DATES OF TRIP: February 7, 2021 ( Sunday) – February 13, 2021  ( Saturday )

COST OF TRIP: $1,642 Per Person Double Occupancy

TRIP LEADER: David Pisaneschi

MAILING ADDRESS:180 South Main Avenue, Albany, NY 12208


TELEPHONE NUMBER: 518-459-5969

TRIP SIZE: Minimum 6; Maximum 14, plus leader


  • The peak of Florida’s enormous bird migration.
  • Viewing a large number of wintering manatee
  • Bug-free (well, mostly) warm water paddling in Florida.
  • Private cabins nightly with hot showers and screen porches.

DESCRIPTION: Leave winter’s blast behind, grab your binoculars, and head to Central Florida for a week of serious paddling and wildlife observation. Our home base will be the cabins located at Blue Springs State Park–-the epicenter of manatee and wildlife viewing. Meals are prepared and served by your guides. Each day will include a van drive to one of many aquatic habitats – swamps, bayous, estuaries, rivers, and springs; the main activity will be paddling with plenty of chances to see birds, manatees, gators, turtles and other wildlife.

Spare time at Blue Springs can be filled with a walk down to the boardwalk overlooking the warm waters, where over 200 manatees wintered last year; hiking; or reading in a rocking chair on the screen porch of your cabin. Enjoy a different paddling and wildlife viewing experience every day. Return each night to the comfort of your cabin, where the trip leaders prepare all your meals (smell them shrimp boiling). Kayaks (12-foot Neckys) are included.

Our lodging consists of private cabins operated by the State Park system. Each cabin has central air/heat, fireplace, two bedrooms, bathroom, fully equipped kitchen, screened-in porch, an outdoor grill, and picnic table. Linens, pillows, blankets, towels and cooking and eating utensils are provided. One bedroom has a double bed and a set of bunk beds, the other bedroom has a double bed. (Sorry, NO daily maid service).

Meals are prepared and served by your trip leaders. Kitchen clean up (dishes) will involve the entire group’s participation.

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY:  You must be able to paddle 8-12 miles day with a positive attitude in various conditions (rain, wind, waves).  Prior kayaking experience is required. All participants must be in reasonably good shape and accustomed to participating in outdoor activities.  You must be able to get in and out of your kayak on your own.   You must be comfortable sitting in a kayak for anywhere from 2-4  hours at a given time. Be aware that biting insects, alligators, and snakes all make this area home.  Heavy rains could change the conditions/character of the river(s). This includes fast-moving water, blowdowns, and strainers.  Since this is Florida, late afternoon rains and thunderstorms are always a possibility. These are generally not wide rivers, but should you dump, you must be a competent swimmer and comfortable floating in your PFD until someone can assist you. If there is any question regarding river safety, I will, after consultation with our guide(s), make the appropriate determination. If I determine that conditions are not safe, we will decide on an alternate activity, such as a hike or visit to a local state park or similar. This could cause you to incur a cost not covered by the trip price.


Day 1,  Sunday:  February 7: Once everyone arrives and gets settled in, the guides will go over introductions and the week’s agenda. After our first dinner together, everyone will be encouraged to walk the spring run and be introduced to the increasing manatee population at Blue Spring. For those folks who need to really stretch their legs, there are several miles of hiking trails that border swamps, scrub forest, and long grass/cane prairies.

Blue Springs State Park:

  • Largest spring on the Saint Johns River
  • Part of the Great Florida Birding Trail
  • Designated Manatee Refuge
  • Historical home of the Timucuan Indians
  • Visited in 1766 by British botanist John Bartram

Day 2, Monday: February 8:  Our first day on the water will be an 11 mile paddling day. It’s a 37-minute drive ( 26.6 miles ) to our starting point. The entire Rock Springs Run and Wekiva River are state-designated paddling trails. These surprisingly untamed waterways draw paddlers from Orlando and beyond. Protected park lands and preserves keep the banks of the crystal clear streams astonishingly wild and natural, Semitropical  Florida wetlands are highlighted by palm, cypress, and live oak, draped in resurrection ferns and Spanish moss. It is truly an oasis amid ever-expanding greater Orlando.

Day 3, Tuesday, February 9: We’ll begin with an early morning departure so we can visit the old sugar mill where we’ll make our own pancakes at our tables, and then swim off all the maple syrup in De Leon spring, proclaimed the fountain of youth by famous explorer Ponce de Leon. We can swim until its magical powers reveal themselves. Paddling the surrounding National Wildlife Refuge will offer great views of the enormous wintering population of migratory birds. Expect to paddle about 12 miles. Driving Time 26 minutes, (16 miles).

Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge/De Leon Springs:

  • Home of Ponce de Leon’s legendary “fountain of youth”
  • Birding “Mecca”
  • Whole-grain pancake breakfast in “The Old Spanish Sugar Mill”
  • Five-mile stretch of the Great Florida Birding Trail

Day 4, Wednesday, February 10:  A little bit longer of a drive today, ( about 51 minutes, 41 miles)  however, the pay-off is huge.  We navigate our kayaks down the extremely narrow gin-clear waters snaking through the sub-tropical Juniper Springs National Wilderness area. Juniper Springs starts barely wide enough for a kayak or canoe below rich, canopied woodland. It then enters the gorgeous Juniper Prairie Wilderness through which it flows until just above FL 19 bridge. Even though it is only a 7 mile paddle don’t be fooled,  paddlers will use all their skills navigating the sharp turns, cypress stumps and overhanging palms and other trees. This will require moving water paddling skills. For those not comfortable paddling in moving water, there will be an option to hike in the Juniper Wilderness and Florida Trail .

Juniper Springs:

  • Excellent brush land environment, home to the endangered Florida Scrub Jay.
  • Narrow, winding, crystal waters through a lush, designated wilderness area.
  • Up-close and personal photo opportunities with massive Florida alligators.
  • Likely sightings of deer, otter, and perhaps even the Florida Black Bear.

Day 5, Thursday, February 11: This will be a 12-mile day of paddling. Our starting point is Blue Springs State Park, so there’s no driving time involved.  Starting from our cabins, we’ll paddle down the St. John’s River, up the Snake River and circumvent Hontoon Island S.P. This area of river is packed with manatee, otter, and sun worshiping gators. Overhead, bald eagles, ospreys, and red-shouldered hawks scan the water and marshes for their next meal. On and near the riverbanks parade large wading birds, coots, moorhens, and the occasional wild hog. Our destination is Hontoon Island, which has a wonderful nature trail that leads to an ancient Indian shell mound. The park is also famous for its large owl population and extensive Indian artifacts, including the state’s largest totem pole. We will spend a good part of the day hiking the island in search of birds and other wildlife.

Hontoon Island State Park:

  • Timucuan Indian mounds overlooking Lost Man’s River
  • Pine flatwood, palm/oak hammock, cypress swamp, and marsh habitats
  • Barred owls, bobcats, and other reclusive wildlife abound.
  • One of the world’s laziest rivers, the Saint Johns.

Day 6, Friday. February 12: Today finds us at two very special places. Our first stop will be the Econlockhatchee River and the Little Big Econ Wilderness Area. Driving time 47 minutes ( 33 miles) We will paddle about 8 miles through a mysterious moss-covered cypress forest. This tightly winding river twists its way through sloughs, swamps, and prairies eventually becoming a widening lazy river. On our way, we will encounter bald eagles, osprey, numerous hawks, swallowtail kites, otters, and of course the American alligator. Lunch and a swim await us at my favorite swim hole along the Florida National Scenic Trail. After a great paddle, we will travel (32 minutes; 23 miles) to Orlando Wetlands Park which draws in birders from around the globe. After a few minutes on any of the hiking trails there, you will know why. If we visit Orlando Wetlands Park expect a long day and late return to our cabins.

Day 7, Saturday, February 13: Time to take that last stroll down to say goodbye to the manatees; there may be time for a quick paddle on the river as the sun rises. Our van will take you to the airport. leave for the airport. Plan your outbound flight after 4:00 p.m.

*Itinerary may vary based on weather and wildlife conditions; possible destinations include:

Rock Springs S.P
Blue Springs  S.P
Wekiva Springs S.P
Hontoon Island S.P
Lake Woodruff NWR
De Leon Springs S.P
Juniper Springs Wilderness
St. Johns River Merritt Island N.W.R Black Pointe Wildlife Area
Canaveral National Seashore

We will make every reasonable effort to meet the goals outlined in the itinerary.  Please keep in mind that weather or other conditions beyond our control may cause us to modify the itinerary in order to ensure the safety and well being of the group.

Conservation:    The areas we will travel to are under serious threat of being paved over by the uncontrolled sprawl of Orlando. With every new house, strip mall, and paved road more pollutants end up in our rivers, more spring water is sucked up for watering yards, and native species disappear at alarming rates.  Participants will be encouraged to learn more about what they can due to help limit sprawl.

TRIP PRICE INCLUDES:   6 nights lodging, 6 breakfast, 5 lunches, and 6 dinners.   All ground transportation (to and from the Orlando airport), along with transportation during the trip. Van support transporting kayaks, kayaking gear, and riverside lunches. Kayaks  (12-foot plastic Neckys), paddles, and PFDs, two local guides/naturalists, gratuities for guides.

TRIP PRICE DOES NOT INCLUDE:  Airfare to the Orlando airport, meals, lodging, and transportation before and after the trip dates, lunch on day 1, lunch and dinner on day 7, personal items, such as bug dope, sunscreen, drybags/daypacks, raingear, and footwear   Trip insurance is not included in the trip price and is very strongly recommended.

PARTICIPANT RESPONSIBILITY:  You, the trip participant, are obliged to follow the instructions and decisions of the trip leader and tour guide (if any). Should you be inadequately prepared (physically, mentally, or requisite equipment) for the trip or any part of, or otherwise causing difficulties for the trip leader, tour guide, or other trip participants, the trip leader has the authority to require you to leave the trip or part of at your sole expense. The trip leader, tour guide, or any other organization is in no way responsible for any extra cost that you may incur as a result of this action.

WHAT TO BRING: A detailed packing list will be provided to trip participants after they register.

GETTING TO: All participants should fly into Orlando International Airport. Our guides will meet and pick everyone up at 1 p.m. on day 1. The private van will stop for lunch (not included in trip price) on the way to Blue Springs.  Participants wishing to drive to our cabins will be sent directions upon approval. Do not make your flight arrangements until I tell you that this trip has the minimum participants for the trip to go.

PAYMENT SCHEDULE:  A deposit of $ 450 is due with the application forms to register for the trip. Must have at least 6 registered with the entire trip cost of $1,642 paid in full by November  1, 2020, for the trip to go.

APPLICATION AND REGISTRATION PROCEDURE: Please carefully read the above-detailed trip description and itinerary, and contact me if you have any questions. Then, if you decide to join this adventure, please contact me (email, or phone) and I will send you the registration paperwork, consisting of the Registration form, the Health and Physical Condition Questionnaire, and Release of Liability form. Complete these forms and send them to me by U.S, Postal Service with the deposit (check payable to “ADK” or the Credit Card Authorization) to reserve a spot. Please note that original signatures are required on all forms. Spaces are reserved in the order that complete and acceptable registration forms and deposit payments are received, so don’t delay.


  • If you cancel prior to November 1, 2020 everything except the $ 100 ADK registration fee will be refunded.
  • On or after November 1, 2020, refund will only be made if the vacancy can be filled from a waiting list maintained by the leader, if any, and then all but $100 will be refunded.
  • If the leader decides that this trip is not for you, or the trip is canceled by ADK, all payments received by ADK will be refunded.

TRIP INSURANCE: It is very strongly recommended that all participants have trip or travel insurance that will cover trip cancellation by the participant, travel delays, medical expenses, and medical evacuation. ADK does not provide this insurance and does not cover medical expenses or evacuation in the event you are injured or become ill during the trip. Note that if you have to cancel after the date indicated above, and cannot be replaced from the leader’s waiting list, if any, you could be out the entire amount you paid for the trip.