Juniper Run... Paddling in the Ocala National Forest
The paddling trail from Juniper Springs Recreation Area to Juniper Wayside Park extends about 7 miles. Paddling can be very technical especially at high water, best for experienced paddlers. There are no intermediate access points, the average trip is about 4-5 hours. The first 1.5 miles is the prettiest - narrow and winding, with crystal clear, shallow water - but also swift moving. The middle section alternates between wider, deeper water and narrower runs including a short rapids. At the bottom, it broadens out through wetlands before arriving at Wayside Park. A livery service is available at the recreation area with canoes and kayaks for rent. (Detailed map and photos below.)
The spring is actually many springs both in the main spring bowl and along the spring run - watch and listen for them. This is a popular destination and can be very busy, especially on weekends. Be aware of the rules as they DO check your coolers and bags - no plastic bags or disposable containers are allowed, even candy bars need to be taken out of their wrappers. Check with the livery service for launch hours as well, everyone must be off the run by sunset and launch times are strictly enforced.
Wildlife along the spring run include deer, otters, raccoons, alligators, birds, and black bears. The run goes past palms, cypress and southern hardwoods plus sawgrass and wetlands.
Juniper Springs Recreation Area in the Ocala National Forest is one of the oldest in the U.S., constructed by the CCC in the 1930's. Of historical interest is the Millhouse - since the area was far from any sources of electricity, the millhouse was built to use the spring itself to generate power. The recreational area includes camping, picnicking, swimming, snorkeling, and hiking. An 8-mile segment of the Florida National Scenic Trail runs through the Juniper Prairie Wilderness.
More information on paddling at Juniper Springs (opens in a new window):
Paddling in Florida - Kayak, Canoe