Floating the Natural Lazy River at Kelly Park Rock Springs Run
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There are very few things I love more than a lazy river. When I heard about Kelly Park Rock Springs‘ natural lazy river, I added it to our Florida bucket list. Turns out it is an hour north of Orlando, making it super easy to reach on nearly any trip to southern Florida. Kelly Park Rock Springs is a state park, so admission cost is low and all the facilities you need are there. The only downside is its popularity. In summer it is not uncommon for it to fill up before 10am. They have an information line but we found it unhelpful. Luckily, since we homeschool, we visited on a Tuesday in late August. With Florida schools back in session the state park was relatively quiet.
What to bring.
- Tubes. There is a tube rental place outside of the park, but once you are inside Kelly Park Rock Springs there is no place to procure tubes. I hit up the Target sale and purchased two small, lightweight tubes. We brought along our Aquaview Raft, for the littles, which just squeaked by under the 5ft length limit. (On a crowded day it could have posed a problem.) Adults can get by with a noodle to float on.
- Life Jackets. The current is quite swift. We put our Middle and Little Littles in Coast Guard approved life jackets just to be on the safe side.
- Wet Bag. You will need to bring along your car keys and other valuables so a wet bag is perfect. We tied ours to the raft.
- Water Shoes. Once you float down the river you walk back on concrete. You will want water shoes for the walk back. I also felt better knowing my feet were protected when heading down the run.
- Towels. We always travel with lightweight quick drying towels. We use luvbug SPF towels for the kids. We left those in the car, as we were parked close enough to dry off after we were done in the water. There is also plenty of space near the swimming hole to leave your towels. The trail back from the tube run runs through the swimming area.
What to Expect
The tubing run starts just feet from where the spring originates out of the rocks. This top pool is just incredible. Jeff insisted on putting in at the very first possible start, which worked well with the boat.
Ultimately we were a raft short, so Jeff ended up riding with the Middle and Little Littles in the raft. (I’m fairly certain this exceeded the posted weight limit for the boat!)
I opted to hop in a little further down where I could stand on a rock partially submerged and sit down into the raft. It was a more demure entry.
As soon as we were all in, we were off. The current picked us right up and carried us down the crystal clear, spring fed river. The water is frigid (is 72 degrees F year round), but on a hot Florida day, it was completely refreshing.
The run is relatively shallow and swift moving, save for when you enter the swimming area and the river slows down as it widens. We saw quite a few people walking up the run for exercise. The lazy river is surrounded by lush vegetation. There are signs asking everyone to stay alert for alligators. When one is spotted they close down the river to tubers.
The full run lasts about 20 minutes. You pass under several foot bridges. The two little rafts moved much quicker than the heaver rental rafts and our AquaView boat.
Everything about the Kelly Park Rock Springs lazy river exceeded my expectations. The Big and I held hands and just floated, watching birds and butterflies in the shoreline vegetation. Neither of us could get over the incredibly clear water.
Halfway through the run you enter the swimming area. Things slow down and you meet some crowds that have come to swim. If you have had enough you can actually exit the run here.
We hopped out of the tubes and did a bit of swimming around. The Big and I got pushed into the swimming area and out of the current, so I needed to get out and put us back on track. The swimming area is quite shallow, so I could easily walk.
There are quite a few fish hanging around too. The best part of the AquaView boat is that the Middle and Little can see through the plastic bottom and not miss anything. They enjoyed being towed along and staring at the bottom.
When the river narrows again the current picked up and we completed the run, through the shady forest.
I was worried we would’t know when to get out, but it was super obvious. The bridge at the end of the run makes it impossible to pass under. Instead you just walk up the ramp and take a short walk back to the start, passing through the beach swimming area.
We had such a great time that we had to do it again! I think we could have hung out here most of the day just swimming, enjoying the picnic grounds and completing the river run. I can also see how if the run was crowded it wouldn’t have been as much fun.
This is so doable with children. Many of Florida’s other tubing options last several hours without the option of getting out. This run has an out halfway through it and lasts only 20 min, so it’s a perfect option with kids. The clear water also makes it truly approachable. We can’t wait to go back.
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