Discovering the Halls River by Kayak during Save our Waters Week
Driving up US 19 past the Wildlife Park, I could not imagine what the “Halls River Experience” with Hunter Springs Kayaks was going to be like. This tour had been described as natural Florida, pure… without the development that has overtaken Florida’s expansive shorelines.
Turning into the Wallace’s at the Greenhouse parking lot at 2420 South Suncoast Boulevard in Homosassa, across from the massive Toyota dealership, a small green area, maybe 30 feet long before the entrance to the headsprings of the Halls River greeted me. A floating dock and several kayaks, a stand-up paddleboard and some fellow adventurers were there. Already, we are leaving developed Florida – but what awaits us?
We introduced ourselves. Each participant was an avid kayaker. Commandeering our watercraft and entering the spring, we begin our paddle away from civilization.
Changing Ecosystems from Human to Nature
The sounds of traffic and the sites of commercialism fade away and are replaced with a pure natural rhythm. Below us, a large blue crab is walking on the bottom, brandishing its large claw. Dragonflies frolic from watergrass to flower and back again.
Paddling up the narrow canal, we venture past a small spring, noting that the water is clear and clean, and the vent is visible but there isn’t a lot of surface tension, assumedly because there is a lot of river for the flow to move into and through. Further out the water was more of a tannin stained brown, typical of this area’s rivers, lakes and streams that have pines near them.
A school of mullet swim by. They’re big, silver and shiny as they fly by our watercraft in their river-sky. These interesting, although not too smart, fish look like aircraft to me with their rounded heads and short pointy side fins. They are abundant in this area and were once the main industry of pioneers.
On the Halls River Tranquility Reigns
This paddle features a real lack of civilization on the river. It was a true respite from the hustle and bustle of daily life and human interactions. Here on the Halls River we tranquility reigns.
As we entered the wider portion, a home is visible across the river from where we enter. It is the first development we have seen, and it is quiet. We move on, paddling through a wide expanse of marsh grass on either side. Some beautiful pink flowers are interspersed amongst the tall, green-brown blades.
This river has many twists and turns. We make an abrupt turn to the right and far across the river is a home with emus in the front yard – yes, emus. They are not native. Our guide shares that this is a home that offers riverfront rentals and the emus are part of the fun. More mullet swim by, joined by bass.
We search in the clear, strong waters of the Halls River for manatee. Overhead, a pair of sandhill cranes fly across the wide river, over the stand of tall pines and oaks, and out of site.
Looking up, an American Bald eagle soars overhead. After excitedly yelling, “eagle” and pointing above, the opportunity is missed to take a decent picture. It is yet another reminder to be in the present on this pure nature experience. It is always a gift to see one of these magnificent symbols of freedom.
Discovering ‘Secret Spring’
The sky is a deep blue with random puffy wisps of clouds lazily floating above us as we glide along. Only the sound of bird calls disrupts the peaceful silence. Our guide points to a “trail” through the tall marsh and says, “Who wants to see ‘Secret Spring’?”
There’s only one answer for that: “I do,” which we all respond. We are shown the entrance to a trail through the tall marsh grass and begin paddling through in single file. There is just enough room at times for the kayak, and the paddle’s width is too wide. Anticipation builds.
We come upon a magical site – “secret spring”. This is a small area with a tiny island in the middle that we joyfully paddle around. A bench and fire pit are on the shore. This shoreline and accompanying land are privately owned, so we respectfully stay in the water. It reminds me of something out of a fantasy book, a mystical secret place.
Three Abodes and No More
While there aren’t many waves, this river has a healthy current perhaps controlled by the tide. Paddling is not difficult, but my arms are getting tired. We just passed the third house on our adventure. It is made of coquina key construction and looks like it was originally constructed in the 1930s.
Our guide tells us about the bridge ahead, and how one group he showed Halls River made it there, but we opt to turn around. As we cross to the other side of the river, the sound of an outboard motor hums in from the civilized world. Two gentlemen in a jon boat slow down politely before encountering us and then ask if we saw all the manatees out by the bridge.
Apparently, both us and the manatees are not enthusiastic enough to meet each other today. We continue our paddle back, melting into our idyllic environment and moving steadily back to the headsprings. More pretty pink flowers that none of us can identify – but who really cares what they are called? Their beauty adds to our experience and that is enough.
Anhinga, comerant, various cranes and songbirds are in abundance and we happen upon them at random times. The mullet, bass and crappie swim by at their leisure. Several large blue crabs walk on by, unaware that we could be hunting our supper.
A Natural Environment surrounded by Protected Areas
The water is brackish, saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico mingling with the freshwater of the springs that feed Halls River. We are surrounded by the Crystal River State Park, the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, St. Martin’s Marsh Aquatic State Preserve and little development (there were only three homes on this entire experience).
As we end our “Halls River Experience” with Hunter Springs Kayaks, gliding into the kayak launch and exiting our watercraft, our guide helps us regain our land legs. The peaceful exhilaration of our three-hour tour goes with us as we return to the world of cell phones, fast cars and human encroachment.
Random photos of our Halls River Experience to enjoy:
If you would like to try this tour, contact Hunter Springs Kayaks at (352) 228-4715 to schedule the opportunity. One of my favorite things about this company, besides their great guides, is that you can choose from several types of paddle crafts. Single kayak, double kayak, (sit on or sit in types) clear bottom kayak, paddleboard, and a hybrid paddleboard kayak are all available as part of your package.
**All story images are by Diane Bedard.
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