This was just awful. Nothing about this experience was worth repeating. Before we left home, I received a call that the trip I had booked was too full. He was very friendly and professional about it. I was asked if we wanted to do a different trip and I asked if it was the same beautiful clear water with sandy bottom like the picture of the booked trip, and was told that it was - "just a different part of the same river". That trip was scheduled for 15 minutes earlier and there would be a $15 launch fee which we needed to bring in cash - on top of the $150 I'd already paid. Having never been to the area, and with zero familiarity with the "river," I agreed. Our lodging had become prepaid and non-refundable 2 weeks before, so what's $15 more, right?
I can't even remember all of the times I've been canoeing in my life, so many times, but will never forget this, which I hope will remain the worst canoeing experience of my life. Except for the close encounters with herons & alligator, it would have been more enjoyable to light $150 on fire and watch it burn.
We love canoeing/kayaking so much, we build entire mini-trips around it, as we did this time. We drove 8 hours from home to canoe here, and we have plenty of swamps to paddle through near home if we get the urge.
We arrived about 25 minutes before our scheduled time to find one kid there by himself. I asked if our online waiver had been received and he said he didn't know. He said the equipment we had reserved had been taken by another rental company and asked if we wanted to use paddleboards instead of a kayak and a canoe.
Some time passed and other groups arrived. They were told the same thing and asked to use equipment other than what they had reserved. The kid who was there was caught in the middle of all of this, and though he was handling it well, he didn't have the authority to settle anything. His boss eventually arrived, also a pleasant fellow, and after much negotiation with the kid, and the other groups, arrangements were agreed and our small group of 3 people ended up with the kayak and canoe as rented.
The website says you will be given a map but we did not get one. What would it have shown???! LOL! Our life jackets were not tested for fit or functionality.
Around 20-30 minutes after our scheduled launch time, we pulled out of the parking lot in the shuttle van to drive to the launch point. To launch, we were pushed off of the bank in someone's yard, into several inches of water. After seeing the launch point, I was glad we were not asked to produce the $15 launch fee because I would not have paid it and just asked for a refund of the whole trip. This was not a $15 launching point.
We spent most of the first hour getting stuck on the bottom and on downed trees and mud. Stinky mud that smelled like rotting. There is no way anyone could paddleboard that trip in those conditions. Maybe the water is not usually so low, but anyone who accepts money for a rental should have more awareness of the conditions. The first few miles were the worst, constantly getting stuck on trees that could not be seen in the black water - and which would have sent a paddleboarder falling into the water over and over, onto the logs and stinky mud. I own a paddleboard but did not bring it on this trip. I still can't believe it was suggested that we - or anyone - attempt that trip on paddleboards.
If you want to stop occasionally and get out of your kayak or canoe, you will not be able to do that on little Wakiva. There was not one single place to stop along the bank in mud or sand, just solid plants and foliage the whole way. We wanted to take turns on the kayak but there was no option to do that except to step into the plants and mud.
At many spots, the "river" was barely wider than the canoe, barely a few inches deep, and was more like paddling through a swamp than a river. I barely saw any sand, just almost all mud with a thin clear path through elephant ears and water lilies. There was no discernible current and a headwind, so we were actively paddling the whole time just to stay straight and moving. No opportunity to put the paddle down for even a minute without drifting into the plants and trees and getting stuck.
We did see some wildlife in this swamp, including several blue herons, a turtle, catfish and other fish, a baby alligator, and a BIG alligator that swam so close to our kayak that they almost bumped into each other. A lot of palm and cypress trees, hemlock (Cicua maculata), dollarweed (Hydrocotyle), water hyacinths (Eichhornia crassipes). taro/elephant ears (Colocasia esculenta), water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes), eelgrass (unsure of species), and others whose names I don't know.
After a few miles, we finally stopped getting stuck and started encountering super-loud, fast boats that were churning up the mud, making it impossible to even see the fish, chasing away any wildlife we might have seen, and making wakes. So although the paddling was slightly easier as one got closer to Wilson's Landing, there was no wildlife to encounter.
The seats we paid $5 extra for had zero back support and such slight padding that they were worthless. Sitting on a folded towel is much more padding, or maybe just a 5-dollar bill. There were a bunch of spiders in our canoe, though luckily, not a biting type.
If you don't mind not being able to get out of your vessel during your entire trip without stepping into stinky mud that you sink into at least up to your knees, you might enjoy this trip. We did not. This was not a leisure activity, it was hours of strenuous paddling with no breaks. This stretch of swamp is not suited to canoeing or paddleboarding at all, the kayak did better but it got stuck numerous times too. Don't even bother bringing your cooler, you'll never have a chance to reach into it unless you hang onto a low-hanging limb for a minute.