Magic in the Water, Florida

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14070A, Kayak


  • Kayak with manatees at the St. Johns River
  • View Blue Spring, a manatee refuge
  • Enjoy incredible birding on Canaveral and Merrit Island 


  • All on-trip transportation and meals
  • Kayak rental and instruction
  • Log house lodging on a 700-acre ranch 


DatesMar 16–22, 2014
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 where you may be greeted by dolphins, manatees, and throngs of birds. We will progress across Florida to a liquid landscape where alligators live in close proximity to space shuttles. Enjoy snorkeling, birding, fishing, 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, a highly rated Florida-style log home retreat. We return each evening to our air-conditioned, two-story log home to exchange memories of the day and share a delicious dinner.

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 at Orlando International Airport at 3 p.m. Those who wish to drive will be given directions to the lodge. After greetings and introductions, we will start "dry land" instruction and kayak orientation.

Day 2: After breakfast we'll head for Blue Springs State Park. This is a manatee sanctuary with the highest level of protection (almost 200 were spotted in one day last year). Expect outstanding manatee viewing in the clear waters of this amazing spring. We'll launch our kayaks here and paddle in to the St. Johns River, where the manatees spend their days.

Day 3: Today we head for the beach! We will be on Canaveral National Seashore. Friendly dolphins often swim by as we kayak through a fantastic intercoastal lagoon. We will always make time for a swim and stroll on this 16-mile expanse of undeveloped beach.

Day 4: This morning we'll head for Merrit Island National Wildlife Refuge, with perhaps the best birding in the state. At this time of year an incredible variety of birds from all over enjoy this well-managed refuge. Alligators can be seen basking in the warm shallows with the space shuttle's launch pad as a backdrop.

Day 5: Rock Springs sparkles like liquid diamonds in the sun. We will launch near the headspring and drift down this canopied clear spring run. This is one of your leader's favorite places to paddle. Limpkins, ibis, and herons lead us down this exotic river.

Day 6: We'll continue on a spectacular local favorite, the Econlockhatchee River. This is a black-water river that seems to have been forgotten in time. Narrow and twisting, it reveals secrets at every bend.

Day 7: Start the day with a morning hike and then say goodbye to the ranch and our wonderful log home. After our final breakfast, we will gather up our belongings by 9 a.m. and depart for the airport.



Accommodations and Food

Our accommodations are a comfortable, air-conditioned Florida-style log home on a 700-acre ranch shaded by century-old oak trees. The dinners are themed and all meals are served, and flavored, with Southern style.

Trip Difficulty

This trip is geared for the novice to intermediate sea kayaker. The waterways we will travel are non-technical. Participants should be in good physical condition and at least 18 years old. Our average paddling time will be three to five hours a day.


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 Canaveral National Seashore.



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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