discussion. Other topics we will discuss include: the tapping of Florida's
aquifer by bottled water companies, unregulated sprawl, and the effects of pine
plantations for paper production.
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
It's not Patrick Nichols' 35 years of wilderness experience or his extensive background as an outdoor enthusiast and wilderness educator that distinguish his tours from the ordinary. It is the exquisite attention to detail: from gourmet cuisine to the intricacies of paddling on quiet waters propelled by kayak. He is an ACA instructor, has trained with Red Cross water safety and is a wilderness first responder. His calling is to use the quiet skills of his lifetime to benefit every traveler, to ensure his skills and knowledge are shared by every voyager with an open heart and a curious mind.
Joe Gallelli is a lifelong outdoorsman, active Outings leader, and certified Wilderness First Responder who enjoys sharing has woodcraft skills, native orchid passion, conservation pursuits, wildlife knowledge, and Native American interests with others. He paddles, swims, wades, hikes, backpacks, rambles, and scrambles to be in wildland and wilderness settings. Joe keeps himself fit and is particularly well adapted to camping and paddling in the southeast USA aquatic and marine environments.
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