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Kayak Destinations in Central and North Florida

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While many people think of Florida as a beach and saltwater activity destination, the truth is Central and North Florida has much more than just the ocean to offer its visitors. There are some very unique kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding opportunities in Central and North Florida's inlands rivers and springs. Check out some of those options here.

1. Kayak Coldwater Creek in Florida's Panhandle

Coldwater Creek Red Kayak
Photo © by George E. Sayour
Coldwater Creek is a wilderness paddling trip up in the Florida panhandle. The clear cold water with white sandy bottom is uncharacteristic for Florida, but doesn't quite fit in other states either. This creek makes for a great fishing, camping and kayaking weekend.

2. Kayak The Suwannee River Near the Georgia Border

Kayaking Big Shoals
Photo © by George E. Sayour
The historic Suwannee River is a classic Florida blackwater river. Finding its origin in Georgia’s Okefenoke Swamp, the Suwannee River cuts crosses into North Florida into the town of White Springs. Kayakers, canoeists, as well as spectators flock to see and some even dare to kayak Florida's only Class III whitewater rapid when the conditions are just right. Here is all of the information you'll need to paddle, canoe, and kayak the Suwannee River in White Springs, including the Big Shoals rapid and Stephen Foster State Park.

3. Paddling the Rainbow River

Rainbow River
© by George E. Sayour
While Florida is mostly known for its beaches, it also has one of the highest concentrations of natural spring fed rivers in the United States. Among these gems is The Rainbow River. Spring fed from multiple vents along the opening stretches of the river, the Rainbow River is crystal clear which makes viewing the multi-colored vegetation, largemouth bass, turtles, alligators, and even otters a regular occurrence for kayakers, canoeists, and paddleboarders. This article contains all the specifics about the Rainbow River, Rainbow Springs State Park, and paddling this classic Florida Spring.

4. Paddling and Fossil Hunting the Peace River

Peace River Kayak Beach
Photo © by George E. Sayour
Most people wouldn’t believe you could dig up fossilized shark teeth from a freshwater river unless they saw it with their own eyes. But it’s true. Florida's Peace River offers canoeists, kayakers, and even paddle boarders a paddling experience that is rich with gators, birds, fresh and salt water fish and many fossils. A typical Florida blackwater river, the Peace River originates in Bartow, Florida and snakes 106 miles to the Charlotte Harbor estuary at Port Charlotte. Here is all the information you'll need to canoe, kayak, camp, fossil hunt, and specifically look for shark teeth on this rare experience of natural history.

5. The Wekiwa River outside of Orlando

The Wekiwa River is one of Florida’s “Wild and Scenic” Rivers by Federal Designation. 42 million gallons of spring-fed water fill the river on a daily basiss. Wekiwa Springs finds its source from a 20 foot deep crater that leads into a deep cave in Wekiwa Springs State Park. Wekiwa Springs which means "spring of water" is often mistaken for the town of Wekiva Springs, meaning "flowing water.” This park can reach capacity rather quickly on weekends and holidays. Therefore it is best to plan this as an off-season trip or for late in the day during peak times.

6. Hillsborough River outside of Tampa

Opening to the public in 1938, Hillsborough River State Park is one of Florida's first state parks. The park is made up of over 1000 upland acres and more than twice that amount in wetland and submerged acre, making for some great kayaking and canoeing. For those interested in making a weekend out of it, Hillsborough River State Park has over 100 campsites and some great facilities. The river flows over limestone outcroppings and even has a series of class II rapids on them. However, don’t get any ideas as these are closed to boating. For those who do not have their own canoe, rentals are available in the park.
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