Posts Tagged ‘Nature Coast’

A Slow Ride up the Withlacoochee River

Posted on: May 26th, 2016 by MB No Comments

 

 

Cypress trees on the Withlacoochee River

Getting Away from it all in Florida

Clearwater Beach to St Pete Beach on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida is a great place to spend time and is our home base.  This blog post, however, is about a nice little day trip away from our area which is very easy to take. We set our sights on a river cruise and hit the road on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Calm waters of the Withlacoochee River

The Withlacoochee River

The Withlacoochee River is a slice of Florida that takes you back to simpler times. The name Withlacoochee means little-big river. Because the river changes size drastically during rainy years, that is an apt name. The Withlacoochee starts in the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve which is Northeast of Tampa. The river flows Northwest to the Gulf of Mexico on a 141-mile course. The land is flat so the river flows rather slowly, a deceptive appearance considering how much water it can move. The river flows through areas that are lightly inhabited and often used for raising horses and cattle. If that sounds like a laid back place, it is.

Banks of Withlacoochee River

Covered Pontoon Boat Ride on the Withlacoochee River

Our Withlacoochee River ride started near Dunnellon, Florida at the dock next to a restaurant called Stumpknockers. We caught our ride with Capt Mike’s Lazy River Cruises, which, by the way, requires a reservation so that Capt Mike knows your coming. Our group and the others along only totaled eight people so it was a nice light load on the pontoon boat. It’s covered with a nice roof so it’s a good ride even on sunny days. Capt Mike knew the river very well and told us all kinds of interesting facts about the area.

Cypress reaching roots into Withlacoohee River

A Lazy River through Florida Swamps

After the tour, I looked down on the area on a map to see that our ride flowed through an area that had zero habitation to the north and very little to the south. The river takes care of that little detail by rising and falling dramatically, especially during very heavy rainfall years. Apparently 2004 caused the river to rise ten feet and grow to over a mile wide. On either side of the river grew a forest of cypress, mixed with a few other volunteers like palm trees, oaks, and pine. The cypress trees ruled the area, however, because of their ability to live in wet, swamp-like conditions. The river banks rose just few feet before a broad and seemingly endless flatland began. We could see between the cypress trunks for a very long way until finally, the volume of tree trunks cut off the view. I imagined trekking through that wilderness with its herds of deer, wide variety of birds, and other wildlife. Unfortunately, that list also included mosquitoes and biting flies, which made the safe position aboard the boat a welcome place from which to view the swamp. The sights were amazing and something few people get to see thanks to the challenging conditions present when on foot in such areas.

Flood marks on cypress trunks

Floodwater marks on cypress trunks

Wildlife and Wild Views

On our trip we received a lucky break when we pulled in close to something called a hummingbird moth. I didn’t know that kind of moth existed and might have seen it before without realizing since it looked and flew exactly like a real hummingbird. We spotted deer among the cypress trees, fish in the water, dragonflies, red shouldered hawks, swallowtail kites, wading herons, and baby alligators. The boat moved slowly, the river flowed in a clam, steady flow, and the forest blocked off the sounds of the world. It made for a very pleasant trip.

Deck on the Withlacoochee

Easy Day Trip Perfect for a Vacation

This boat tour sets out from a spot where Route 200 crosses over the Withlacoochee River. It is approximately two hours north of either Clearwater Beach or Disneyworld in Kissimmee, Florida. That’s a big day trip but if you are looking for something to soothe your soul during an otherwise hectic vacation, this is definitely the ticket.

Road sign in the Withlacoochee River

Other posts you might enjoy:

Sharing Natural Paradise of Three Rooker Bar

Discovering Egmont Key

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Sun reflected off the Withlacoochee River in Florida

Video of our ride down the Withlacoochie River.

 

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Posted on: March 29th, 2014 by admin No Comments

What is Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park?

Florida manateeHomosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is home to a variety of animals native to the state of Florida. The park is home to a many rescued animals, along with its other exhibits. The animals are displayed in open areas which make viewing easy. The park walkways wind among tall trees, providing plenty of shade for Gulf Coast’s warmer days. A bayou extends into the park which is frequented by manatees, one of the park’s main attractions. Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park emphasizes natural Florida Manatee at Homosassa Springsand the preservation of native species. It is a worthy stopover on a Gulf Coast vacation, especially for those who want to see manatees, alligators, or other native Florida species. The Homosassa Springs is a great place to spend the afternoon and makes great entertainment for kids.

Where is Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park?

Homosassa Springs boat rideHomosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located seventy miles north of Clearwater Beach. It is south of Crystal River Preserve State Park and north of Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. Crystal River, Homosassa Springs, and Chassahowitzka are all located on the coastline known as the Nature Coast of Florida. The park is situated on a bayou branching off from the Halls River. You will find the park in the community of Homosassa Springs off of Hwy 19 (Suncoast Blvd), or by taking the alternate route on Fishbowl Drive, which is a very scenic back road. An old sugar mill is nearby on the Fishbowl Drive route, for those interested in history. Homosassa Springs FloridaBoth parking areas leads to the same entrance but the large parking area off of Hwy 19 includes an informative and beautiful boat ride over to the parking area on Fishbowl Dr. We recommend the boat ride, because it starts at an interesting info center and gift shop. Plus, on your ferry to the park entrance, you can see the natural Florida environment and a good number of native animals living in the wild. The address of Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is 4150 South Suncoast Blvd., Homosassa, FL 34446.

What to See at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Homosassa Springs hippoOur first recommendation for things to do at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is the boat ride to the park entrance. If you miss this ride, you’ve cut out a vital part of the complete experience. You will hear plenty of interesting tidbits from the boat captain as you wind down the slow moving water channel. You might also learn some history, such as the names of famous movies filmed in the area, and about the only non-native animal in the park, Lu the hippopotamus, granted official state citizenship so that he could stay in the park after the end of his Hollywood movie career. You will find gift shops at either end of the boat tour.

Homosassa Springs manateeOnce you enter the park, where you go is up to you. The walkways wind in different directions throughout the park, displaying both native plants and animals. Any walk along the waterway should be done with your eyes alert. You will undoubtedly see manatees swimming in the bayou. Even better is the underwater viewing room where you can see schools of fish and any nearby manatees. Your chances of seeing the large marine mammals is very good, because park rangers feed them at regular intervals from above. You might also find a number of manatees inside of pens on the others side of the waterway, recovering from illness or injury suffered in the wild.

Florida pantherThe park is essentially a zoo, displaying Florida’s native species. You will see just about any bird you can imagine, plus some others. A few of the larger species are egrets, bald eagles, owls, and even turkeys. You can also view of deer, black bears, wolves, cougars, bobcats, alligators, and otters.

While the park has a concession stand, it is also a great place for a picnic. You also won’t want to miss the ice cream stand just past Lu the hippo’s pool. Alligator at Homosassa SpringsThe park makes for a great afternoon on a Florida Gulf Coast vacation and is just over an hour from Clearwater Beach, making it a great outing for the day. If you are going to strike out from the beautiful beaches of the Central Gulf Coast, Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is one of the best attractions out there.

Other blog posts you might like:

Suncoast Primate Sanctuary

Places to See Alligators on the Florida Gulf Coast

Top Theme Parks near Clearwater Beach



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