DeLeon Springs... Historic Roadside Attraction with Paddling
DeLeon Spring, pouring out 19 million gallons of water per day, forms the headwaters for Spring Garden Lake and Spring Garden Creek which flows 10 miles to the St. John's River. Launch at Ponce DeLeon Springs State Park and paddle the four-mile trail along Spring Garden Creek to Lake Woodruff and Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge with its 18,000+ acres of lakes, creeks, and marshes. (Detailed map and photos below.)
The water is clear coming from the spring but darkens due to vegetation, and the decaying vegetation on the lake produces methane gas that can be smelly. Some shade along the shoreline, but this is a sunny ride with very few places to pull off to stretch or snack. During low water, may be necessary to navigate around shallow sections in Spring Garden Creek. Wildlife include alligators, manatee (in season), otters, deer, eagles and over 125 species of birds.
The 72 degree DeLeon Springs swimming area is next to the Visitor Center. The Park has restrooms, parking and facilities, a nature trail, picnicking, playground, fishing. At The Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant, guests make their own pancakes at their table. Canoe, kayak and paddleboat rentals are available for paddling at the spring and spring run, and an Eco/History Boat Tour runs up Spring Garden Creek. Snorkeling is allowed in the swimming area, no diving except for instructional diving with a certified instructor. Watch for the "swamp ape" (photo on the right).
The spring was known to Native Americans as long as 6,000 years ago, then in the early 1800s sugar and cotton plantations were built. Later, the springs became a winter resort -- the park was renamed from Spring Garden to Ponce DeLeon promoting the "Fountain of Youth." This was one of the major roadside attractions in 1930's Florida featuring waterskiing, trapeze artists and a jungle cruise among other oddities.
Also visit us here: Bicycling at Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge
More information on paddling at DeLeon Springs (opens in a new window):
Paddling in Florida - Kayak, Canoe
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