Below are just a few of the places in our area of particular natural beauty. Hopefully, you'll have the time to visit some of them.
SPRINGS - Florida may have more fresh water springs than any other comparable size area on the planet and some of the largest and most beautiful ones are quite close to DeLand. Fortunately, most of them are protected on public lands and require only a relatively small entrance fee. All of the springs have water that remains 70-74 degrees F. year-round so it's possible to swim in relative comfort even in January. If you can go during the week rather than on the weekends you will find these places to be far less crowded. If you can only go on a weekend, try to go as early in the day as possible (most places open at 8:00 a.m.). If possible, bring a mask and snorkel so you can see below the water’s surface. The view underwater is even more awe-inspiring than that from above. Watch for a variety of native fish such as gar, bass, mullet, tarpon, catfish, bowfin, and sunfish plus numerous exotic species such as tilapia, armored catfish and carp) You may also see eels, skates, manatees (primarily at Blue Spring), various species of turtles, and blue crabs. Above water, in the areas surrounding the springs, you may also see deer, bald eagles, river otters, osprey, alligators, black bears, raccoons, turkeys, gopher tortoises and numerous other creatures. A few of the main springs in our area are:
Blue Spring State Park - Go south on Woodland Av. 15 minutes south of DeLand to Orange City and turn right on French Av for 2-3 miles to the park entrance. Walk up the stream along the boardwalk to see the inspiring spring head. Then go back to where you can get in the water and swim upstream. The cave goes straight down in the earth about 120 ft. If you go around mid-day the shaft of the spring is well illuminated and the snorkeling is excellent. In the winter you can consistently see West Indian manatees (Be sure to follow all guidelines for protecting this endangered species). It's an amazing experience to say the least. Besides red-bellied turtles and Florida cooters, large snapping turtles occasionally prowl the banks of the spring run. To see fish (including bass, gar, tarpon, mosquitofish and the invasive tilapias & armored catfish) snorkel downstream toward the large swimming dock watching closely along the banks. Canoe rentals are also available to explore the St. John’s River. Swimming is not allowed when manatees are in the water.
DeLeon Springs State Park - Only 15 minutes to the north of DeLand off of Rt. 17 (follow the signs). The water here is not quite as clear as at the other springs, especially if there are scuba divers in the water, but it's still a great place to swim. If you can dive down in the center of the pool about 30 feet, you'll be surrounded by tiny snail shells whirling around in the current at the spring vent. It's great fun to hold on to the rock down there and feel the water blasting over your body. Excellent canoeing and kayaking is also available on site. Watch for the numerous alligators outside the spring area. There is now even a small manatee population during the winter.
Silver Glen Springs (not to be confused with the Silver Springs theme park) - These springs are about 40 minutes from DeLand in the Ocala National Forest on Rt. 19, north of Rt. 40. The water here is amazingly clear and beautiful. There are fish everywhere, often striped bass and sometimes even amberjack visiting from the ocean. There are two caves you can swim into against the force of the springs and an even more outstanding boil that is roped off from the public. There are also two walking trails, one short one to some tiny springs in the forest and a 2 mile hiking trail to the banks of Lake George. Exhaust and noise from power boats parked just outside the spring area can be quite obnoxious on weekends and throughout the summer.
Salt Springs - These springs are another 10 minutes north of Silver Glen Springs on Rt. 19. This is a smaller series of springs with their own unique charm. The water has a slightly salty taste and you can often find blue crabs if you look in the crevices near the spring vents. Skates are also common here. Water clarity is exceptionally high.
Alexander Springs - One of the biggest and most spectacular springs in the state, the site has been left in an almost completely natural condition. There is great underwater visibility with lots of fish and alligators, especially along the edges under the weeds. The hiking trail next to the springs goes through several different ecosystems and is an excellent way to get a better sense of our local environment. Canoes can be rented here to explore the wilderness along the spring run (Watch for river otters, bald eagles, limpkins and alligators). The site is about 40 minutes from DeLand. Turn left in Astor Park off of Rt. 40 and follow signs or follow Rt. 44 west to Rt. 42 which takes you to Rt. 19. Go north on 19 and follow signs. If you don't mind bumpy roads, a dirt short-cut cuts north from Rt. 42 near an obvious dairy farm.
Juniper Springs - A small, but lovely spring off of Rt. 40 in the Ocala National Forest. It’s definitely worth a quick swim (Watch for eel). It’s about 45 minutes from DeLand.
Fern Hammock Springs - Once within the Juniper Springs area, take the 10-15 minute walk to these exquisite springs (get a map at the entrance to the park). It's nothing short of magical. Watch closely how the colored sand shifts with the slow movements of the water. No swimming is allowed here due to the fragility of the ecosystem but it’s still well worth a visit.
Rock Springs - A small but lovely spring coming out of a surface cave. A fantastic place for tubing as well as snorkeling. It's about 30 minutes southwest of DeLand in Kelly Park, south of S.R. 44 (You’ll need a map). Canoe rentals are available at King’s landing nearby for the Rock Springs Run (see photo). There are 3 lovely campsites along the run that can be reserved through the Wekiwa Spring State Park north of Orlando.
Others: Gemini Springs are in nearby DeBary in a county park but
there is no swimming. For a real treat, drive 2 hours to Ichetucknee
Springs State Park (see photo),
Springs State Park and Peacock
Springs State Park, all northwest of Gainesville for truly
outstanding snorkeling and freediving. Be sure to swim at Blue Hole
while at Ichetucknee. It’s humbling in its beauty. Wekiwa
Springs State Park is also worth a visit if you're down in
the Orlando area, particularly for the canoe run that runs north out of
the park. You can view the entire list of area state parks here.
WILDLIFE -Wildlife is abundant in our area
and, apart from the Florida state
parks and Volusia
parks, there are many public lands on which to observe it. Of
particular interest are several nearby wildlife refuges. The closest is
about 10 minutes from DeLand, the Lake Woodruff National
Wildlife Refuge. (See the Friends
of Lake Woodruff site for more). The variety of animals living there is tremendous
changes throughout the year (prime time is during the winter months).
a particularly good area for seeing alligators. There are many
species of large birds including bald eagles, egrets, osprey, herons,
and limpkins. There are also otter, deer, bobcats, armadillos, various
snakes (including the pygmy rattlesnake) and gopher tortoises. Merritt Island National Wildlife
Refuge near the Space Center is also well worth the trip. The
wilderness in the Wekiva River basin to our southwest is well-known for
black bears, as is
the Ocala National Forest.
The lands of the St. John's
River Water Management District also over numerous opportunities
for viewing wildlife.
OCEAN - Some of the beaches in this area are great. The nicest stretches are, of course, government protected.
Cape Canaveral National Seashore - The park is only about 40 minutes from us and is the largest stretch of undeveloped beach on the east coast of Florida. It is nothing short of spectacular. When the sea turtles are nesting, you can sign up for a special program at night to go watch this wonder of nature. Go early if you want a parking place on the weekend since space is very limited. Watch for dolphins and an occasional whale offshore. The Indian River side of the park is also spectacular. This area has some of the highest species diversity of any estuary in the continent. There is an entrance fee and one year entrance passes are available.
Washington Oaks State Park - This beach has some very unique rock formations on it and is a little over an hour away to the northeast. The gardens in the park are also worth visiting. The Fort Matanzas National Historic Monument several miles to the north is well worth the short trip.
Ponce Inlet - There are beautiful places to check out on both
sides of this entrance to the Intracoastal Waterway which is directly
to our east. About 30 minutes away from DeLand.
Hontoon Island State Park - 10 minutes southwest of DeLand is this park on the massive St. John's River. Take the free ferry across the river and climb the observation tower to get a great view. There is also a hiking trail to a Native American mound.
Canoeing is excellent on the Juniper Springs Run - Be sure to go on a weekday to avoid the crowds. This 7 mile canoe trip is one of the most enjoyable imaginable. You can rent a canoe for 3 people for about $25. If you do anything on this list, do this. Begin the trip at Juniper Springs. Other outstanding canoe runs in the area include the Wekiva River Run (Beginning in the Wekiva State Park), the Rock Springs Run mentioned above, and the Oklawaha River on the western edge of the Ocala National Forest.
St. Francis Interpretive Trail - This is a very nice hiking trail just across the St. John's River. Follow Rt.44 west to County Road 42 (turn right after the draw bridge). Shortly after the turn you will see a sign. 12 miles further north on 42 you will come to Clearwater Lake Recreation Area. From there, you will find good trails, including an excellent one for mountain bikes that goes 11 miles through the woods up to Alexander Springs.
The above list is only a beginning. Find your own favorite spot.
Above all, GET OUT AND ENJOY !
Please contact Robert Sitler at 822-7281 (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information, comments, or suggested additions to this list.