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A flotilla of kayaks and canoes will paddle through Citrus County on the Withlacoochee River in February.
Up to 100 paddlers are expected to participate in the trip called “The Wild Wonderful Withlacoochee.” It is being organized by Paddle Florida, Inc., a nonprofit supporting canoeing and kayaking in Florida.
Bill Richards is executive director of the Gainesville–based group. He said it was started in 2007 and has been a 501(c)3 nonprofit for the past year and a half.
“Our mission is to raise awareness about water conservation, wildlife conservation, restoring springs and protection of water resources,” Richards said. “This will be our 20th event in four and a half years.” They do one trip out of five in each of Florida’s water management districts.
The organization also works to promote Florida as an international destination for nature-based tourism.
The trips include Florida’s most scenic rivers, water trails and coastal environments. A trip in the Florida Keys is set for January, with a trip on the Ochlockonee River scheduled for March. Past trips have included the St. Johns River, the Suwannee River and the Peace River.
With online reservations, Richards said it is difficult to have an exact number of participants for the Withlacoochee trip until the deadline passes. “I would expect at least 50 people,” he said. “But it might be 20, it might be 100.” He was one of the Paddle Florida staff who scouted the trip in advance. Aardvark’s Florida Kayak Co. and Rainbow River Canoe and Kayak are the official outfitters.
The adventure is open to all types of paddlers including canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and similar craft. Trip details, fees and entry information are online at www.paddleflorida.org. The early registration deadline is Jan. 30.
The Withlacoochee trip is set for Feb. 13-18. According to trip details from the website, it will start at Sumter County’s Marsh Bend Outlet Park in Lake Panasoffkee. From there paddlers will head to the riverside campsite at Potts Preserve.
Paddlers will spend a day exploring Gum Slough, a little known four-mile spring run near the Sumter-Citrus County border. It flows into the Withlacoochee just east of Potts Preserve.
The next leg of the trip is Potts Preserve to Rainbow Springs where boats will have the option of paddling up the Rainbow River or being shuttled. The organization has a tradition of visiting a Florida State Park on each of its trips.
Paddlers will ride the current back down the Rainbow River then head back on the Withlacoochee to Lake Rousseau. They will camp near the dam. Boats and paddlers will be shuttled to the spillway for the next day’s launch.
On the final day, the group will paddle through Yankeetown to the trip’s conclusion at Levy County’s Bird Creek Park on the Gulf of Mexico.
Contact Chronicle reporter Pat Faherty at 352-564-2924 or email@example.com.