February 9-15, 2020

Status FULL
Cost $1,584 Per Person Double Occupancy
Travel Dates February 9-15, 2020
Description Leave winter’s blast behind, grab your binoculars, and head to Central Florida for a week of serious birding, playful paddles, and a trip to the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival. Our home base will be the cabins located at Blue Springs State Park–-the epicenter of coastal and Central Florida birding. Each day will include a short passenger-van drive to one of many aquatic habitats – swamps, bayous, estuaries, rivers and springs; the main activity will be birding, but we will also take time to  kayak, hike, swim, and snorkel. 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, and the pace throughout will be relaxed enough for plenty of birding, sightseeing, nature walks, and just sitting back and reflecting. Enjoy a different birding experience every day and 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, and beginners are welcome. For beginners, our guides will offer some individual instructions.

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. Lunches will be made each morning and carried by individuals while on the water.

Included 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. .
Not Included 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.
Payment Policy 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 $1,584 paid in full by November  1, 2019 for the trip to go.
Cancellation Policy
  • If you cancel prior to November 1, 2019 everything except the $100 ADK registration fee will be refunded.
  • On or after November 1, 2019, 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.



Daily Itinerary Day 1: Sunday, February 9: 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 10: We are off to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, the greatest place in Florida for birding and wildlife viewing. There is so much, it just seems too easy. You will find yourself scant feet away from rosette spoonbills, glossy ibis, reddish egrets, wood storks, bald eagles, and countless species of migrating ducks.   After lunch we will visit the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival. Be prepared.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge:

  • Brackish waterways winding through palm and oak hammocks, pine forests and flat woods, and coastal dunes.
  • Major wintering area for migratory birds with several wading bird rookeries, and many bald eagle and osprey nests.
  • Home to a large population of Florida Scrub Jays and fourteen other threatened or endangered species.
  • Black Pointe Wildlife drive. As good as birding gets.

Day 3:  Tuesday, February 11: 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 and snorkel until its magical powers reveal themselves. Paddling the surrounding National Wildlife Refuge will offer great views of the enormous wintering population of migratory birds.

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 12 : A little bit longer of a drive today, however, the pay-off is huge. We begin by snorkeling and exploring a wonderful second magnitude spring. Afterwards we navigate our kayaks down the extremely narrow gin-clear waters snaking through the sub-tropical Juniper Springs National Wilderness area.

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 13: This morning we’ll pack our picnic lunches, grab our kayaks, and paddle the short distance north (downstream) a few miles to Hontoon Island S.P. This area of river is packed with manatee, otter, and sun worshipping 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. Once we return to our lodge anyone with enough energy  can take the short shuttle  with the trip leaders to the Lower Wekiva River  State Preserve  for a three hour paddle down the Wekiva River, past Blackwater Creek, and the confluence with the St. Johns River. This small stretch of river contains large concentrations of wildlife. For many this will be the highlight of the entire trip. Expect a huge dinner after this enormous day of activities.

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 14: Today finds us at two very special places. Our first stop will be the Econlockhatchee River and the Little Big Econ Wilderness Area. 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, swallow tail 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 the short distance to the 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.

Day 7:  Saturday, February 15: Time to take that last stroll down to say goodbye to the manatees; there maybe time for a quick paddle on the river as the sun rises. Our van will leave for the airport by 11 a.m.

Level of Difficulty There will be plenty of time to take pictures, spot birds, go snorkeling, observe wildlife, and just enjoy this subtropical paradise. On paddling days the distances will be short and leisurely with an emphasis on wildlife viewing not making miles. Snorkeling will be in deep clear springs that remain 72 degrees all year. Prior kayaking experience is not required, but you must have a positive attitude. 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 poisonous  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 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.
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.
Trip Leader David Pisaneschi
180 South Main Avenue, Albany, NY 12208