Of all places in Florida, the Withlacoochee River in Central Florida is my favorite place to paddle.
I grew up on this river, and as a kid I'd scoot around on the water in an old '60's jon boat. Whenever I'm back in the area, I can't resist getting back out there and reliving some of those old memories. I've fished with my dad and brother, kayaked, waded, swam and stomped around on the banks the entire length of the river over the years. Good times.
If you haven't spent much time on the Withlacoochee, you can make your own memories during Paddle Florida's Wild, Wonderful Withlacoochee trip from Feb. 16-21. The trip starts out at Marsh Bend County Park in Lake Panasoffkee, where the good folks from Sumter County are also hosting a pre-launch Paddle Party with food, entertainment, guided tours and the ability to try out kayaks for yourself. The pre-launch Paddle Party is free to attend, and the public is invited to take part.
Paddle Florida trip attendees will spend five days on the water, with overnight stops at some of the area's most scenic locations and parks. Total trip mileage is around 60 miles, not including a paddle down spring-fed Gum Slough, which takes place on day three.
If you can't make the whole trip, don't worry. Paddle Florida offers a "lite" package for folks who only want to paddle for part of the journey. This is a great option if you only have a day or two to spend on the water, or are looking to fill in sections of the river that you may not have had the chance to paddle previously.
For a complete trip schedule and to reserve your spot on this journey, visit www.paddleflorida.org.