In Florida, you don't have to look very hard to find great places to paddle.
In the Ocala National Forest, Alexander Run is one of those paddling spots that has a little bit of everything – easy access, wildlife, wonderful scenery and a slow current to gently push you along.
It's the perfect length for a day trip, too – at six miles, you can easily take a canoe trip and still have plenty of time to take a swim at the headsprings when you’re all done.
Unfortunately, there isn't a shuttle service at Alexander Springs. But here's a tip: Plan ahead and invite a friend and drive separately. Park one vehicle at the take-out at 52 Landing, and shuttle back to Alexander Springs Recreation Area. That way you can enjoy the whole spring run without having to travel back against the current and doubling your mileage.
Starting out, the run is fairly narrow. Largemouth bass, mullet, blue crabs and other species are easily visible in the gin-clear water, and you may see an alligator or two sunning on the banks. Herons and egrets are common sights on the shoreline – depending on the time of year, you may see swallow-tailed kites soaring overhead.
Downstream, the run widens, offering a broad view of the Alexander Springs Wilderness. As you make your way further down, the width of the run varies from very wide to narrow, much like it was closer to the launch point.
If you don't have a boat, Alexander Springs has rental Grumman aluminum canoes available with reasonable rates. If you are renting, you'll pay at the gatehouse along with the day use fee.
What You'll Need
Like most paddling trips, make sure you have a wide-brimmed hat, and sunscreen, and wear quick-dry clothing. Snacks are advisable, and be sure to bring plenty of water along to stay hydrated.
If you're renting a canoe, make sure you have $20 cash for the canoe deposit. You can pay the rental fee on a credit or debit card, but the deposit has to be cash.
Pack electronics (cellular service varies along the run) and other items in waterproof drybags. PFD's (Personal Floatation Devices) are provided with the rental canoes.
If you plan on fishing during your paddling trip, make sure you have a valid Florida Freshwater Fishing License.
Stay and Play
Afterward, plan to stick around and cool off in the headsprings. Like most springs in the Ocala National Forest, it's a popular summer destination. If you want to hang out for a few days, tent and RV campsites are available. Book early; these sites can fill up quickly.
For more information, visit www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/ocala/recreation/recarea/?recid=32295