Kayaking The Ichetucknee River: The Perfect Afternoon Paddle (With Turtles!)

After spending a lot of winter time in Gainesville , I finally kayaked the Ichetucknee River. At the end of 2020. As I write this over a year later.

So maybe I forgot about this post, it happens. But we’re here today and I’m going to convince you to kayak Ichetucknee Springs, too. I hope. Because it’s beautiful.

kayaking ichetucknee river gainesville florida
kayaking ichetucknee river gainesville florida

This was a last minute decision and on election day, we headed out ready to hit the springs. This was a good way to spend the day not worrying about politics, I will say that.

We showed up at the rental place in the late-morning or early afternoon and were able to get one really easily. There really wasn’t even anyone else there which was promising for who was on the river.

turtles on a log kayaking ichetucknee river gainesville florida
kayaking ichetucknee river gainesville florida

Once we got the kayak, they dropped us off at the launch and told us to call when we got to the end, ready to be picked up. This was really convenient because now we didn’t have to figure out how to get a kayak around.

We hit the springs and went for a pretty leisurely kayak on the river. It was pretty easy paddling since you’re going downstream, you don’t have to work as much.

kayaking ichetucknee river gainesville florida
kayaking ichetucknee river gainesville florida

Obviously, you still have to steer but it’s nothing strenuous and beginner kayakers would be fine on here. We only saw two or three other small groups of people the whole time we were on the river, which was probably 2-3 hours.

While we might not have seen many people, we saw tons, literal tons, of turtles. We saw the cutest tiniest baby turtle ever, ten on one log, dozens at any point in time. The kid who likes turtles would love it here.

kayaking ichetucknee river gainesville florida
kayaking ichetucknee river gainesville florida

You would thinking after the first few I’d get over being so excited about seeing them but I didn’t. It’s like moose and alligators. I love them all. I love all the wildlife, who am I kidding?

We took our time making our way down the river and didn’t want to rush. It was the perfect day. It was sunny but not too hot, not too humid. It would have been hard to get better than that.

kayaking ichetucknee river gainesville florida
kayaking ichetucknee river gainesville florida

This is the perfect activity that really embodies outdoor Florida. I know this is a really popular thing for locals to do but I’m not sure how many people really visit this area on a Florida road trip.

If you have, let me know what you thought of it! I know we’ll be spending a lot more time in the area and want to make the ultimate guide to road tripping the Florida springs and this whole Gainesville/North Central area.

kayaking ichetucknee river gainesville florida
kayaking ichetucknee river gainesville florida

I would highly recommend renting a kayak and kayaking down the river if you’re in the area. It’s beautiful scenery with 72 degree water year round and incredibly clear blue/green water.

Like, really. The water is incredible. And even if you don’t visit this spring, Blue Springs, Ginnie Springs, Ponce de Leon Springs, and so many more are totally worth visiting for an awesome spring experience, which you have to have if you’re in the area.

The cypress trees tower over you while the Spanish moss hangs down. Sea grass floats up from below and in the winter when it’s cooler outside, manatees can be seen chowing down on that sea grass in the river. I would love to be able to see that!

kayaking ichetucknee river gainesville florida
kayaking ichetucknee river gainesville florida

Where is the Ichetucknee River?

Either side of the park is about an hour from Gainesville, just outside of the little town of Fort White. If you’re kayaking, you’ll be going in through the north entrance and that way you’re going with the current.

kayaking ichetucknee river gainesville florida
kayaking ichetucknee river gainesville florida

Ichetucknee kayak rentals

I think we rented our kayak from Ichetucknee Family Canoe and Cabins by the north entrance to Ichetucknee Springs State Park. It was just right on the side of the highway.

It’s $25 for the day and they dropped is off then picked us up which was really nice to not have to worry about moving a kayak around.

It looks like there’s an option to rent them online (I’m not sure how that works, it didn’t have a date option) but we just showed up and got one. I would guess they could sell out in the summer but I don’t know how many they have.

If you want to be on the water and not kayaking, you can always rent tubes and tube down the river, too. Or use paddle boards.

kayaking ichetucknee river gainesville florida
kayaking ichetucknee river gainesville florida

Wildlife on the Ichetucknee River

This isn’t as great for seeing wildlife as other places in Florida, but chances of seeing something are pretty high. It just might not be the most exciting wildlife. Maybe. But here are some things to keep your eyes peeled for:

  • Turtles (So. Many. Turtles.)
  • Manatees (possibly, in winter)
  • Eastern Indigo Snake
  • American Kestrel
  • Sherman’s Fox Squirrel
  • Alligators
kayaking ichetucknee river gainesville florida
kayaking ichetucknee river gainesville florida

Best time to kayak the Ichetucknee River

I don’t think there is a bad time to kayak the Ichetucknee River but I liked doing this in November. We actually went on election day and that might have been why it was so slow. Who knows.

We only saw like, three other people in the few hours we were on the river. Totally worth it. Summer will be busier since this is a great way to cool off but winter could be busy, too (not as busy as summer) because it’s not as hot.

Basically, no bad time to do this but I liked going in November. Not too hot, not too cold, not busy. It was a good day.

kayaking ichetucknee river gainesville florida
kayaking ichetucknee river gainesville florida

Is it worth kayaking the Ichetucknee River?

Yes! I loved this. It was beautiful and I loved seeing all the turtles on the river. This is also a great option if you want to get outside but it might be too cold to swim (in the winter at least.) It’s also a good alternative to hiking if you want to give your legs a break for whatever reason.

Have you kayaked Ichetucknee Springs? What did you think of it? Do you want to do it? What is your favorite Florida spring?

2 thoughts on “Kayaking The Ichetucknee River: The Perfect Afternoon Paddle (With Turtles!)

  1. Kayaking the Ichetucknee River was a beautiful way to spend the time reading from sub-zero Colorado. Nice photos and wonderful turtles. Thanks for sharing.

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