The Wild, Wonderful Withlacoochee
February 9-14, 2021
Start: Marsh Bend Outlet Park in Lake Panasoffkee
End: Bird Creek Park on the Gulf of Mexico, just west of Yankeetown
Total Distance: 59-64 miles
Full Trip Fees:
Includes camping, meals, and shuttle
- $500/seniors (65+) and college students
- Paddle Florida Lite (4 or fewer days): $115/day (includes camping and meals, but not shuttle)
- Registration Deadline: January 26, 2021 or when trip capacity of 60 paddlers is reached
- Official Outfitter: Rainbow River Canoe & Kayak
|Day||Lunch Stop||Lunch Miles||Campsite||Daily Miles|
|1||N/A||N/A||Marsh Bend Outlet Park||0|
|2||Rutland Boat Ramp||6||Potts Preserve||14|
|3||Grey Eagle/Spruce Boat Ramp||10||Rainbow Springs State Park ||19|
|4||At Camp||N/A||Rainbow Springs State Park ||0-5|
|5||Goldendale Boat Ramp||10||Inglis Lock & Dam||17|
|6||END: Bird Creek Park||9||9|
Beginning at Lake Panasoffkee, paddlers will thread their way through hardwood swamps and tannic streams on a 60-mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico. The adventure includes a side trip to the colorful Rainbow River and its world class first magnitude spring
Evening Programs: Evening programs will include educational speakers and live music
Due to the financial outlay and costs incurred by Paddle Florida during event planning, any force majeure, which includes but is not limited to water levels, inclement weather, and any other Acts of God not mentioned herein, shall not result in the refund of any fees paid to Paddle Florida. Absolutely no fees will be refunded after 15 days before the event begins. Before each trip registration deadline, requests for fee refunds will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
***You will receive a confirmation email message 7 - 10 days before the event with all the latest details on the trip***
Shuttle Details: Paddlers will park their vehicles at the launch point, Marsh Bend Outlet Park in Lake Panasoffkee, for the duration of the trip. At trip’s end, paddlers and their boats will be shuttled back to vehicles at Marsh Bend Outlet Park.
Boat & Gear Recommendations
For this trip, we recommend sit in kayaks of at least 12 feet in length. This trip is for beginners-plus paddlers, you should have experience with a spray skirt and wet exit, and paddling in the wind. You should also be in moderately good physical condition and know how to swim. If you have questions about the kind of environment you will encounter on this trip please contact Bill Richards at email@example.com
Paddle Florida Policies
- All paddlers must attend the trip overview and orientation on the first evening. Paddlers must adhere to the safety guidelines presented.
- All paddlers must wear a properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (PFD) and whistle at all times on the water.
- Paddlers under age 18 are the responsibility of, and must be accompanied by, a parent or guardian. No more than two children under the age of 12 per adult guardian.
- Sorry, no pets allowed.
- All paddlers must provide an emergency contact information and sign a Waiver of Claims and Release of Liability form. Parents must sign for their children under the age of 18.
- People-powered watercraft only.
- Paddle Florida adheres to all rules put forth by the public parks we stay in, including the ban on alcoholic beverages.
- All paddlers must respect private property along waterways.
- All paddlers must have basic paddling and swimming skills
- Violations of any of these policies can result in the paddler being removed from the event without refund.
*Note that Day 3 & 4 we will be at Rainbow Springs State Park
Day 1/Tuesday, February 9: Marsh Bend Outlet Park, Lake Panasoffkee, Paddling Miles: 0
Our trip begins at Sumter County's Marsh Bend Outlet Park in Lake Panasoffkee, where we’ll camp the first night. Paddlers can check in between 1-5PM and set up tents prior to the kick-off dinner and orientation for the paddling adventure to come.
Throughout the week, dinner will be served at 6PM each night, followed by an evening program at 7PM. Nightly entertainment ranges from musicians to educational speakers who will provide insights regarding the flora, fauna, history, and ecology of the region we’re paddling through. We’ll eat breakfast at 7:30 each morning and launch boats from 8:30-9:00AM
Be sure to bring a camera to capture and preserve beautiful river scenes, wildlife sightings, and campfire memories.
Day 2/Wednesday, February 10: Marsh Bend Outlet Park to Potts Preserve, Paddling Miles: 14
After breakfast at 7:30 and breaking down camp, paddlers will launch their boats onto the Withlacoochee River from 8:30-9:00AM. We’ll follow that schedule each morning. One of the more interesting man-made features paddlers will experience on the river today is going through a lock together at Wysong Dam, which comes about two miles into the day’s journey
Our lunch stop will be about 6.0 miles downriver at Rutland Boat Ramp, another Sumter County Park. Along the way, we should see abundant wildlife, including turtles, fish, and many species of birdlife. Osprey, bald eagles, swallow-tail kites, woods storks, ibises, limpkins, and cormorants abound.
Today’s destination is Potts Preserve, a facility maintained by the Southwest Florida Water Management District. A section of the Florida Trail runs through the property, offering paddlers a chance to exercise their legs if they wish to after several hours of sitting in a canoe or kayak.
Day 3/Thursday, February 11: Potts Preserve to Rainbow Springs State Park, Paddling Miles: 19
Break’s over! Today is our longest mileage paddle of the trip, but as always we “go with the flow”…so no worries! Our lunch stop will be set up at Grey Eagle Boat Ramp about halfway into the day’s journey. The day’s paddling destination is Rainbow River Canoe & Kayak, which sits on the right bank of the Withlacoochee just past the mouth of the Rainbow River. From there, paddlers and boats will be shuttled to Rainbow River State Park Campground.
During our scouting trip for this river, after paddling four miles up the spring run against the current, it was decided this is something that we didn't want to subject our paddlers to at the end of a 19-mile day. You’re welcome!
Rainbow Spring is Florida's fourth largest spring and, from the 1930s through the 1970s, was the site of a popular, privately-owned attraction. Archaeological evidence indicates that people have been using this spring for nearly 10,000 years. The spring feeds the beautiful Rainbow River, and you’ll notice quite a difference in clarity and vibrant colors from the darker, tea-colored waters of the Withlacoochee.
Day 4/Friday, February 12: Layover day at Rainbow Springs State Park with optional paddle of Rainbow Springs. Paddling Miles: 0-5
We’ve scheduled a layover day at Rainbow Springs so that folks can explore the paddling gen of the head springs. Since we have no campsite to reach downriver today, paddlers are also welcome to take it easy, maybe paddle just a portion of the Rainbow River, enjoy a hike, read a book, take a nap, and rest up for tomorrow’s big miles.
Day 5/Saturday, February 13: Rainbow Springs State Park to Inglis Lock & Dam Paddling Miles: 17
Today we’ll experience two rivers, a lake, and a dam. We’ll start the morning with a paddle from the park down the colorful Rainbow River, with the current carrying us back to the Withlacoochee and through the town of Dunnellon. Our lunch stop will be about 9 miles downriver at Citrus County's Goldendale Ramp.
We’ll continue across the long Lake Rousseau, a birder’s paradise. One of the few man-made reservoirs in the state, it was formed in the 1920’s by the construction of a dam on the Withlacoochee River near the town of Inglis. Later, it was selected to be a significant part of the ill-fated Cross-Florida Barge Canal. Rousseau is approximately 12 miles long, one mile wide, and covers some 3700 acres. We’ll be crossing an 8-mile section. If it’s windy, put your spray skirt before launching from the lunch stop.
Paddlers will count down the channel markers to the canal for the Inglis Lock and Dam, our campsite for the night.
Day 6/Sunday, February 14: Inglis Lock & Dam to Bird Creek Park on the Gulf of Mexico, Paddling Miles: 9
Our final day of paddling will start with a short shuttle, as paddlers need assistance getting past the Inglis Spillway back to calmer waters of the Withlacoochee’s final stretch a couple miles downstream. This day’s easy paddle of 9 miles will be very scenic as we pass through the quaint village of Yankeetown. Fresh water will eventually give way to salt in the grassy flatlands of Florida’s Nature Coast as we near the Gulf of Mexico and our trip’s final destination. Shuttles will be waiting at Bird Creek Park, ready to whisk paddlers and boats back to their vehicles in Lake Panasoffkee, where we will have the final lunch.
PADDLE FLORIDA is a non-profit corporation that promotes water conservation, wildlife preservation, springs restoration, and waterways protection via fun and educational multi-day paddling trips in Florida’s most spectacular river and coastal environments. The vehicle for carrying out this mission is the staging of the multi-day paddling/camping trips in each of Florida’s five water management districts from October to April each year. Paddle Florida also seeks to promote Florida as an international destination for nature-based tourism in general, and paddling in particular.
Ranging from three to six days, trips are open to all paddling skill levels and designed to maximize enjoyment of Florida’s natural environments while engaging and empowering citizens so that they may become involved in the protection and restoration of our waterways.
If you wish to be pampered by professional guides, this isn’t the trip for you. But, if you want to experience a real community brought together under a common goal and by the thrill of adventure, Paddle Florida is the trip for you
The Meal Plan
Your Paddle Florida trip fee covers the meal plan, which provides hearty catered breakfasts and dinners, plus daily lunch snacks of assorted fruits, sandwich items, snacks, and drinks.
Each paddler is limited to two bags and a total of 40-pounds of luggage. You have to haul your baggage and place it in the gear truck each morning, and haul it back to your campsite each evening of the trip. After paddling all day (about 8,000 paddle strokes per day), a 40-pound bag is really heavy. We recommend you pack as lightly and tightly as possible. This saves your back and the backs of your fellow paddlers. Everyone is expected to assist with the loading and unloading of the truck during the week.
Items we would rather not see in your luggage include bulky chaise lounge chairs, framed bedding/cots, and boxes without tops. Your gear should be packed so that it will not get wet. In the afternoon, your baggage may be removed and placed outside the gear truck where it will be exposed to the elements. Overnight rains may result in gear being packed up wet. A wet tent on top of your clothes bag will result in wet clothes. Plan on inclement weather and make sure you have a bag that will protect important gear in the event of rain.
Please place a label on your luggage with your name on it and make sure your bags are secure.
Suggested Packing Lists
For Water: [Note: Unless you’re wearing it, every item you bring should be secured to your boat. Carabiners and bungee cords can be handy devices for this purpose.
- Boat and paddle. Need to rent? Contact Contact Rainbow River Canoe & Kayak.
- PFD. Every Paddle Florida participant must wear a Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device while on the river (no ifs, ands, or buts).
- Every kayak and canoe should have two lines, a bow line and a stern line, each 8-10 feet in length, secured in such a way that they are readily accessible, but cannot come loose accidentally. Loose ropes increase the risk of entanglement in the event of a capsize. Kayaks should have grab-loops at both bow and stern.
- An extra throw rope in case of emergencies should be stored safely in each boat.
- Attach a whistle to your PFD or body to signal for help in case of emergency.
- A knife.
- Waterproof matches or other fire source in waterproof covering.
- First aid kit—each vessel should bring a first aid kit stored inside a waterproof covering.
- Repair kit—each vessel should be able to make their own repairs (i.e., duct tape, sealant, waterproof tape).
- Rain gear—be prepared to get wet and potentially cold. Every participant should have access to a lightweight jacket or fleece, rain jacket, and rain pants or kayak skirt.
- Dry change of clothes—be prepared to take an unexpected swim. Every participant should have access to a dry change of clothes kept in a waterproof covering.
- Appropriate close-toed footwear that will protect your feet from unseen underwater hazards and permit you to walk comfortably on slippery and jagged limestone when launching and taking out. Flip flops do not meet these criteria.
- Sun protection—sunburn might be the trip’s biggest hazard. Bring ample sunscreen and wear a protective hat and sunglasses.
- Mask and snorkel? You’ll be paddling by a dozen or so springs on this trip. Explore them!
- Water—drinking water will be readily available along the Paddle Florida route. Bring sufficient water bottles for the day’s paddle for everyone in your boat.
- Food—there is little access to restaurants or grocery stores along the Paddle Florida route. Lunch snacks each day are provided to registered participants. You may also want to bring along your own snacks.
- Dry Bag or Ziploc—bring a waterproof bag to protect additional items you don’t want to get wet, like your camera or cell phone.
- GPS unit? We’ll give you a map, but a GPS unit might also be handy to note locations of campsites and springs.
- Sleeping bag, pad, and pillow
- Camp chair
- Clothes to keep you comfortable in temperatures generally ranging from 50-85 degrees. Think layers. You’ll likely be wearing more during potentially chilly mornings, then peeling off layers as the day progresses. Remember dry shoes for when you’re in camp and keep in mind there are often hiking trails available at the parks we camp in.
- Bathing suit, plus maybe a mask, snorkel, and/or fins. You will be paddling and camping near some of the state’s most beautiful first-magnitude springs on this trip. Enjoy them!
- Headlamp and/or flashlight.
- Toiletries and medications.
- Other tent items: reading materials, iPod, ear plugs…?
- A camera to record the awesome memories you’ll be making!
We look forward to paddling with you. Please contact us if you have questions!