Saturday, September 7, 2019

Weeki Wachee Mermaids

Pam Schwartz and I spent a weekend out by Weeki Wachee. We found a motel with a dock right on one of the streams that flow from the spring. We brought along two kayaks and explored the waterways the first day. It was plenty busy at the start of the trip with people swinging off of ropes and splashing into the crystal clear water. As we paddled further on the crowds thinned and the old native Florida habitat took over.

The next day we made our way into the Weeki Wachee Srings State Park (6131 Commercial Way, Spring Hill, FL 34606). “Weeki Wachee” was named by the Seminole Indians. It means “little spring” or “winding river.” The spring is so deep that the bottom has never been found. Each day, more than 117 million gallons of clear, fresh, 74-degree water bubbles up out of the subterranean caverns.

In 1946, Newton Perry, a former U.S. Navy man who trained Navy Frogmen to swim underwater in World War II, scouted out Weeki Wachee as a good site for a new business. In 1947, the first show at the Weeki Wachee Springs underwater theater opened. In the 1950s, Weeki Wachee was one of the nation’s most popular tourist stops. The attraction received worldwide acclaim. Movies were filmed at the spring, like Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid.

Of course we had to see the Mermaid Show. Women with air hoses acted as the mermaids and performed such astonishing stunts like drinking a bottle of Coke under water. I do have to admire their calm demeanor as they dove further down than I have ever tried. They were always smiling while waiting for their next breath of air from a hose. The best mermaids made the hose seem unnecessary. The shows climax came with a stirring tribute to the American flag which rose up behind the mermaids in the water.

The rest of our day was spent in Buccaneer Bay which had some steep water slides. The line up the wooden staircase was excruciatingly long. And the slide was terrifying, but over in a split second. The bay itself was relaxing, but we did see a woman slip on the cement ledge and fall - first hitting the cement and then falling in the water. Someone helped get her out of the water and life guards revived her. I then lost sight of her and don't know if she left or was taken for further treatment. The lazy river tubes were my favorite way to stay cool and relax.

Now that school has started for most kids, the lazy river and water slides are closed Monday through Friday.

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