Most people in the U.S. spend much of their time inside cars, trains, boats and planes. Add sleep time and time spent hanging around the house and hours spent working and attending school, and enjoying nature translates to watching an episode of Animal Planet before turning in.
Just west of the small town of Brooksville, in Hernando County, a jungle-like eco system fed by the Weeki Wachee Spring head, one of Florida’s oldest roadside attractions is a pristine gateway to old Florida.
Known for underwater performances by “mermaids,” the Weeki Wachee springhead is so deep that the bottom has never been found. About 117 million gallons of clear, fresh 74-degree water boils up from subterranean caverns each day.
Divers who venture too far into the spring face a current strong enough to knock off their scuba masks.
The spring’s basin, where beautiful Mermaids perform for tourists who view from an underwater theatre, is about 100 feet wide with limestone sides. The mermaids at Weeki Wachee State Park perform shows daily in currents of about five mph.
After gushing from the springhead, fresh water from the Weeki Wachee River twists and turns through about 12 miles of forested backwaters and swamplands, providing nourishment to hybrid eco systems, eventually flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. Fish found there include saltwater and freshwater species and just about every type of bird in Florida can be spotted in the region.
Hernando County is located at the southern region of the Nature Coast and is much different than other coastal counties of the Tampa Bay region where white-sand beaches lure tens of thousands of tourists who mostly shop and lay on the beach by day before finding a lively beach-bar to spice up their evenings.
There is a quiet beauty along the nature coast where the sounds of water and wildlife often reconnect the explorer with a primal spirit long buried under city grit.
Kayak, canoe and boat rentals allow visitors to tour the river, backwaters and the Gulf of Mexico, where the fishing is great.
Whether it is the distant hoot of an owl, playful splash of a Manatee or the stealth motion of an alligator slipping into the transparent river, the majestic panorama of beauty along the Nature Coast is at once disarming and hypnotic.