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Reported: Nov. 2011; latest update: Jan. 2017

Dora Canal... Scenic Paddling in Central Florida

The Dora Canal links Lake Eustis and Lake Dora, bordered by the towns of Eustis, Tavares and Mount Dora. Although short and marred by heavy boat traffic, the majestic cypress make this a scenic paddling trip in Florida. Several canals off the main channel are options. Many water birds along the shores, plus alligators, turtles, and otter, are great photography subjects. (Detailed map and photos below.)



View Larger Map

Distance:
1.25 miles
Location: Lake County (Mt. Dora/Tavares)
Difficulty: Easy
Tidal: No
Launch points: Summerall Park (Tavares), Wooten Park (Tavares) (See map, left)
Kayak/Canoe Rentals: N/A
Nearby points of interest: Mt. Dora, Eustis, Tavares, Renninger's Antique Center

We like launching at Summerall Park, which puts you right onto the canal vs. paddling on one of the lakes first. Note that the launch/boat ramp is not on Wells Avenue where the Summerall Park sign is, but rather around the corner off Rose Avenue. If your preference is to return to a point closer to restaurants, then Wooten Park is your choice - about 1/2 mile on Lake Dora to the Dora Canal. These are in Tavares, Mt. Dora is about 6 miles east.

A downside to all the beauty of the canal is the boat traffic. This is the main connector between Lake Eustis and Lake Dora, and the quiet and serene surroundings are often interrupted by passing boats - it's best to keep close to the shoreline. This is a popular tourist destination, and several tours - including large pontoon boats - run frequently on the canal. Several side canals are a nice diversion, we especially enjoyed the canal at the Lake County Blueways #4 marker. Closer to the lakes, many houses and motor homes line the canal - the middle section is the most scenic and good for birdwatching.

The lakes are part of the Harris Chain of Lakes, nine lakes connected by streams and canals that extend north to the Ocklawaha River. Lake Eustis is known for bass fishing and boating. Lake Dora is a pretty, shallow lake popular with boaters. Scenic tours are available. Dora Canal trivia: it's said that the canal was used to film some re-takes of river scenes originally filmed in Africa for the 1951 classic film African Queen.

Mount Dora is popular for its quaint Victorian atmosphere, restaurants, and antique shops; the historic Lakeside Inn (1883) is one of several lodging options. The town hosts many events, with the annual Mount Dora Art Festival ranked among the best in the country. At an elevation of 184 feet above sea level - a Central Florida highpoint - the "I climbed Mt. Dora" bumper stickers have become a popular inside joke.

Nearby Eustis ("America's Hometown") and Tavares ("America's Seaplane City") also sport a hometown-Florida atmosphere with quaint downtowns and a variety of activities scheduled throughout the year.

Paddling at Dora Canal
(tap or hover over photo for larger view)
We launched from Summerall Park (Tavares) and paddled on the canal
from Lake Dora to Lake Eustis.
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Summerall Park boat ramp Channel from
boat ramp to
Dora Canal
Looking out to
Lake Dora
Lake Dora entering Dora Canal
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Homes along
the canal
Tour boat Boats at Wells Avenue bridge Past the SR 19 bridge, canal enters natural area Along Dora Canal
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Busy boats Along Dora Canal Meandering through the cypress Approaching US441 bridge, Lake Eustis
 Side canal
Off the Dora Canal, we paddled up the side canal at Lake County Blueways #4 marker for a respite from the boat traffic, a little over a half mile. This ends at a residential community. We turned around to return to Dora Canal, passing just a few residents boating home.
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Entering the canal Along the canal Entering
residential area
Exiting back onto Dora Canal,
another tour boat
 Lake Eustis
On Lake Eustis we paddled to the public boat ramp, along US441. This is not  recommended for paddlers - many big boats launching at the ramp for fishing.
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Onto Lake Eustis These seagulls the only ones using the old fishing pier Lake Eustis Public boat ramp Picnic area at
the ramp
 Launching on Lake Dora at Wooten Park (Tavares)
The beach area is best for launching. Close to restaurants, downtown Tavares.
Paddle Dora Canal, Wooten Park, Tavares - Kayak, CanoePaddle Dora Canal, Tavares - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Dora Canal, Wooten Park, Tavares - Kayak, CanoePaddle Dora Canal, Tavares - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Dora Canal, Wooten Park, Tavares - Kayak, CanoePaddle Dora Canal, Tavares - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Dora Canal, Wooten Park, Tavares - Kayak, CanoePaddle Dora Canal, Tavares - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Dora Canal, Wooten Park, Tavares - Kayak, CanoePaddle Dora Canal, Tavares - Kayak, Canoe
Launch along shoreline
at Wooten Park
Rowing team practicing Boat ramp Seaplane base
Wildlife Viewing
Paddle Dora Canal, wildlifePaddle Dora Canal - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Dora Canal, wildlifePaddle Dora Canal - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Dora Canal, wildlifePaddle Dora Canal - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Dora Canal, wildlifePaddle Dora Canal - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Dora Canal, wildlifePaddle Dora Canal - Kayak, Canoe
Alligator Great blue heron Anhinga Alligator Turtle

More information about Mt. Dora and paddling on Dora Canal (opens in a new window):

- Lake County - The Dora Canal

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