Paddling the Withlacoochee River Gum Slough
By Kevin Mims
If you've done much paddling around Florida, chances are you've heard about Gum Slough. Located on the Withlacoochee River near Inverness, this is one of Florida's wildest spring runs.
It's not hard to find, and isn't really considered a secret. It's just super wild and untamed, and that's what makes it a blast. If you don't go with a group, chances are you'll be the only one paddling the Gum Slough, especially on a weekday.
To access Gum Slough, head to the end of Turner Camp road in Inverness. There's a good ramp, but no bathrooms or other facilities. You'll be heading left towards Potts Preserve on the river, and there you'll find a bathroom just before reaching the entrance to Gum Slough.
At first, Gum Slough seems like any other small offshoot of a river, but the further upstream you paddle, the clearer the water gets. Keep your eyes peeled for hawks and osprey flying overhead and through the canopy of cypress trees. Also, this is a good spot to check out Greenfly orchids and colorful Cardinal flowers. Below the water's surface, eelgrass waves in the current, and signifies that Gum Slough is a healthy system.
I mentioned that paddling the Gum Slough is a challenge, right? This isn't an improved paddling spot, but is one that is well worth seeing. Be prepared to pull your boat over tons of snags and around lots of obstacles. Sit on top kayaks and inflatable paddleboards are recommended - you'll be getting out quite often and banging into stuff the whole way, so leave the sea kayaks at home.
Gum Slough goes on for miles. It's a super long day trip if you are trying to reach the headsprings, but even if you don't make it that far, it's a heck of a good time. Plus, it's an excuse to go back and paddle it again. For more information, see http://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/recreation/areas/gumslough.html, or Lars Andersen from Adventure Outpost has an awesome post, too.
For this and other outdoors and nature trip ideas in Florida, go to VISIT FLORIDA's Official outdoors guide for travelers.