Unique and Heart Racing Adventures in King's Landing, Florida
I recently saw a couple on YouTube venturing into Kings Landing (Emerald Cut) which is located in Apopka Florida. This place is considered the #1 paddling destination in Central Florida and there is a good reason for that.
We booked our reservation online (we opted to bring our own canoe). A waiver must be filled out and fees are paid at this time (for your convenience). We headed out there in the middle of the week hoping it wouldn’t be packed. It took us about 45 minutes to get there from our house. Once we got there, it wasn’t extremely busy so we parked and checked in. On this day we booked for the Emerald Cut side of the park. Emerald Cut is a stunning portion of Rock Springs Run that features pristine emerald waters and lush tropical scenery, transporting you to a picturesque paradise. The water was perfect and crystal clear. There was a tour group in front of us that seemed to be struggling with their kayaks but they moved to the side to let others pass. It was a beautiful sunny day and in the high 80s. As we paddled further in we saw lots of birds and turtles along with old cabins that sat right on the water. Mostly, we saw plenty of small fish swimming in the clear waters. This was a relatively relaxing activity with some light paddling along the way. The way back down is a lot easier as the current brings you back. You can leisurely float downstream, taking in the serene and magnificent natural lazy river of Rock Springs Run. Guests were enjoying themselves and we had a very relaxing and fun day. We really enjoyed doing this side (approximately one mile), so we thought we would have to come back on another day to explore the shuttle run.
The Shuttle Run
It was the middle of the week so we made our reservations, completed the waiver and paid the fees online. The next day early in the morning we left to explore. We got there around 9am and checked in. We rented a tandem kayak this time instead of carrying our canoe. We quickly launched and paddled our way through the normal channel but we were told to make a left this time instead of continuing to the Emerald Cut. The water was lovely, clear and everything was beautiful in our surroundings. Half hour into our adventure and the something shifted, the water was no longer low and clear. There was a lot more vegetation on this side and you couldn’t see the bottom anymore. I was under the impression that we were to easily float with the current down the river with grace and ease. There were many downed trees and many branches stuck out of the water. Luckily, my husband and I have paddling experience so we maneuvered around the thick branches and thick lily pads. We see lots of beautiful turtles on logs catching the rays and warming up and then we see a small alligator. Oh how cute! But then you start to see more of them in every corner you look. Panic sets in and I let my husband know he needs to paddle faster so we can push forward. I try to relax but with every breath I realize we are in the middle of nowhere at this point with no one in sight. At some points we would hear paddlers behind us but we wanted to stay away from groups so we pushed on. The water is getting murkier and deeper. I look to the left and there was a group of gator hatchlings sitting on a log. If babies are here, you know the mama has to be close by. I can’t stress enough how much I wanted this paddle adventure to be over and for someone to pick us up in a real boat. Half hour in, I was ready to call it quits and go home.
Honestly, we did not expect the paddle to be so difficult. Several times we got stuck between branches in murky water unable to unlodge ourselves. It was a frightening experience for me although my husband was enjoying every step of the way. In all fairness I must state he has poor vision and couldn’t see the gators. I took very shaky videos of the wildlife while trying to get the heck out of there as quickly as possible. I am sure many wildlife warriors would be thrilled to see so many gators but as for me, I did not feel comfortable being in the water at this point. We swiftly powered through it while my husband kept reminding me that we are not even halfway through and that it will be like this the whole way down. If I had Captain Kirk powers at that moment I would of had Scotty Beam me up (Star Trek reference).
Three hours later (12:15pm) we reached the camp called Indian Mound Camp which is a place you can unmount from your kayak and sit by the water to eat, drink or explore a little bit. We snacked on some chips and drank some apple juice and headed back out. After we crossed this location, the atmosphere changed again and it felt like were were in clear waters again. Not like the Emerald cut clear but enough to see what was underneath us. Fortunately we didn’t see any more gators after that and I began to relax and enjoy the scenic route a lot more than before. To be honest the alligators were pretty well behaved and mostly moved out of the way when we crossed paths. Others jumped in the water to find cover and did not bother us. Around 2pm we reached the end where we were to dismount and catch a shuttle back to the main park. We were lucky that they were running multiple shuttles that day and we caught an early one. Needless to say, it was a one of a kind adventure and I would recommend it to anyone that likes a challenge and isn’t afraid of the local wildlife. I don’t know if I would do this again but it was definitely a memorable adventure. If you want to experience King’s Landing just do the Emerald cut if you don’t have kayaking or canoeing experience. If you are daring enough to explore the wild side of Florida, by all means grab your partner, friend or take a small group and head out to King’s Landing for your next unique adventure.