Wakulla Springs Boat Tours

ManateeThis week, an interesting looking event was sent in to us to be shared on the Community Calendar, Saving Wakulla Springs Overland Tour.  The description of the event and the image of the manatee both reminded me of my family’s adventure a few summers ago, on a boat tour along Wakulla Springs.  Nature lovers and outdoor adventurers can enjoy viewing an amazing array of wildlife in their natural habitat and much more, exploring Wakulla Springs.  Whether you join the caravan tour next weekend or just plan a visit on your own sometime, we hope you’re often able to take the time to enjoy all of our area’s local parks and trails.

Originally shared a few summers ago….

Our Visit

For a while now, I have been wanting our family to visit Wakulla Springs for a river boat tour.  Today was finally the big day and we had a blast!  We got a late start to the day, but were lucky to make it in time for the 5pm boat tour…last one of the day.  We were afraid it would be canceled due to the sudden intermediate rain storms after we got there, but fortunately, our boat left the dock and we were off on an adventure, spotting wildlife along the way.

The boat tour was guided by a park ranger, who helped us spot the native wildlife.  We saw many kinds of birds, including our favorite, the blue heron, as well as fish jumping out of the water, turtles and alligators sunning on logs and manatees floating and slowly gliding along the water’s surface.  The information we learned from the park ranger about the history of the river and the wildlife living there was very interesting and refreshed our appreciation for our native surroundings.  We really are so lucky to live in Tallahassee where our community and its surrounding areas have an abundance of beautiful nature, readily accessible, to enjoy and learn from.

When visiting Wakulla Springs, there are many activities to enjoy.  There are plenty of picnic tables and pavilions to have a picnic or cookout at, as well as lot’s of open space to play sports.  There are hiking trails too.  When you’re ready to cool off you can go swimming in the spring and play in the sand.  There are docks to walk and even jump off of and climb back up on to.  There’s even a diving platform, high up in the air, with a lifeguard on duty, to jump way down to the water from for the dare devils.

The kids enjoyed playing in the spring while we waited for our boat tour.  I would recommend arriving well before the time you wish to depart on your tour in order to ensure your reservation on the boat.  The boat tours are very popular, especially on the weekend.

Wakulla Spring Boat Tours

The River Boat Tour along the Wakulla River is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the Tallahassee area. The 40-60 minute world-class wildlife viewing event takes visitors on a three mile loop downstream and back among majestic bald cypress trees, elegant wading birds and toothy alligators. Manatees are often sighted, but their presence is not dependable. A camera is highly recommended to capture the candid images of the river’s fauna.

The ranger-led tour not only highlights the wildlife, but often includes stories of human interactions with the spring. They sometimes feature the lives of indigenous peoples, movies filmed during the Edward Ball years, and/or the more recent adventures of explorations within the caves that bring water to the spring.

The River Boat Tours run 365 days a year weather permitting (Temperatures must be above 40 degrees and tours are not conducted during thunderstorms.) The boats are 30 feet long and have a roof. There is also a wheelchair accessible boat that is available upon request.

The Waterfront Visitor’s Center opens at 9:30am and the first boat departs at 9:40am. Succeeding tours depart at varying times, depending on visitor demand. Greater visitation results in more frequent tours. The last tour of the day during Standard Time departs at 4:30pm EST. The last tour of the day during Daylight Saving Time is 5:00pm EDT. The cost of the tour is $8 for adults (13 years old and up), $5 for children (ages 3-12); under the age of three there is no charge.

Tickets are available on a first-come-first-served basis for the next scheduled tour of the day only. Because of the unpredictable and sudden nature of North Florida weather, tickets are not sold for tours beyond the next one scheduled. Reservations are not available. Groups of 20 or more are encouraged to make prior arrangements to assure tour accommodations.

Special Early Boat Tours and Cruise and Dinner packages are available on special dates throughout the year. Please see the park’s special event section for dates, times and associated fees.

Glass-Bottom Boat Tours over the spring basin have become the exception rather than the rule in recent years. Tea-stained or green water impedes the penetration of light needed to view the impressive features of the 120 foot deep chasm of Wakulla Spring. Heavy rains, combined with other unknown factors, are thought to be the cause of decreased visibility.

On those rare days (usually in late winter or early spring) when the “mysterious waters” of Wakulla Spring may momentarily regain their aquamarine tint and crystal clear quality, the gasps of visitors moved by the spring’s abyss can once again be heard. The ancient remains of great furry elephants (mastodons) can be seen resting on the basin’s steep sandy slopes. Schools of catfish dance in the spring’s depths, fish conventions follow the boat, and even out-of-practice Henry-the-Pole-Vaulting-Fish may choose to entertain upon request of the captain.

When possible, the 30 minute Glass-Bottom Boat Tour departs at 12:00pm, 1:00pm, and 2:00pm weather and water clarity permitting. The tour times endeavor to take advantage of the sun’s best light. The cost of the tour is $8 for adults (13 years old and up), $5 for children (ages 3-12), and under the age of three there is no charge. To avoid disappointment, it is strongly suggested that the park be contacted prior to expected visitation to ascertain the feasibility of glass-bottom boat operation. Water quality conditions can change rapidly and unexpectedly.

Wakulla Springs State Park

Home of one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world, this park plays host to an abundance of wildlife, including alligators, turtles, deer, and birds. Daily guided riverboat tours provide a closer view of wildlife, and glass bottom boat tours are offered when the water is clear. Swimming is a popular activity during the hot summer months. A nature trail offers a leisurely walk along the upland wooded areas of the park. The Wakulla Springs Lodge was built in 1937 by financier Edward Ball and is open year-round. A full-service dining room overlooks the spring; lodge meeting facilities offer an excellent place for retreats. Wakulla Springs State Park and Lodge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated as a National Natural Landmark.

Wakulla Springs State Park

465 Wakulla Park Drive Wakulla Springs, FL 32327  |  850.561.7276  |  Map & Directions  

 

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