Photo: City of Ormond Beach

“The impending winter means something a little different for Floridians.

No need to bundle up indoors with hot cocoa and a cozy blanket. No, as the humidity wanes and the scorching summer temperatures give way to 70 degree highs, now is the time we head outdoors.

One of the best ways to spend time in the sun is by kayaking or canoeing into the wilderness. Central Florida is home to some of the country’s finest springs, and the Indian River Lagoon is the most biodiverse estuary in North America.

Here’s a guide to nine of the best places to go kayaking in Volusia County.

Cracker Creek – The slow-moving water of western Spruce Creek cuts through a gorgeous blackwater cypress swamp with palm trees and ample ferns lending the water a tropical charm.

It’s located on 20 acres historically owned by the caretaker of James Gamble’s winter retreat, according to the Daytona Beach Museum of Arts & Sciences. Gamble worked for his father’s company, Proctor & Gamble, for decades and was best known for devising the formula for Ivory soap. Some historical buildings remain standing on the property.

De Leon Springs – The two oldest canoes ever found in the Western Hemisphere were discovered in this spring and 6,000 years later, De Leon Springs State Park continues to provide access to 22,000 acres of serene lakes, creeks and marshes in Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge…

The cool, clear waters provide excellent opportunities for fishing and birdwatching, and run a constant 68 degrees. You might spot otters, alligators, manatees, osprey, bald eagles, sandhill cranes and — if you’re lucky, a black bear out for a swim…

Tomoka River State Park – The Tomoka River, which extends 13 miles upstream (south) from Tomoka State Park, is part of Florida’s 4,000-mile network of designated paddling trails.

A manatee refuge and excellent site for birdwatching, the views vary from lush, narrow canopies to wide, grassy marshes that empty into the wide Halifax River. The land was was once occupied by the indigenous Timucua tribe, from which the name Tomoka was derived…

Hontoon Island State Park – Hontoon Island is a natural freshwater island that is surrounded by the St. Johns River, Hontoon Dead River and Snake Creek. It’s nestled in between Lake Beresford and Blue Spring…

The island can only be reached by boat and features 8 miles of trails that wind through swamps, marshes, pine flatwoods and oak hammocks. The Mayaca natives were believed to inhabit the island some 12,000 years ago and a shell midden remains on the shore of Hontoon Dead River today…

Gemini Springs – Gemini Springs Park is named for its crystal-clear twin springs, where an estimated 6.5 million gallons of pristine fresh water bubbles up every day…

Ormond Beach’s Central Park – This city park contains five interconnected lakes surrounded by forest and gardens in the heart of Ormond Beach. It’s an excellent birdwatching spot, and encompasses 149 acres…

Highbridge Park on the Ormond Loop – Highbridge Park is a county park that sits on the banks of Halifax River in the northernmost reaches of Volusia County.

Navigate up to 11 miles along Bulow Creek, part of Florida’s 4,000-mile network of designated paddling trails and witness the transition from wide tidal marsh to a tree and cabbage palm-lined paradise…

Blue Spring State Park – Blue Spring contains refreshingly cool, crystal-clear fresh water and is best known as a winter refuge for manatees. Hundreds of sea cows huddle in the spring during cold snaps, as the temperature remains 72 degrees year-round.

Kayaks and canoes can’t enter the spring run, but may be paddled on the St. Johns River, which is also home to alligators, fish and a spectacular array of birds…

Mosquito Lagoon – The mangrove mazes of the Mosquito Lagoon are vibrant places to explore, home to dolphins, manatees and coastal birds. The Mosquito Lagoon constitutes the uppermost reaches of the Indian River Lagoon, believed to the most biodiverse estuary in North America…”

— Mary Helen Moore, The Daytona Beach News-Journal

For details about paddling routes, rentals, launch sites, guides and gear please click here to read entire article

Citizens for a Scenic Florida