Homosassa River... Paddling with Manatees
The Homosassa River is fed by Homosassa Springs, and flows 8 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. This is a prime manatee viewing area, the water around the spring maintains 72 degrees and manatee inhabit the area year-round. Because the mineral content of the water resembles salt water, both freshwater and saltwater fish can be found here. The spring is within Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, but access from the river is restricted as the park is a wildlife refuge. (Detailed map, photos and more description below.)
We kayaked the five miles from the town of Homosassa to Homosassa Springs and back. Free launches are available in Homosassa from the boat dock at MacRae's or from the kayak launch behind Riversport Kayaks; we recommend the kayak launch and its easy trailer parking area. As we exited the canal from the kayak launch, Monkey Island (maintained by a local restaurant) was directly in front of us, with its mock lighthouse and home to a family of resident monkeys.
Proceeding upstream the river is wide and can be rough when windy, watch for the many tour boats, motorboats and pontoon boats. In this section houses line the river, and many canals off the river wind through housing developments. After 1.5 miles the Halls River feeds into the Homosassa, another paddling-friendly river we'll explore on another trip. The Homosassa narrows past this point and the spring is another 3/4 mile. Some boaters told us they had seen a manatee, but we did not see any on this trip.
The clear water from the spring becomes tannic and then brackish as it approaches the Gulf. Downstream from the town the Homosassa goes into an undeveloped area, with mangrove islands and saltwater grass flats - a popular fishing area. The river branches off into several channels, the main channel is full of motorboats but navigating out of the main channel requires a good nautical map or GPS.
More information on paddling at Homosassa River (opens in a new window):
Paddling in Florida - Kayak, Canoe
Support and AdvocacyFriends of Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park