Florida Kayaking: Werner Boyce Salt Springs State Park
Eagerly anticipated for a number of years, the Werner Boyce Salt Springs State Park kayak launch is officially open to the public. With a new boardwalk, hiking trails, restroom facilities, a picnic area, and concessions, this park has quickly become a favorite gathering spot to get out on the water and enjoy the diverse ecosystem of Florida’s gulf coast. I recently had an opportunity to kayak through the park and take a look at the facilities, and I am happy to report that it was worth the wait. Everything is top-notch, and it’s easy to envision Werner Boyce Salt Springs Park becoming a very popular kayaking destination on Florida’s Gulf coast.
The main entrance to Werner Boyce State Park is located just adjacent to the Walmart on Route 19 in New Port Richey. It seems oddly ironic that such a pristine nature preserve can be so close to a Walmart and a busy highway. Rest assured, however, that once you hit the water you will lose all contact with civilization and will be transported to over 3,300 acres of ecological paradise. Werner Boyce State Park contains one of the largest salt flats in the state of Florida and is home to a wide variety of birds, many of them fairly rare even by Florida standards.
Because the park is still in its infancy be advised that you will not find a playground or area for kids to play. Perhaps in the future additional facilities will be added but for the time being, this park is as close to a nature preserve as it can get.
Money can’t buy you happiness - but - it can buy you a kayak - and that’s kind of the same thing— Unknown
There is another way to access Werner Boyce State Park and that is from Brasher Park. Located just south of Werner Boyce, Brasher Park is an alternative for exploring the Gulf side of Werner Boyce Salt Springs Park and getting a glimpse of or visiting the stilt houses that dot the coast here. You can read my review of launching from Brasher Park here.
Before heading to Werner Boyce State Park you may want to check the local tide schedule? Due to low water levels in the springs during low tide, the best time to kayak will be around high tide. Generally anytime from a few hours before to a few hours after high tide is optimal. During low tide, some areas of the salt marsh are difficult to navigate due to the low water level and you don’t want to get your kayak grounded. Should your schedule necessitate going during low tide, which is certainly doable, just be aware of the water level and any obstacles that may be in your path?
If you are bringing your own kayak or canoe be advised that you will have to transport it a few hundred feet to the launch area. There is a brand new raised Trex boardwalk that makes this an easy task. Rollers are also available to assist with this if required. If you are renting a kayak, canoe or paddle board simply check-in and head down the boardwalk to the launch site, which is where the rental kayaks are kept.
The springs in Werner Boyce State Park are unique in that it is actually salt water that is bubbling to the surface. The source is from a pool of seawater that is trapped 320 feet below the earth’s surface.
Once in the water, you have a few options for which direction to head. If you want to see the springs you will need to head to the right. There are signs to direct you. There are two springs that you can get close to and you can actually see the spring water bubbling to the surface. Your journey to the springs will take you through the salt marsh and it is dotted with numerous inlets, small ponds, and canals. This is a great fishing spot and also a wonderful area for viewing some of the coastal birds and animals that reside here. The park is home to a bald eagle nest and birdwatchers will enjoy seeing the Roseate Spoonbill as well as hawks, osprey, egrets, heron, ibis, and other local and migratory birds. While out on the water you may also encounter dolphins that frequent the area. This really is a nature lover’s paradise and it is all easily accessible now that the kayak launch and facilities have opened to the public.
After exploring the salt marsh you will have to retrace your steps and head back toward the launch area. From here you can continue toward the gulf. This part of the park has more open water so the kayaking is a little different from the inlets and canals of the salt marsh. This is actually the area where we have seen the Roseate Spoonbill, which is quite an exciting sight. With more open water and lines of sight, you may also catch a glimpse of a blue heron, snowy egret, osprey, or even a bald eagle searching for its next meal. And if you’re lucky perhaps you will even get to see the playful dolphins that frequent this part of the gulf, wouldn’t that just make your day?
Werner Boyce State Park is easy to get to and has plenty of parking to accommodate vehicles with trailers. If you need to rent a kayak or canoe the rentals are managed by Paddling Adventures. This highly-respected outfit can also be found at other kayaking locations in the area including Weeki Wachee Springs State Park and Ichetucknee Springs State Park.
Paddling Adventure Rental Rates
- 2 Hours: $22
- 4 Hours: $32
- All Day: $45
- 2 Hours: $30
- 4 Hours: $45
- All Day: $58
- 2 Hours: $30
- 4 Hours: $45
- All Day: $58
If you plan to explore just the salt marsh, inlets, and springs area then two hours should be plenty of time. Heading out to the Gulf of Mexico will require additional time so keep this in mind when renting.
Werner Boyce Salt Springs State Park Hours and Fees:
- Park is open daily from 8 am to sunset.
- Kayak rentals are available from 8 am to 5:30 pm daily. Rentals are due back by 5 pm.
- Pedestrian or bicycle: $2
- A vehicle with up to 8 occupants: $3
When you are done on the water you may want to consider spending some time checking out the park’s hiking trails? Werner Boyce State Park has a number of trails that are easy to traverse and they offer an abundance of scenery and photographic opportunities. From the park’s main entrance along route 19, you will find the short Eagle Trail and the half-mile-long Salt Springs Trail. There are a few other entry points into the park that offer hiking options including the Black Rail Trail and the Scenic Drive Loop Trail. Both of these trails are located in more remote parts of the park and offer easy and scenic hiking options.
The west coast of Florida certainly offers up some wonderful kayaking opportunities and Werner Boyce Salt Springs State Park is bound to become a popular destination. We make it a point to try and discover a new and interesting location to hit the water on our every visit to Florida so stay tuned for our next discovery.