Florida's Fabulous Springs

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14442A, Kayak


  • Stay in riverside cabins
  • Paddle pristine springs


  • All meals
  • All kayaks, kayaking gear, and instruction
  • Local guides, local knowledge, local cuisine
  • Transportation and shuttles during the trip kayak


DatesFeb 23–Mar 1, 2014
Min. Age18
StaffPatrick Nichols

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Trip Overview

The Trip

Discover the wild beauty that lured people to Florida long before the theme parks. Spend a week paddling crystalline springs and drifting on quiet waterways. Relish long, sunny days in a subtropical paradise. We will progress across Florida to a liquid landscape. Enjoy snorkeling, birding, Southern-style dinners, and camaraderie.

On this trip, we will kayak five scenic bodies of water. Blue herons, spoonbills, woodpeckers, anhinga, hawks, and eagles all live here. Cool spring-fed rivers and subtropical forest offer outstanding opportunities for swimming, exploring, and play. Every afternoon we will return to our home base.

Our trip will offer a variety of waterways to paddle, each with its own challenges and charms. Highlights include kayaking at the mouth of a spring where manatees winter and raise their young, and paddling down a wild and remote inland black-water river. A crystal-clear spring originating deep within the aquifer will transport us through a real Florida jungle.

This will be a wonderful opportunity for new and seasoned paddlers to see and experience the real Florida.


Day 1: We meet and greet at Silver River State Park at 4 p.m. After our cabin assignments and dry land kayaks demo, we gather for our first meal. Spend the evening hiking or strolling down to the Silver River.

Day 2: Blue Spring State Park covers more than 2,600 acres, including the largest spring on the St. Johns River. Blue Spring is a designated Manatee Refuge and the winter home to a growing population of West Indian Manatees. After a stroll and swim, we kayak the St. Johns River. Alligators and birds abound in this north-flowing waterway. 

Day 3: Today we have a seven-mile spring run! Discharging cool, clear freshwater at a rate of 107 cubic feet per second, Alexander Springs is one of the favorite destinations on the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway. The springs are a major scuba site, as well as a stop on the Great Florida Birding Trail.

Day 4: Rainbow River is our destination. We will paddle up to the head spring and explore an old Florida attraction that's been turned in to a state park. After lunch, we paddle and drift downstream. This river is crystal clear all the way!

Day 5: We will see the famous Silver Springs and glass-bottom boats today. Paddling upstream to the headwaters usually rewards us with sightings of monkeys. These guys are descendents of extras brought in to make the original Tarzan movies. As we kayak the Silver River, it is easy to see why Hollywood choose this location. Exotic birds and jungle sounds make you think Tarzan could swing down on a vine at any time.

Day 6: Juniper Springs, the crown jewel of Ocala National Forest. The water is sparkling clear, cool (72 degrees year-round) and great for a refreshing swim. The head-spring area has a swimming area and a first-rate nature trail that takes you along the pristine spring creek run. Our seven-mile paddle will take approximately four hours.

Day 7: Start the day with a morning hike before saying goodbye. After our final breakfast, we will gather up our belongings by 9 a.m. and depart for the airport.

This trip will operate under a permit from the Ocala National Forest.



Getting There

Silver River State Park is located just east of Ocala Florida. Participants can access directions from the Internet. If you need more detailed directions, contact Patrick Nichols at 407-616-6359.

Accommodations and Food

Accommodations are very nice "Cracker Style" cabins. The rooms are shared and quite comfortable. Expansive porches with rocking chairs make for a marvelous homey atmosphere. Food will reflect the local cuisine served with Southern style. Expect outstanding meals such as fire-grilled salmon and perhaps a cajun shrimp creole. The leaders will prepare the food and participants will get to help clean up.

Trip Difficulty

This trip is suitable for most beginner kayakers. If you are fit and flexible or a seasoned kayaker, you will enjoy these spectacular paddle locations.

Equipment and Clothing

All kayaks and kayak gear is included. A detailed list of recommendations will be sent to all participants.


  • Rawlings, Marjorie Kinnan, Cross Creek.
  • Van Doren, Mark, Travels of William Bartram.
  • Smith, Patrick D., A Land Remembered.
  • Larson, Gary, There is a Hair in My Dirt.


In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.

While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.

Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under a permit from the Ocala National Forest.



It's not Patrick Nichols' 35 years of wilderness experience or his extensive background as an outdoor enthusiast and wilderness educator that distinguish his tours from the ordinary. It is the exquisite attention to detail: from gourmet cuisine to the intricacies of paddling on quiet waters propelled by kayak. He is an ACA instructor, has trained with Red Cross water safety and is a wilderness first responder. His calling is to use the quiet skills of his lifetime to benefit every traveler, to ensure his skills and knowledge are shared by every voyager with an open heart and a curious mind.

Assistant Leader:

Joe Gallelli is a lifelong outdoorsman, active Outings leader, and certified Wilderness First Responder who enjoys sharing has woodcraft skills, native orchid passion, conservation pursuits, wildlife knowledge, and Native American interests with others. He paddles, swims, wades, hikes, backpacks, rambles, and scrambles to be in wildland and wilderness settings. Joe keeps himself fit and is particularly well adapted to camping and paddling in the southeast USA aquatic and marine environments.

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