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In this installment of our "Orlando Like a Local" series, we take you to Rock Springs Run, a natural oasis teeming with wildlife and a great place to experience clear-kayaking.   

By Sarah Sekula

In addition to its world-renowned theme parks, resorts and attractions, Orlando's natural parks provide visitors with exceptional opportunities for outdoor recreation, including water activities. Whether it's jet skiing at nearby beaches or canoeing your way along one of the many springs and lakes, there's plenty for visitors to choose from outside the theme parks. One gorgeous area that will absolutely steal your heart is Rock Springs Run State Reserve in Apopka, about a half hour from Orlando. 

Immerse Yourself in a Clear-Kayaking Experience

Because the water is so stunning, renting a clear kayak is the best way to explore the springs. The clear kayak acts as a gigantic magnifying glass, and makes for a fun way to catch a glimpse of otters and fish as they swim by. But don't forget to glance at the surrounding forest, where it's not uncommon to spot deer, herons, egrets and the occasional black bear. 

"If you're lucky, you'll see three or four otters swimming together alongside or even under the kayak," says Justin Buzzi, owner of Get up and Go Kayaking. "They are often curious enough to swim alongside the kayak for a good duration of time. We've even had them follow us the entire two-hour tour."

After a quick paddle down a canal, you'll be at the entry point to Rock Springs Run, where a rope swing hangs from a massive oak tree and the water becomes a lot clearer. As you paddle along, your guide will fill you in on the natural surroundings and give you tips on paddling. It's all upstream at first, so it makes for a great workout. 

Bring Your Swimsuit

Before you visit the reserve, make sure to pack a snorkel mask and swim suit so you can take a dip. The water stays at a refreshing 70 degrees all year long. And believe it or not, about 26,000 gallons of fresh water pump through the natural springs every minute.

"During the summertime, we tend to see deer throughout the day," says Buzzi. "When the temperatures rise, they like to get a refreshing drink or swim in the cool springs."

Once you're ready to head back from the springs, it's smooth sailing. You'll be traveling downstream at this point until you reach your starting point — the end to a perfect day, indeed.

Rock Springs Run 

If You Go

It's best to book your kayaking tour for the morning time. It's especially quiet and less crowded, since most people don't show up at the springs until about 10:30 a.m. The only noises you'll hear are the sounds of woodpeckers tattooing the trees, cicadas belting out their summer anthem and otters splashing alongside your kayak. 

The reserve offers a lot of shade along the way, thanks to the tree canopy. However, don't forget your sunscreen. You may also want to bring a change of clothes in case you decide to swim at the springs. Bug spray and a towel are also a good idea.

If you go on the guided tour with Get Up and Go Kayaking (the only company in Central Florida with clear kayaks), the launch point is at King's Landing located at 5722 Baptist Camp Road, Apopka, Florida 32712.

The tour is $49 per person, and includes no more than 10 people at a time. It's suitable for all skill levels. The guide provides a dry box to store your watch, phone and keys. Get Up and Go Kayaking also offers sunset tours through the Venetian-style canals on the Winter Park Chain of Lakes, less than 20 miles from Orlando.

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Sarah Sekula is a national travel correspondent who enjoys telling others about Orlando's hidden gems. She works as a travel writer, social media influencer and video host, and her assignments for USA Today, CNN.com, espnW.com, NBC.com, GoEscape, and islands.com have taken her to all seven continents. Follow her adventures @wordzilla (Twitter) and @sarahsomewhere (Instagram). 

 

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