Clear kayak tours and otter-spotting in Florida offer an antidote to amusement parks

APOPKA, Fla. — It’s a warm Thursday morning in June as cicadas belt out their summer anthem, woodpeckers tattoo the trees and frogs join forces in what can only be considered a welcome chorus. The cacophony of sounds surrounding us combined with the swiftly moving 70-degree water – which, in some spots, looks quite turquoise – triggers an instant calming effect. As our paddles slice through the water, I have high hopes of spotting otters today. 

Kayaking down a narrow canal, we set out for Emerald Cut, Bonsai Bend and a place that one of the guides has dubbed Jurassic Park. As the names indicate, these are all scenic spots worth exploring at Rock Springs Run State Reserve.

The cure for theme park overexposure

As I drag my fingers over the surface of the water, it hits me: this is the exact opposite of my previous day spent riding roller coasters at a local theme park. Located about 40 minutes from Orlando, these natural, free-flowing springs are a welcome respite for the theme-park weary.

And because the water is so stunning, a clear kayak is one of the best ways to explore. It 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 and egrets and the occasional black bear. 

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