Day Trippin’: Manatees on the Wakulla River
When I saw that chubby little baby manatee right under our canoe on a recent trip down the Wakulla River, I’m almost certain I squealed with delight! I, along with my husband and kiddo, had just set off from the shore when a fisherman nearby told us there were two manatees under the bridge. As we floated over the pitch black water, made so dark by the bridge shadow, a huge floating brown and mossy mass appeared immediately under our canoe. It wasn’t until I saw that pint sized calf swimming by its side, no more than 3 feet long, that I realized it was a manatee mama with her babe! What a treat getting to see such a special sight, and we had been on the water no more than 5 minutes. So goes a day on the Wakulla.
The Wakulla River and the enormous spring that feeds it is one of my favorite gems in Tallahassee. The spring itself is the largest and deepest freshwater spring in the world. Every time I have embarked on the river I have been witness to some gorgeous Floridian flora and fauna. Manatees, gators, birds, fish, gorgeous flowers and elegant tree canopies that hang over the river’s edge. It’s an awe-inspiring place to visit and it’s a short drive from the heart of Florida’s capitol. On the weekends, you’ll see recreational boaters in motor driven boats so it isn’t always completely silent. But when those boats disappear around the river bend and it is quiet, you’ll be in for a real treat. There are few things that match the beauty of a peaceful moment gently floating down stream on a gorgeous Florida day.
Don’t own a boat of your own? Don’t despair! T-n-T Hideaway, a locally owned business 20 miles south of town on State Road 98, makes canoe or kayak rental easy and affordable, even for the cash-strapped college crowd. A 3 person canoe set us back a cool $40 for 4 hours, equipment included. Not bad for such a priceless experience. They also offer various kayaks and stand-up paddleboards so you're sure to find the aquatic vehicle that suits your fancy. For our river trips, we like to bring plenty of water and pack a cooler filled with lunch and snacks. There are plenty of spots on the river where you can park your boat atop some thick river grasses and enjoy your lunch under the tree canopy. And don’t forget the sunscreen!
To sum up how I think you’ll feel after taking a day trip up to waters of the Wakulla River, I’d like to quote my 5 year old when she expressed how she felt about our day of paddling and manatee spotting: “This was the best day of my life.” So what are you waiting for?
(Just a reminder if you spot a sea cow on the river: look, don't touch! Manatess are an endangered species, protected under the federal Endangered Species and Marine Mammal Protection Acts and the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act. Touching, riding, poking, feeding or giving water, chasing and surrounding manatees or seperating a mother and calf are illegal acts that are federal crimes punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 an/or a year in prison.)