Paddling the full length of Rock Springs Run in a kayak has long been on my bucket list, so when I returned to the Wekiva River Basin this fall, I had full intention to fulfill the promise.
It was not to be.
The popular course that originates at Rock Spring and ambles eight miles to the Wekiva River was blocked by fallen trees, starting three miles below Kings Landing, which is the only launch point from the top of Rock Springs Run.
You can still enjoy an upstream paddle through Emerald Cut, above Kings Landing to Kelly Park, then float back down past Kings Landing to the obstructed section of the run, then paddle back to Kings Landing.
The Emerald Cut from Kings Landing
It takes about an hour to paddle up Rock Springs Run through the Emerald Cut from Kings Landing to Kelly Park, and fast bloat back, about 20 minutes.
The swift currents you encounter on the upstream paddle can be challenging, especially in an inflatable kayak, as was a member of our group. The passage is narrow and shallow, and you are forced to negotiate branches, logs and tree stumps at times.
Still, it’s a scenic journey worth attempting. A gem, if you will.
The “Emerald Cut” gets its name from lush sub-tropical vegetation that lines the spring run at every turn. You can be blinded by the bright greens.
Below Kings Landing, the waterway is wider and deeper, making the currents less intense, at least down to the debris blockage, so the paddle back to Kings Landing is manageable for most skill levels.
Under normal conditions, Kings Landing offers a shuttle service for kayakers at the Wekiva Island take-out, 8.5 miles downstream, but that service has been suspended until Rock Springs Run is cleared.
Kings Landing launch fee: $10 (includes parking)
Rentals: Canoe, $30 (all day, seats 3); Kayaks: Single, $40, Tandem $50 (all day)
Shuttle services: Suspended until Rock Springs Run is re-opened
Camping: Nearby Kelly Park has a campground frequently used by Rock Springs Run paddlers. For more information, see Florida’s Rambler article: Cool Camping Near Orlando: Kelly Park/Rock Springs
Wekiwa Springs State Park access to Rock Springs Run is also blocked
An alternative float plan to paddle Rock Springs Run from the bottom up is also for naught.
Wekiwa Springs park ranger Diane Schwartz says debris from Hurricane Irma is widespread up and down Rock Springs Run, making it impassable even from the south end.
She said one paddler tried to portage through the debris going south from Kings Landing and got stranded, forcing a rescue team to pull him out by helicopter.
But the Wekiva River is clear, and paddlers do have access to the river from Wekiwa Springs State Park, just not the spur to Rock Springs Run.
This can either be an out-and-back paddle or a downstream float with only a few takeout options on the river. You’ll have to arrange your own shuttle to go the distance, but you can rent kayaks and canoes at the park.
Distances to takeouts
- Wekiwa Springs to Wekiva Island (Wekiva River) – 1 mile
- Wekiwa Springs to Katie’s Landing (Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park) – 10 miles
- Wekiwa Springs to St. John’s River — 15 miles
Camping is also available 9 miles downstream from Wekiwa Springs at the private Wekiva Falls RV Resort, which has its own spring run feeding the river with several primitive tent sites along its banks, as well as the river. Tent sites with electric are available elsewhere in the park, and the campground has more than 800 RV sites.
Day Use Fee for Wekiwa Springs State Park: $6. (Open 8 a.m. until sundown.)
Rentals: Canoe, $19.15 for the first two hours; Single kayak, $19.15; Tandem kayak, $24.81, at the park concession Canoe and kayak rentals available at Katie’s Landing in Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park.
Camping at Wekiwa Springs State Park: $24/night plus tax & $6.70 reservation fee. (Includes water, electric, sewer as well as park admission.)
Primitive camping on Rock Springs Run: $5/person per night
Wekiva or Wekiwa: It’s both (or not). Confused? The word is derived from the Seminole “wekiwa,” which means spring of water. Over the years, misspellings led to “wekiva,” but the Seminoles don’t have a ‘V’ in their alphabet. Orange County spells it with a ‘w’ while neighboring Seminole County spells it with the ‘v.’ Jim Toner of the Orlando Sentinel spells it out in this article: You say Wekiva, I say wekiwa
When will Rock Springs Run be cleared?
Rock Springs Run in surrounded by public lands managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection through the staff at Wekiwa Springs State Park.
Ranger Schwartz says work to clear Rock Springs Run and remove the debris was scheduled to begin in early December, but delays have occurred and she doesn’t have a new start date.
Given the scope of debris removal, she also had no estimate on when the job would be complete.
Wekiva Island and downriver
Wekiva Island is a private recreation park on the Wekiva River a mile below Wekiwa Springs State Park and the outlet of Rock Springs Run.
You can launch your kayaks and canoes here for a $10 fee for access to Rock Springs Run, a short hop upstream, or you can take the paddle downstream on the river, then back to Wekiva Island.
Another option to consider is the easy eight-mile float to Katie’s Landing at another state park, Lower Wekiva River Preserve, but you’ll need some additional planning besides just launch and go.
There is no shuttle service back, so if you want something other than an out-and-back experience from Wekiva Island, you’ll need to arrange your own shuttle with friends.
The best pickup point is Katie’s Landing in Lower Wekiva River Reserve State Park, just of State Road 46 west of Sanford.
Before Katie’s Landing, another takeout option is Wilson’s Landing Park, 387 Malekean Trail is Sanford, tucked behind the Osprey Hammock subdivision.
To be sure, the out-and-back experience at Wekiva Island is good enough for most people, and the river and spring run are fabulously scenic.
Additional amenities at Wekiva Island make it a fun day on the water. You can swim off the docks in crystal clear water, grab a beer at the outdoor patio bar and rent a cabana for small parties. Food is served, and the facility also has a volleyball court and plenty of parking.
The Wekiva River and its tributaries make up one of only two nationally designated Wild and Scenic Rivers in Florida. (The other is the Loxahatchee River in Jupiter.)
The river system is surrounded by publicly managed wildlife preserves, free of private property, save the commercial development at Wekiva Island and occasional private properties along the river.
Launch fee for private boats: $10 (includes parking)
Rentals: Canoe, $30 (all day); Single kayaks, $30; Tandem, $35; Paddleboards, $40
Weekend park admission: $1 per person.
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Notes from the editor:
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Bob Rountree is a beach bum, angler and camper who has explored Florida for decades. No adventure is complete without a scenic paddle trail or unpaved road to nowhere. Bob co-founded FloridaRambler.com with fellow journalist Bonnie Gross 12 years ago.