A personal trip so the camera taken was my Canon T7i (my beater kayak camera) and always the GO pro 7, 8, and Go Pro Maxx. This trip was made on a Friday, and based on my experience, there is no way in gator loving hell, I would do this location on the weekend.
I have been regularly kayaking for over a decade now and have done many locations in numerous states. In 2007 and 2008 I made at least one outing a month for each month in both these years. (2008 a few months got two trips.)
Some of the locations are places I have always wanted to go to, and some were me driving past and saying, “cool, let’s do it.” Then there are locations that I want to get added to the “It’s Paddled” list.
Weeki Wachee River was decided on this time because I was looking for a place I had not done yet. Being born and raised in Florida, and like most natives, I tend to avoid tourist areas, and Weeki Wachee is a well-known tourist spot. I figured let’s go on a Friday and get started as early as possible, which is pretty standard for me. For some crazy reason beginning at 8 am, or 9 am, seems like a waste of too much time to me.
I packed up the night before because, for me, this is a one hour and 20-minute car ride. I wanted a pre-dawn or at-dawn start and narrowed it down to three locations. Rogers Park being ideal because it sits at the end of the Weeki Wachee River before it funnels off into the Mud River. I went through numerous sites and found the access information almost useless.
Between COVID-19 rules and people being stupid in the way they describe things it quickly became so frustrating, I wanted to pull my hair out. Now since I don’t have hair due to self-inflected baldness with a razor, I decided to go with a public boat ramp that has 24 hours of access, which is always my preferred choice of launch points anyhow. I would settle on Jenkins Creek Park but was not completely happy because when I pull up the satelite maps, it would be a long paddle up and around to access the Weeki Wachee River.
I got moving, and it was a beautiful, quiet drive after leaving the house at 445am. I allowed extra time for my routine morning stops for a few minor supplies, coffee being the main component of any paddle morning. Now once over in that area, I was coming down Shoal Line Blvd and was passing Rogers park en-route to Jenkins Creek Park (public boat ramp), and I looked over and saw a boat dropping in the water. I did a U-Turn and went to see if I could get access from Rodgers park.
The night before, I kept finding that the hours of operation were 9 am for Rogers Park, but then a few people saying it was open 24 hours. People on forums and “professional guides” saying “open 24 hours but it opens at 9 am”
Now let’s clarify all that mess; The boat ramp is open 24 hours a day, and the launch fee is five dollars. You pay via an electronic pay station that takes credit and atm cards. It will give you a small slip that is good for 24 hours. Please put it on your dashboard there is a full staff that cares for this area, and they do check. The parking is no where nearly sufficient for the traffic this location receives, so when you do go -> go early.
There is one launch point for kayaks and canoes, and it’s a dual ramp. If you’re using a flat bottom kayak, you will find it very easy to get in and out of it here. If you have one with a “rounded bottom” use caution. I do like that there is a metal rail installed here, a lot like what you see in a swimming pool. This is very helpful for us round bottom kayak people who want to keep us from busting our ass getting in and out of ours.
Rogers Park JT-Pros & Cons:
Launch point Pros: Bathrooms, plenty of trash bins, well kept, 24 hours boat ramp access (park opens at 9 am), a dual launch point with a metal support rail for canoes/kayakers, electronic self-pay option and the parking is paved.
Kayaking Location Pros: crystal clear waters from start to finish, plenty of places to pull over to enjoy the water and river scenery, and the chance to see a manatee are excellent. It is quite beautiful in the undeveloped sections. I love some of the homes along the river. They have a lot of style and every person from these houses, I talked with briefly were very friendly.
Launch point Cons: There is not enough parking, so when the day kicks in. The kayak rental companies keeps this place bustling. With the amount of kayak rental traffic, they should have more that one access point. (But they really could not add one due to limited space) They do not want you to use the boat ramps for canoes or kayaks at all.
Kayaking Location Cons: Motorboats are permitted upstream, and it can get congested. For the complete novice paddle-board, canoe, or kayaker. Launching from here going upstream will be a tough trip. I would suggest coming downstream; instead, you will have a more enjoyable experience. Not many places to explore along the river, no little side areas for you to investigate.
Trip Vent: Some of the river going people are not avid boaters or kayakers and do not quite understand boating etiquette. Many are not very courteous on numerous occasions; there was a lot of disrespect shown to the park, river, and COVID rules in place from the state and county.
* Now you may want to stop me here and say JT, your not being fair; they are just out having a good time, and to that, I say if you want a watered-down review that blows sunshine up your ass, you may want to go somewhere else for one.
People can go out, have a good time, and not be rude, obnoxious jerk offs and I have heard less cursing in bars at 2 am. People have their kids out here and some simple courtesy would be nice. Anyhow enough venting on that back to the day …
I got myself settled into my kayak and started my day, which put me on the water at 6:15 am, but about a 2-mile mark, I realized I forget one of my small underwater cameras and had to go back and get it. There are mile markers on this river, which is extremely helpful when trying to figure how much longer you have to go, which is a tad over six miles before you hit the turn around no vessels beyond this point. You have reached the park where the springs are so you can not paddle any further. I headed back and was already running into even more daily paddlers, which is always great to see with some exceptions (explained above in the Trip-vent)
NOW, taking the route I took it is a 6-mile upstream paddle against a constant swift current, so when you stop paddling, you will start drifting back downstream. If you’re a regular kayaker like myself, then #paddleondude, you’ll be ok, but you will still feel it, and it’s a great work out. If you have an older kayak like me or a cheaper one, your ass cheeks will begin protesting your paddling decision as the day goes on. The scenery is stunning once you get away from the house lined river banks, and the water is indeed some of the most transparent in Florida.
The paddle upstream is a bit swift so you just can’t just cruise along and enjoy yourself; you have to save that for the trip back. There are a few animals along the way, but if you’re looking for a ton of gators and an abundance of creatures, you are better off going somewhere else. There are way too many people on the river during the daytime, so animals are not going to hang out here during the day very long, but your chance of seeing a manatee is still quite good.
The trip up was a workout but worth every minute, and the paddle back was excellent as well. There were times when I had the quiet of the river, but it did not last long due to the number of people out on this day. As the day moved on, the river just got busier and busier because the kayak rental places are feeding the river with people wanting to paddle for a day.
I have NO issue with people enjoying the water, but keep in mind that I enjoy the kayaking experience and not just the act of kayaking. I do not mind interacting with people on the water and often look forward to it, but when it seems like an interstate at rush hour, that is when the joy gets sucked right out of the trip. I hope they all enjoyed their day, but this location is one that has now has been marked off my “to-paddle list,” but it there is a strong possibility I will not do it again.
If you just want a day of kayaking drop in at the top and paddle down and you’ll have a good time. I did not dislike the location or my decision to go. As an avid kayaker that enjoys the experience completely it is not a location I would personally go to again. I might give it a another chance once COVID passes and people are back to work and school. I just have too many other places I can go and have a bio vet experience. If you are an avid kayaker go ahead and do it, because it is one to have on your kayaking list. Just start early and enjoy the peace while it last.
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