Just picture the view – a narrow, winding river. A warm glow burns through the green, hanging canopy. The leaves sway with the wind and drag along the water’s glassy surface. This is Juniper Run, a beautifully sequestered canoe and kayaking run in Florida’s Ocala National Forest. The water stretches for a magnificent seven miles and offers excellent kayaking all the way up, beginning at the base of Juniper Springs and running right through the Juniper Prairie Wilderness. It empties into Lake George via the Johns river. Juniper Run has been a hot kayaking destination for some time and is ranked one of the top twenty fife canoe runs in America by ReserveAmerica.
Admission to the national park is only five dollars per person. Once inside, the lovely water ways can be reached via the Juniper Springs Recreation Area that opens at eight in the morning. Last launch for kayaking is four to five hours before sunset. The Recreation Area offers kayak rentals, single and tandem, in case you don’t have your own. There are also shuttles available at a rate of ten dollars per person. If you are looking for recommendations, here are reviews of kayaks by Malibu and the foldable Oru Kayak.
To rent a canoe and purchase shuttling service will cost you a package fee of thirty-five dollars. There is also a twenty-dollar deposit for renting, but it’s fully refunded at the kayak’s return. If you’d prefer to save money, there are free carts to help bring your kayak to the water.
Before leaving the Recreation Area, you might want to check out the natural springs that bubble forth from unseen holes in the ground as well as wildlife you might only see here. The area is frequented by deer, bears, turkey, river otters, and American eels. A lovely warm, natural pool can be found in the day use area. There are also campgrounds, if you think you’ll be paddling the run more than once.
Those looking for a good paddle are in for a treat along Juniper Run. Challenging for beginners, the run is just right for those intermediate to advanced kayakers that love a full day on the water. The stream stays shaded for most of its narrow length, and the water stays cool. This is especially nice for those tough maneuvers in such tight quarters. Logs and other such natural damning will take an advanced paddler to work around. Necessary tight steering is one of the most notable features of the run. The beautiful and overwhelming foliage is often so close to the water, that when it falls by force or decay, it tends to block the water way.
Natural wildlife abounds. From turtles, fish, local birds, and alligators, you’re guaranteed to spot beautiful animals throughout your kayaking adventure. While this is one of the major draws of the kayaking run, it does come with caveats, the most notable of which is no disposable items. Your bags will be checked, and ALL disposable items will be removed, including food wrapping. This persistent attention to keeping human waste from the run has led to some of the most crystal-clear kayaking available in the country.
In addition to the kayaking, Juniper Run offers a myriad of fun out-door activities. Within a short drive is Lake George and an elaborate system of trails suitable for Jeeps and hiking. Hunting and fishing opportunities are also available nearby.
Here’s a great video that gives you a snippet of what to expect: