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Latest update: November 2022

DeLeon Springs State Park...

Kayaking at Historic Attraction, now Florida State Park

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. Johns River. Launch at DeLeon Springs State Park and paddle the four-mile trail (one-way) along Spring Garden Creek to Lake Woodruff and Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge with its 18,000+ acres of lakes, creeks, and marshes. Or, simply do as most visitors do and casually paddle the shoreline areas near the Spring. (Detailed map and photos below.)

paddle deleon springs

Distance: Varies, 4 miles to Lake Woodruff, 10 miles to the St. Johns River
Location: Volusia County (DeLeon Springs)
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Tidal: No
Launch points: DeLeon Springs State Park (See map)
Nearby points of interest: Stetson University (DeLand), New Smyrna Beach, Daytona Beach

Rentals/Outfitters/Tours:

DeLeon Springs State Park (rentals, at park concession)

Support and Advocacy:

Friends of DeLeon Springs State Park

 

 

DeLeon Springs Paddling... Comments and Photos

The water is clear coming from the spring but soon darkens with much vegetation. 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.

Launch into DeLeon Spring Basin

 We launched from the paved ramp - easy on and off - into the basin. The eco-tour boat leaves from here as well. There is also a kayak launch dock at the adjoining floating dock. We paddled around the basin, then out to the top of Spring Garden Lake.

Paddling on Spring Garden Lake and Spring Garden Creek

We paddled around Spring Garden Lake and along the Creek a short distance toward Lake Woodruff. (About 4.2 miles one-way to Lake Woodruff, a fishing mecca, but not on our agenda.) Not much wildlife on this trip, some birds, but no gators. One plus is being well off the main river channel, so it's a relaxing paddle here with very few motor boats. It was a pretty day, we only passed a couple of pontoon boats and the tour boat, but several other paddlers. The south shore borders Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge.

Paddling on Spring Garden Lake

Paddling along Spring Garden Creek

DeLeon Springs State Park

The 72 degree DeLeon Springs swimming area is next to the Visitor Center. The spring depth ranges from 3 to 30 feet, there are no lifeguards. State Park admission fee. The Park has restrooms, parking, Visitor Center and gift shop, historic exhibits, a nature trail, picnicking, playground, fishing. The Old Sugar Mill Pancake House is located in a 1900 replica of an 1830 sugar mill, guests make their own pancakes - a grill is built into the tabletop and pitchers of batter provided. 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.

See more about the Old Sugar Mill Pancake House

More Information and Resources

Some History:

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 - remnants of the old sugar mill and machinery remain on site. Later, the springs became a winter resort - the park was renamed from Spring Garden to Ponce DeLeon Springs promoting the "Fountain of Youth." (Note: There is no evidence that Ponce DeLeon was ever here, but it served to attract tourists). This was one of the major roadside attractions in 1930's Florida, featuring waterskiing, trapeze artists, and a jungle cruise among other oddities.

paddle deleon springs

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