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.)
We like launching at Summerall Park, which puts you right onto the canal vs. paddling on one of the lakes first. Note that the road to the boat launch is difficult to see. It is not at the main entrance into Summerall Park. Rather, it is a dirt road off Wells Ave. about 150 feet west of the main Park entrance, immediately next to 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. A few side canals offer additional paddling opportunities. 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.
More information about Mt. Dora and paddling on Dora Canal (opens in a new window):
Paddling in Florida - Kayak, Canoe