Located 50 miles north of the entrance to Tampa Bay, Hernando County's Nature Coast begins in Aripeka in the south and goes northward through Hernando Beach, Weeki Wachee, Bayport, Pine Island and northward into the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Preserve. All of this is away from the hustle and bustle so often associated with coastal areas. There is a 7600 acre Weekiwachee preserve between Spring Hill and the Nature Coast areas.

As we go north from Tampa into the Nature Coast region offshore depths become very shallow gaining only 1 ft. in depth per mile offshore. This means that if you are fishing for grouper, which like to inhabit 25 ft. of water, then you will need to go 25 miles offshore to find them. This is one reason flats fishing is so popular in this area; with redfish and trout being popular inshore fishes in addition to the king, the Tarpon.

The blue area on the chart below represents depths under 30 ft, the white is over 30 ft. deep.

Tampa Harbor Entrance
north thru Hernando Co.

Aripeka is still a laid back fishing viliage which is a haven for the artistic types who enjoy the saltwater marshes and wildlife which abounds therein. There are some very nice homes being built in the area, but it's topography will keep it as a private area.

Hernando Beach is divided into two areas: Direct and Indirect Gulf Access. All of it is on man made canals and was developed by Charles Sasser in the last half of the 20th century. The northern half is in the Direct Access portion which means the canals are filled with the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and all one needs to do is hop in your boat and go out the channel.

Direct Access Canals & Streets


Area inside Orange Box is Indirect Access

The Indirect portion is on mostly freshwater canals which are fed by springs connected to the Weeki Wachee aquifer. Access to the Gulf is via an automated boat lift, and then through the direct access portion and into the Gulf. There are distinct advantages to having your boat in the indirect access section. One is that your boat is not sitting in saltwater and therefore corrosion in minimal. Additionally barnicles and oysters don't grow on the hull. Also, only property owners of the indirect portion have access (keys & remote control) to the boat lift; so there are no outsiders cruising past your home in their boats. The only limitation to this area is that the boat lift can usually handle boats under 26 feet in length and since you must pass under a fixed bridge a fixed supersturcture over 5 ft high maked passage difficult.

Satellite view
Hernando Beach to
Weeki Wachee
Note: Lakes in Weekiwachee Preserve & Shallow flats offshore (sandy color)

Proceeding north on C.R. 597, (Shoal Line Blvd), will bring you to Weeki Wachee, a community built on canals on the lower portion of the 8 mile long Weeki Wachee River. The River Folk enjoy their area carved out on the Weeki Wachee Swamp and realize that under today's environmental laws this area could never be developed, neither could Hernando Beach for that matter. Many residents are involved in environmental activities which respect and preserve the area they have chosen to live in. It is well documented that the overall habitat has been improved in spite of the development. The Weeki Wachee River is a short, 8 mile long, springfed river which has a normal flow of 110 million gallons per day, although due to development in the interior of Florida and a after a long drought this flow is down to less than 67 million gallons per day aack in 2002. At present due to normal rain cycles we are back to full flow.. Water conservation in Florida is a BIG issue and people living on the rivers are leaders in the conservation effort.

Pure, Natural Florida
The Weeki Wachee River

The residents on the canals off the Weeki Wachee enjoy treed lots, which create a biosphere keeping it cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. The River waters exit the ground at 74 degrees year round and serve as a temperature regulator for the area.

Weeki Wachee Canals
The Weeki Wachee & Mudd Rivers enter the Gulf at Bayport

Lying between the developed area of the Weeki Wachee River and Bayport is the tidal marsh area as seen in this view of the Mud River. It's great for kayaking and fishing if the weather is too rough to go into the Gulf of Mexico. You will see numerous species fo birds, possibly dolphins, otters, manatees and racoons as you quietly work your ay through the tidal marsh

Mangroves are again taking hold along the marsh edge. They will provide even better habitat and erosion protection for the salt marsh which is so vital to the reproduction of many saltwater fish species. Mangroves are known as the tree that walks on water. They reach out with a root from up on the trunk to from a inverted basket that makes a great place for fish, shellfish and crusaceans to live.
Their seed pods look like green beans. However, they are a complete tree and when they fall from the parent tree they already have roots dangling from the pod so they can readily attach to a suitable bottom. As the shoot up they then send out the walking roots to further stalilze themselves.
This heron on the left is hunting next to a mangrove and on the right you can see the walking roots of this young mangrove tree reaching out.

Bayport is the next waterfront area and is much like it was 100 years ago. There is some new building in the area, but since it is natural Florida and the water is very shallow, development in minimal in the area. The most significant things in Bayport are the world famous BAYPORT INN, featuring the best grouper basket around, and the BAYPORT Park with boat ramps and fishing pier. It is a favorite spot to go and watch sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico. The Southwest Florida Water Management District has recently acquired much of the marshland and some land tracts including the old Bayport Battery, a Civil War Implacement which guarded this historic port. In 2008 a new park was completed at the site of the old battery and it is a lovely picnic area with a pavilion and elevated observation walkway with gulf views.

The final area of homes on Hernando County's Nature Coast is Pine Island, just a mile or so north of Bayport. It is the home of the county's only gulfside public beach. The Pine Island park is a favorite for beach lovers and sunset watchers. The few homes there have magnificant views; but again, since the offshore area is very shallow it is not really a boating area. There are a few off water lots available, but basically Pine Island is built out. The waters off Pine Island and northward onto the Chassahowitzka flats are noted for great Tarpon fishing in the late spring & early summer, but many anglers have good fishing there throughout most of the year.

This is a very simplified version of Karst Geology. Basically there are 2 types of rock, ingeous (volcanic) and sedimentary. Most of Florida is the sedimentary rock, primarily limestone, made up of trillions shells deposited when Florida was under the sea in past eons.

Karst geology which is limestone base. Rainwater is acidic due to the absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When the acidic rainwater hits the basic limestone it disolves it. You can see this reaction by putting vinegar on some baking soda or just put some vinegar on limestone or concrete and you will see a slower reacton. Anyway as the limestone is disolved holes develop and the limestone eventually resembles swiss cheese. The more water that flows in a particular area the greater the dissolution rate. Don't panic, this process takes thousands, if not millions, of years. Also realize that the difference betwen a sinkhole and a spring is whether or not the water is going down or comming up! Geologically they are the same.







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