Like a good portion of Florida
, Weeki Wachee is an almost suburban, mostly or semi-rural
area in Hernando county
. It's claim to fame
is a tourist atraction
called the Weeki Wachee Springs Water Park
that falls at the intersection of SR 50 and US HWY 19 and has a "mermaid
" show. I have never seen the show and don't care to either. For many of the pale folks
who come to Florida for a tan and end up staying with their parents or grandparents in the numerous retirement
communities that abound in Hernando and the surrounding area, the water park is the place to go to get their skin browned
. The water park though is of little import.
The real jewel here is the Weeki Wachee river. This river comes from a natural spring that comes from the Florida aquifer. I don't dive (someday I will learn), but someone who works at the river's source, at a canoe rental business, has told me, that to dive deeper than 13 fathoms, you have to wear weights to pull you down past the upwelling of water. If I remember correctly, he said that it goes down about 200 feet, what happens at that point, I don't know. The river has at least one other hole for divers that I swam down to one time with a mask and flippers, but it was so cloudy I couldn't see anything. The Weeki Wachee river is 8 miles long from the source to its terminus at the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, there is a small county park called Rogers Park. Some folks in the area call it the Redneck Riviera. Along some parts of the river are houses, some with their own private beaches, so some folks are fortunate enough to be able enjoy the river whenever they like. Most of the river though is undeveloped, so there are trees and bushes and small 2 person sandy beaches to stop at and take in the surroundings along most of shores of the river.
Many people take advantage of the river's gentle nature and travel along it in canoes that can be rented from Weeki Wachee Canoe Rental at the source. Between the start of the river and the park, which is all I have seen of the river, the river is wide enough to accomodate a few canoes at a time and doesn't get too deep in most places. There is a small, public beach about halfway to Roger's Park where you can park and chill out. It can get crowded so get there quick if you want a space.
One of the main draws for the river is wildlife. Up to 35 manatees will winter there. I saw 12 one day last summer. The more obvious inhabitants are a number of different kinds of fish, quite a few different birds: pelicans; different kinds of egrets; ospreys; swallow-tailed kites; other types of hawks/eagles; at least 2 kinds of ducks and others. There are supposed to be alligators, but I have yet to see one. (Thank goodness!) Turtles and frogs and assorted snakes. And of course, the manatees. I was out on the river last Friday and I heard a something like a hiss and turned around scared because I thought it was an alligator. It was actually a manatee that was in a small nook on the side of the river catching a breath. A mother with 2 calves to be accurate.
An unfortunate side effect of people's interest in the river is the fact that people bring their big 20+ foot motorboats to the river, as if they were going out to the open water. Not only do these things stink, but while most of them do try to be cautious of any manatees that might be present, they do present a risk to them. Another thing is that some of these people don't realize that canoes have right-of-way and therefore hog the water and put the paddlers at an inconvience or risk as well. I heard some idiot had brought an airboat out the previous week and was literally blowing the canoes into the sand and trees along the water's edge.