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Reported: Jan. 2017

Winter Park Chain of Lakes... Urban Paddling in Central Florida

The Winter Park Chain of Lakes consists of six lakes connected by navigable canals - Lake Virginia, Lake Mizell, Lake Osceola, Lake Maitland, Lake Nina and Lake Minnehaha. Located in Winter Park and Maitland and close to downtown Orlando, the lakes are popular for paddleboarding, kayaking, waterskiing, boating and fishing. We found the canals - offering shelter from both wind and sun - to be some of the most pleasant paddling. (Detailed map and photos below.)



View Larger Map

Distance:
Varies
Location: Orange County
Difficulty: Easy
Tidal: No
Launch points: Dinky Dock (Winter Park), Fort Maitland (Maitland) (See map, left)
Rentals, Tours: Winter Park (links, above right)
Nearby points of interest: Rollins College, Morse Museum of American Art, Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Garden

There are two public launches with parking: at Dinky Dock on Lake Virginia in Winter Park, and at Fort Maitland Park in Maitland. Boats with motors must obtain a permit from either city - while the signs are not clear, we confirmed this requirement does not apply to non-motorized vessels. We saw other small neighborhood ramps, but no parking. A small beach at the eastern corner of Kraft Azalea Gardens on Lake Maitland is a short carry but another option for kayakers and paddleboarders. The canals are narrow, mostly shaded, and lined with semi-tropical vegetation. While there's no specific paddling trail, for an idea of distances it is about 1.75 miles from Dinky Dock to Kraft Azalea Gardens (passing through two scenic canals), and about 3 miles from Dinky Dock to Fort Maitland Park.

The Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour is popular, leaving from Lake Osceola. Be mindful of these wide tour boats in the narrow canals - even small kayaks may need to back up to a wider passing point, which is all part of the experience. Views include birds, lush scenery, and some historic estates. The Rollins College rowing team may be seen practicing.

Paddling at Winter Park Chain of Lakes
(tap or hover over photo for larger view)
Dinky Dock - Lake Virginia - Lake Mizell - Lake Osceola
On this day, we launched from Dinky Dock (Ollie Avenue off Fairbanks) and
paddled around Lakes Virginia, Mizell and Osceola. Dinky Dock Park has
parking, restrooms, fishing dock, beach, picnic tables and grills.
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Dinky Dock Alternate launch, sand beach next to ramp Lake Virginia Lake Virginia, Rollins College (Knowles Chapel spire) in the background
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Genius Canal to
Lake Mizell
Bridge at
Genius Drive
Onto Lake Mizell Lake Mizell Home along the lakeshore
Fern Canal - Lake Virginia to Lake Osceola
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Entering Fern Canal Bridge at Osceola Avenue Fern Canal Onto Lake Osceola Lake Osceola
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A glimpse of Albin Polasek Sculpture Gardens Scenic Tour boat returning to dock Lake Osceola Small neighborhood Lake Osceola access Homes along the lakeshore
Venetian Canal - Lake Osceola to Lake Maitland
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Entering
Venetian Canal (longest on the chain)
Venetian Canal Bridge at
Alabama Drive
Boathouse Approaching
Lake Maitland
Fort Maitland Park - Lake Maitland - Lake Nina - Lake Minnehana
Another day, we launched from Fort Maitland Park (off Orlando Avenue,
Hwy 17/92), paddled around Lake Maitland and on a canal through Lake Nina
to Lake Minnehaha. Fort Maitland Park has parking, picnic area and restroom.
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Fort Maitland boat ramp Lake Maitland near the ramp, condos Lake Maitland
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The Exedra at Kraft Azalea Gardens, popular for weddings Alternative beach launch, Kraft Azalea Gardens Homes along the
lake shore
Bridge to island,
Isle of Sicily
Cypress
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Dog Island
Small beach is a popular stop for boaters
Small neighborhood Lake Maitland access Rollins College
rowing team
Boat tour advisory and following the tour boat into the canal back toward Lake Osceola; not wide enough for both!
Canal  from Lake Maitland to Lake Nina to Lake Minnehaha
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Entering the canal off Lake Maitland Along the canal Lake Nina
By far, smallest of the six lakes
Back on the canal, bridge at Old Horatio Avenue
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The bridge at Horatio Avenue
A bike trail also goes under the bridge,
part of the Maitland Bike Route
Entering Lake Minnehaha Lake Minnehaha
Some of many birds seen on the lakes
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Blue heron Anhinga Anhinga Great white egret Tri-color heron
(up in the tree)

More information on paddling on Winter Park Chain of Lakes (opens in a new window):

- City of Winter Park - Boating
- City of Winter Park - Chain of Lakes map

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