Withlacoochee Paddle at a glance:
Dates: February 16-21, 2014
Capacity: 100 paddlers
Distance: 60 miles
Registration fee: $275/person, meals: $150/person
Registration deadline: February 3
More information: www.paddleflorida.org
Gainesville, Florida – January 9, 2014 –
Paddle Florida announces its second trip on the ‘Wild, Wonderful Withlacoochee’ River February 16 – 21, 2014. Beginning at Sumter County’s Marsh Bend Outlet Park in Lake Panasoffkee on February 16, paddlers will wind through hardwood swamps and clear spring-fed streams on a 60-mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico. Participants will camp riverside nightly and enjoy educational speakers, musical entertainment, campfires, and camaraderie.
“This five-day paddling adventure includes two of Florida’s hidden paddling gems – the Rainbow River and Gum Slough,” said Paddle Florida’s Executive Director Bill Richards. “Paddlers will experience hardwood swamps, glide over clear, spring-fed runs, and dip their paddles in dark tannin-stained waters. Wildlife abounds, including turtles, fish, and many bird species – osprey, bald eagles, swallow-tail kites, redwing blackbirds, and vultures.”
The journey includes a day for exploring the renowned Gum Slough followed by a six-mile stretch of the colorful Rainbow River from Rainbow River State Park downstream to where it flows into the Withlacoochee. From there, paddlers will continue across Lake Rousseau to the Inglis Lock and Dam. The final day’s paddle will feature a very scenic portion of the Withlacoochee, through the village of Yankeetown, to Levy County’s Bird Creek Park on the Gulf of Mexico.
On each trip, Paddle Florida staff takes care of everything but the actual paddling. Trips are scouted in advance to ensure safe waterway conditions and comfortable shoreline camping spots which showcase nature’s best view. Meal plans and gear shuttling eliminates the need to weigh boats down with food and camping equipment. Lead and sweep boats guide paddlers on each day’s journey. With this level of support, paddlers of all ages and skill levels can enjoy an extended adventure in natural Florida.
Each evening, paddlers gather for open-air dining and entertainment from Florida musicians or educational presentations that explore the region’s water ecology and wildlife. This trip will feature musician Magda Hiller. A musically diverse, intelligent performing songwriter, Hiller has won Best Acoustic Performer and Solo Act awards for years from multiple Florida news publications. Her music draws from finger-style guitar to jazz, blues, and country Americana, with rich earthy vocals. Educational presentations will encompass topics ranging from district water management to Florida Barge Canal history and conservation efforts of the Florida Defenders of the Environment.
This is the fourth of five annual Paddle Florida trips conducted across the state from the Panhandle to the Keys. Paddle Florida leads three- to seven-day trips across the state to promote Florida as an international destination for nature-based tourism. Designated a non-profit in 2011, the organization fosters water conservation, wildlife preservation, springs restoration and waterways protection. True to this mission, Paddle Florida coordinates voluntary cleanups on each waterway they visit. Previous years’ volunteers have removed more than 1,600 pounds of trash from rivers across the state.
Trip fees cover a paddling, camping, learning, and musical adventure. The Wild, Wonderful Withlacoochee trip fee is $275/adult, $250/senior and college student, and $225/youth ages 8 to 17. Children under 8 are free. The recommended meal plan is an additional $150 per person and provides three hearty meals per day. Beginning- and end-of-trip shuttles are available at $25 per paddler plus $25 per boat. Fees for all trips include camping, a t-shirt, a boat decal, maps, evening entertainment and educational speakers, flora and fauna guides, vehicle support for all gear, and all meals (if meal plan is purchased).
Paddle Florida has partnered with Aardvark’s Florida Kayak Company in Crystal River and Rainbow River Canoe and Kayak in Dunnellon to provide Withlacoochee paddlers with all their boating needs. The registration deadline is February 3.
Paddle Florida’s remaining schedule this season features these trips:
March 15-21, 2014: Dam to the Bay, on the Panhandle’s Ochlockonee River
From wild Tupelo honey to fresh Gulf oysters, experience the Panhandle’s Ochlockonee River which winds through state and national forest lands on 76 miles of Florida’s most remote wilderness river trail.
Registration deadline: March 1.
April 4-6, 2014: Second Annual Suwannee River Paddling Festival
The second annual paddling festival will take place at the Suwannee River State Park situated atop bluffs at the confluence of the Suwannee and Withlacoochee Rivers. It will feature Paddle Florida’s favorite entertainers in a Saturday evening benefit concert with proceeds benefitting Florida Defenders of the Environment. The festival will offer 12 to 20 mile paddling options on the iconic Suwannee and the Withlacoochee Rivers, a Water Expo showcasing conservation efforts, educational speakers, and local outdoor recreation vendors. Registration deadline: March 21.