A view from behind a woman paddling a kayak through an emerald green river with trees on either side.

Paddling the Emerald Cut from King's Landing

The incredibly clear water of the Emerald Cut, surrounded by lush foliage is one of the best places in Florida to paddle. Plan your visit to this one of a kind place with our guide.

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What is the Emerald Cut?

The Emerald Cut is a particularly beautiful section of Rock Springs Run. The crystal clear spring fed water flowing over a white sandy bottom results in a jaw-dropping color that gives it the name. The jungle-like surroundings have a way of making you forget where you are as well. It's truly a one-of-a-kind oasis and one of the best places in Florida to paddle.

It's become a world famous destination, popping up all over social media. People flock here to see it with their own eyes and capture their own shots. The accessibility as a day trip from one of Florida's largest cities has made it all the more popular.

You can reach the Emerald Cut and see it for yourself by heading about thirty minutes north of Orlando to the town of Apopka.

Navigate to King's Landing, a canoe and kayak livery on Rock Springs Run, just outside the western boundaries of Wekiwa Springs State Park. From here you can access the water and make a short upstream paddle to the cut.

Paddling Through the Emerald Cut

After gingerly making our way down the narrow channel, careful to not collide with the returning paddlers, we reach a fork in the river.

A left turn would take us downstream, floating along Rock Springs Run, into the wild side of Florida and Wekiwa Springs State Park.

To the right was the famed Emerald Cut.

We choose the right, push our double kayak against a gentle current, and head upstream.

Cloudy skies that had just been dumping rain open up for the sun to shine through and hit the unbelievably clear emerald water.

We wind our way through one turn into the next, passing below a heavily leaning oak tree that reaches almost entirely across the river. Eventually, we've paddled our way up into a densely lush area.

Towering trees and low palms combine to form a wall of green, casting shade onto the green-yellow water flowing along under us.

We maneuver the kayak towards a bank and step out into comfortably cool knee-deep water.

A woman looking up as she paddles a kayak through crystal clear water with trees on either side.A woman looking at her surroundings as she stands in knee deep emerald green water with trees all around.

Put in at King's Landing

The best way to get on the water and see the Emerald Cut is at King's Landing. In fact, it's the only place you'll be able to rent a vessel and get there.

To ensure your time slot you definitely need to make an online reservation for the day you plan on visiting.

King's Landing offers plenty of rental options, guided tours, and the opportunity to bring your own vessel and use their launch.

Rent a Kayak, Canoe or Paddleboard

Four hours is plenty of time to paddle both upstream to the Emerald Cut and also back downstream to explore more of Rock Springs Run. That's how much time you get for a day paddle rental. The trip up to just the cut and back will probably only take you an hour or so, longer if you want to hang out and spend some time there or have a snack.

Single and double kayaks are available, as well as canoes and paddleboards, with prices starting at $49.

If you have more than two people you might want to opt for the canoe, but we'd really recommend sticking to kayaks if possible. The river isn't terrible to navigate, but it's much easier to take the turns in a kayak.

Take a Guided Tour

If you're less comfortable paddling alone or just want the experience of a guide to lead you up river and share some local insight, you can book a guided tour.

You have the choice of a kayak or paddleboard tour, which range between 2 and 5 hours long and start at $59 per person.

During select summer evenings you can even book a kayak adventure and experience the Emerald Cut during sunset.

Bring Your Own

Of course, if you have your own vessel, you can use the launch at King's Landing for a $10 fee per person ($5 for kids 12 and under).

Another benefit is that your time on the river isn't limited. You can launch any time after 8 AM and just need to return by 4:30 PM.

You may still want to make an online reservation, since they may reach capacity on busy days and deny walk ins.

Want to paddle to Emerald Cut for free?

On select days (April 17, July 17, Sept 18 and Dec 18) you can bring your own vessel and launch for free in exchange for picking up at least 10 pieces of trash.

The only other option for self launch is from Camp Joy, just down the road from King's Landing inside Kelly Park. The downside here is that Kelly Park is an incredibly popular attraction and regularly fills up first thing in the morning. During our visit there was a line of cars stretching a mile down the road, waiting to get in when the gates opened.

You'll also need to carry your vessel a good distance from the parking area to the boat launch. But, the cost is only $3 for two people, so it's a wallet friendly option if you're willing to jump through a few hoops.

View from behind a woman paddling a kayak through crystal clear water.

What to Bring

There isn't much you need to truly enjoy the Emerald Cut, other than something to paddle. But there are a few essentials you'll want to bring along, especially if you intend to use up all four hours on the water.

Here's what we recommend packing for your trip to Rock Springs Run:

Water in a reusable water bottle | It's important to stay hydrated, especially on a hot Florida day when you'll be exerting yourself. If you're looking for a bottle that can double as a water filter on future trips we love using these Grayl bottles.

Energy snacks | Some of our favorites that pack nicely for paddling or hiking are Clif bars, these delicious honey waffles, and Solely fruit jerky.

Sun protection | A good quality (and eco-friendly) sunscreen might be the most obvious, but you're also going to want a hat, sunglasses, and some SPF clothing to shield you from the harsh Southern sun.

Water shoes | It's virtually impossible to paddle the Emerald Cut and not get out and walk around in the water. It's just too inviting. Wear a quality pair of water shoes or sandals that will protect your feet on dry ground, but also can be worn in the water.

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Packable quick dry towels | These travel towels have come in handy on so many of our adventures, including other paddling and snorkeling trips as well as visits to hot springs. They're so convenient to have on the go.

A dry bag | You'll need somewhere to put those towels, as well as snacks or anything else you're bringing along. Once again, these dry bags have protected our stuff on so many different camping trips and adventures.

Waterproof phone case | These days, phones are probably the most expensive things we've carrying around. Keep yours safe in a waterproof case and still take epic photos of the Emerald Cut.

GoPro | Or step up your game a bit and invest in a GoPro, which comes with its own waterproofing. You can even shoot photos and video underwater or attach it to something for a unique angle.

A PFD | If you're renting, no need to worry about a personal flotation device.. that's included. But if you're bringing your own vessel, make sure you have yours. It's required to be able to put in.

An emerald green river running through a densely forested area of palms and other trees.

Common Questions About the Emerald Cut

How Much Does it Cost to Kayak Emerald Cut?

There are a variety of rental options from King's Landing, which start at $49 for a single kayak. Double kayaks are $69 and if you want to take a guided tour it'll run you at least $59 per person.

If you're bringing your own vessel you'll just have to pay $10 per adult or $5 per child under 13 to use the launch.

Are there alligators in the Emerald Cut?

There are alligators in Wekiwa Springs State Park (directly adjacent to King's Landing and the Emerald Cut) as well as throughout Florida.

However, it's very rare to spot an alligator in the Emerald Cut, which is a heavily visited portion of Rock Springs Run. Alligators, despite popular belief, prefer to stay away from humans and aren't nearly as aggressive as you might think, unless provoked.

We did spot several alligators on our overnight canoe trip down Rock Springs Run, but only once we entered the State Park. They were also quite small and had absolutely no interest in being close to us.

Be cautious and vigilant while paddling in any waters throughout Florida, but don't worry about encountering an alligator at the Emerald Cut.

Can I bring my pet to Kings Landing?

No. Pets are no longer allowed on the property at King's Landing.

Is the water really that clear?

Yes, the water at Kings Landing and the Emerald Cut is famous for its crystal clear clarity, offering excellent visibility for paddlers to admire the underwater scenery and marine life.

Yes, you'll need to see it to believe it for yourself, but the water in the Emerald Cut is incredibly clear.

During the rainy season, which we'll talk about more below, tannins from the surrounding forest can leach into the water and give it a reddish-brown color, so it's best to time your visit at certain times of the year or call ahead to inquire about the current visiblity.

When is the best time for kayaking the Emerald Cut?

Because of Florida's mild winter temperatures and the spring fed water in Rock Springs Run, which maintains about 72 degrees, the Emerald Cut is truly a year-round attraction.

That being said, you'll find crowds here regularly, peaking around March - May for spring break, and over the summer between June and August. Even during the winter, Florida attracts tons of visitors escaping the cold.

On the plus side, King's Landing takes reservations to secure a time slot and does not allow more walk ins once they're at capacity.

To plan for the best time to visit, you'll also want to consider that the area receives more rain in August and September. The water level not only rises, but takes on a reddish-brown color. Tannins from the surrounding forest's leaves make their way into the water from rainfall, giving it a tea colored appearance.

How cold is the water?

Like all of Florida's natural springs, the water temperature remains a pretty steady 72F (22C) all year. That makes it comfortable to be on and even in the water almost any time. During the winter it might feel a bit chilly, but it will be cool and comfortable from spring through fall.

Can you paddleboard in the Emerald Cut?

Yes, paddleboarding is one great way to see the Emerald Cut. You can either bring your own and launch from King's Landing for a small fee, rent a SUP, or book a guided SUP tour.

Want to see the Emerald Cut for yourself? Pin it for later!

A woman paddling a kayak through clear water with text overlay that says "Paddling Florida's Emerald Cut"

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