Many people enjoy "the lazy river." The concrete lazy river found in many surrounding hotels and water parks in my community is a little tame and doesn't show off the Florida wild. Trust me I enjoy those water parks too, but in keeping with my thinking about summer plans this week, here are some of the best places to tube or in some cases "snorkel" the river. You can make it as lazy as you want. An investment in a snorkel and a mask will enhance your day even if you don't choose to swim the river.Most of the places are BYOT, but they have water toys for rent. If you have small children, an investment in a blow-up boat works as well even a life jacket. The waters aren't rough, moving at a rate of 1 mile per hour but sometimes kids can panic their first time in the water out in the open. I prefer floating on the week days in the summer. The weekends can get crowded really fast. My top three lazy rivers are the Rainbow River in Dunnelllon, the Weeki Wachi River in Weeki Wachee, and the Itchkneetucknee River.
1. The Rainbow River is accessible river in two places, KP Hole or the state park. KP Hole is a Marion county park and is small and gets closed fast on a summer day since the size of the parking lot is what limits the visitors. The benefit is that you can rent a paddle board, kayak or canoe. You can bring your own tube, but what you are paying for is the tram fee to bring you back to the parking lot. I prefer to tube from the other side of the river at the state park. The parking lot is less crowded. You will walk back to tube headquarters as the tram takes you north, but this park is more pristine.
2. Weeki Wachee River This trip could take two days depending on what you want to do. Visit Weeki Wachee State Park or float the river. These water launch is crowded here. You need large water toys such as kayaks, canoes or paddleboards to make this float happen. There are available for rent and if you have don't own any, it's best to let the professionals launch your boat and pick you up. It's complicated, but worth it. There is plenty of parking at the state park.You will question whether you will be able to get lost in the wonder. If you are DIYing it, you have to park your car at the pull out at Rogers Park which means you need two vehicles. The contrast between the end of your paddle and the start of your paddle is stunning. Rogers Park is a man-made beach on the water. It is a hopping swimming party. You will, however, have spent the day floating and snorkeling the river. You watch the water transform from crystal to green. You can't swim in the waters that are in the boundaries of the state park, but once you are out of the boundaries, you can. The water is between 1-4 throughout the paddle. You will be swathed in the tranquility and beauty of the environment. I want to live on this river. Another plus is that the ocean is not so far away.
3. Ichetucknee River- The only tubing that is entirely in the state park. The water is pristine and you will be lost in nature for several hours. Although you can tube year-round, you don't have access to the entire park. The north section is closed after Labor Day so that it can rejuvenate. There is tram service, but unlike the Rainbow River, tubes are not for rent on-site. It is bring your own or rent on from one of the many sites that dot the roadside. This river is the narrowest of the three. It is the most wild. It is deep like the Rainbow river as well.