Our Paddleboard Adventure on the Wekiva River

By Mike Black

By Mike Black

It was an early morning for us on Sunday. Rising with the sun, Trey and I made our way out to Apopka for an eight mile excursion down the Wekiva River, one of the most pristine spring-fed waterways in Central Florida.

Upon our arrival we were greeted by the colorful staff at Kings Landing, the head of our aquatic expedition. Our Get Local guide, Das, rolled up shortly thereafter loaded down with a mountain of paddleboards for our group.

Our truck full of paddleboards for our Wekiva River Paddleboard tour

Get Local Tour Guide, Das, Providing a little Paddleboard Instruction

There were eight of us in all – some with more paddleboard experience than others. After a brief introduction, we hopped on our boards and paddled down the narrow canal to a serene sandbar in the middle of the river. There we stopped and received a rundown from Das on what to expect from the Wekiva River.

The river poses several challenges: gators, sharp turns, and downed logs. Everyone needed to stay alert and help warn others whenever one of these obstacles might arise. “Turkey bumper!” was the agreed upon code word for downed logs in the river. As you might gather, this tour is for those with a healthy sense of adventure, not easily intimidated by a few deterrents.

Related: Take this tour with Get Local!

After this instruction we were on our way. Das pulled out his waterproof speakers, providing some modern entertainment as we soaked in the gorgeous natural scenery. As we cruised down the river atop our paddleboards, schools of bass floated by beneath our feet, herons hung out on the banks, and turtles hopped off of logs.

We didn’t see any gators on our trip (they never bother tour-goers anyhow), but the “turkey bumpers” were out in force. We all had a good laugh every time it was shouted out, and also when we fell victim to a log that wasn’t spotted. There was more than one instance of a group member taking an unintentional swim in the river (no worries though, the constant 72 degree water is actually refreshing).

 

Group members relaxing on a paddleboard during our Wekiva River paddleboard tour

 

Halfway through our trip, we stopped along the banks of the river to relax, rehydrate and enjoy a little snack. Everyone was thrilled to find out Phil, one of the group members, had come prepared with a great spread of cheese, salami and tangerines. For a half hour, we sat on our paddleboards enjoying ourselves and sharing some laughs, deep in the wilderness.

Water lilies in the Wekiva River on our Paddleboard Tour

It was just after this break that we came upon the most charming part of the river. Thick water lilies abound, defining the path as the river twists and turns like some sort of rally course. The river narrows, increasing the speed of the current, and the water clears up, losing much of the reddish hue encountered along the first half of the journey.

With the increased speed of the current, paddling became more of a steering exercise than a necessity for propulsion. We wove our way through the lilies, dodged the logs in the river, and ducked under palm fronds hanging from the banks. 

Between the beautiful scenery and the entertaining challenges posed by the river, the last four miles of our trip seemed to fly by. We arrived at Wekiva Island, the terminus of our tour, a little after 1 PM. Here we pulled our boards on shore, stripped off our wet clothes, and made our way to the bar overlooking the river for a celebratory beer.

 

Paddleboarding the Wekiva River near Orlando

 

As I sat and enjoyed my craft beer at the bar, I reflected on the trip, appreciating how lucky I am to live in Florida. After all, there aren’t many places in the States that you can head out on a paddleboard tour in the middle of January in board shorts! It’s amazing that just a short drive from downtown Orlando, I could find myself in another world, humbled by nature. I can’t wait for our next tour!