Tag Archives: Florida State Park

A Day Well Spent at Wekiwa Springs State Park

This post is contributed by Justin Fricke of The Weekend Warrior

There’s something missing in Florida—National Parks. We only have one and that’s down south. Way down south in the everglades. What we lack in National Parks, we greatly make up for in State Parks. We have 161 State Parks in Florida and one of the closest to Orlando is Wekiwa Springs State Park. Wekiwa Springs is in Apopka, FL and it’s only 15 minutes north of downtown Orlando.

Wekiwa Springs is basically an outdoor oasis amongst an urban jungle. It’s the perfect year-round getaway from the madness of the city.

Scenic view at Wekiwa Springs State Park.

Image Credit: FloridaSprings.org

The summers are brutally hot here in Florida, and Wekiwa Springs has one killer spring to help the locals and tourists cool off. The spring is at the center of the park. The grassy area where you can throw down a blanket is sloped, creating an amphitheater effect. The spring itself is crystal clear and 72 degrees year-round.

Springs can be inherently dangerous to swim into. A lot of them are just massive cave systems and it’s very easy to lose direction and get lost in them. The spring at Wekiwa Springs State Park is simple and only 15 feet deep. Just swim down along the rock walls and once you hit the sandy bottom you can look underneath the rock walls to see where all the water comes screaming out of the earth.

English: An Alligator on the Wekiwa Springs Ru...

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Florida winters is prime time for hiking with the onset of cooler weather. Wekiwa Springs State Park has miles on miles of nature trails. The shorter trails are just a couple of miles and the longest trail is over 10 miles. Serious hikers love the long trail, and who wouldn’t? It’s a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon by yourself or with a few of your close friends. Long distance runners, and all sorts of runners for that matter, love the trails. They’re great to train on with a softer running surface than the road. The trails are also well maintained, and it’s a wonderful change of scenery from running in urban landscapes.

In addition, any season is perfect paddling season in Florida. Throughout most of the year, it stays warm in Central Florida and one of the best places to paddle is the Wekiwa River. The State Park rents out canoes and kayaks for a nominal fee and the beach where you launch them onto the river is right near the spring. Right after launching your paddling vessel you should keep a wide eye out in the bay. Gators love to hangout in the area (don’t worry, it’s impossible for them to get into the spring where you can swim). Just admire them from afar and they’ll admire you from afar as well.

Entrance to Wekiwa Springs State Park

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Further down the Wekiwa River are tons of opportunities for exploration. There are so many little canals where you can paddle to; you’ll be occupied for hours. Just keep in mind that water levels do play a key factor in where you can go. When there’s been a lot of rain, like during the summer, it’ll be easy to paddle through all the different canals. However, when there hasn’t been much rain, like in the winter, they tend to run a little dry. The only way to find out which canals you are able to explore and which ones are meant to be explored for another day is to simply explore for yourself.

The next time you’re feeling a little claustrophobic from the city of Orlando, just know there’s a natural oasis waiting for you. Wekiwa Springs State Park is the perfect place to get away from the city to experience nature, without having to pack and drive for hours.

Florida State Parks and Scuba Diving

Ever wonder what it’s like to go scuba diving? Now is your chance to experience it at the Florida State Parks! If you are planning a vacation to Florida or if you reside there, check out some of these state parks that offer scuba diving as an activity!

Bahia Honda State Park

Two women and a boy scuba diving under water with fishes

Image: www.authenticflorida.com

36850 Overseas Highway
Big Pine Key, Florida 33043
Southeast Region

The water at Bahia Honda State Park is very shallow which can be beneficial to those who have never experienced scuba diving or snorkeling before. Keep in mind that while scuba diving, a “diver-down” flag must be displayed.

Fanning Springs State Park

Man visiting Florida State Parks and scuba diving in a cave at Fanning Springs state park

Scuba Diving at Fanning Springs State Park! [Image: www.floridiannature.com]

18020 N.W. Highway 19
Fanning Springs, Florida 32693
Northeast Region

Experience the beautiful waters of Fanning Springs State Park. Divers should have certification and are required to register with park staff before 3:00 P.M and you must be out of the water by 5:00 P.M. There is a minimum of two divers in the water at a time.

Manatee Springs State Park

Man scuba diving near coral reefs

Image: www.101scubadiving.com

11650 NW 115 Street
Chiefland, Florida 32626
Northeast Region

Scuba dive at this state park to explore nature’s wonders. Cavern and cave diving is also available at Manatee Springs State Park. You must preset your certification upon registration and dive instructors are required to purchase a Commercial Dive Permit. All divers must have a scuba diving buddy and you must be registered by 3 P.M. and be out of the waters by 5 P.M. It is recommended that you dive within your certification limits.

Troy Spring State Park

Troy Spring and ramp that leads to water

Troy Spring State Park [Image: www.floridacaves.com]

674 NE Troy Springs Road
Branford, Florida 32008
Northeast Region

Come and scuba dive in the 70-foot deep spring at Troy Spring State Park! There is a rinse station and outdoor shower near the restroom. A ramp gives you access to the dock that can be used for wagons or a handcart to carry gear.

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

Two people learning how to scuba dive underwater with an intructor

Image: www.guadalajaradivecenter.com

6131 Commercial Way
Weeki Wachee, Florida 32606
Southwest Region

Learn how to scuba dive at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with an instructor from a dive shop. No individual dives are allowed. Make your reservation today!

Download Florida State Park Pocket Ranger® app to see Rules and Regulations for scuba diving and to view park rules, fees and reservation info.

Suggested Gear:

  • Wetsuit
  • Swimwear
  • Sunglasses

View Pocket Ranger® Gear Store to purchase these needed items for your trip plus much more!

Real-Life State Park Alternatives to the Fictional Places You’ve Always Wanted to Visit

Don’t deny it: there’s a part of you that’s still a five-year old, that believes in other worlds and fantastical creatures and magical powers/time travel/etc. So, we here at PBN, of playing-outdoors-for-a-living-like-you’re-a-kid-fame, felt it necessary to indulge this (potentially) small part of you.

Not dissimilar from Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games trilogy inspiration (she got the idea in part by channel surfing and flipping back and forth between reality TV and news coverage of the war in Iraq), we’re taking a page (post) out of her book (our blog). That’s right: after thinking about these posts that have come before (5 Fantasy Worlds that Would Make Great State Parks) and (Go Here, Not There: State Park Alternatives to Popular National Parks), we bring you this here blog post: real-life state park alternatives to the fictional places and fantasy lands you always wanted to visit. Don’t forget to bring your Connecticut and Florida state park Pocket Ranger® apps and soon-to-come Wildlife Viewing Oregon app for the ride!

If you’ve always wanted to visit Jurassic Park…

Jurassic Park state park alternatives to the fictional lands

Image: www.jurassicpark4online.com

You could head to this campy (and not our kind of camp) place in Australia, but we think you’ll have a much better (and cheaper time) at Connecticut’s own Dinosaur State Park.

dinosaur state park state park alternatives to fictional lands

Image: Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection

Believe it or not, Dinosaur State Park is one of the largest dinosaur track sites in North America. In 1966, the state was excavating land to construct a new building, and to their surprise, they ended up uncovering 2,000 dinosaur tracts! The exhibit center houses a life-sized diorama of the Triassic period (including Jurassic-esque dino models), 500 of the aforementioned tracks (the other 1,500 have been buried for preservation), films that transport you to the Early Jurassic era, and more.

If you’ve always wanted to hang out in FernGully…

Ferngully state park alternatives to fictional lands

Image: weheartit.com

Check out Silver Falls State Park in Oregon.

Silver Falls State Park alternatives to fictional lands

Image: www. gallery.egyptsons.com/postcard.img54330.htm

Okay, we know that FernGully is supposed to be a tropical rainforest. But suspend your disbelief for a second (I mean, you not-so-secretly want to go there, so it shouldn’t be too difficult), and allow us to bring you this lush, temperate rainforest!

This real-life FernGully may be devoid of fairies, but it’s full of other natural wonders. Trees? Check. Waterfalls? Check. Wild animals? If cougars and black bears and chickadees count (and they do), check!

In Oregon’s largest state park, you can also frolic through interpretative walks, like “Magical Marshes” (we told you it was magical!), a 1 1/2 hour guided tour of Silver Falls’ wetlands to check out the marsh plants, “A Walk in the Mist Zone” to see all the wildflowers, or just journey through yourself, by hiking or biking or horseback riding.

If you’ve always wanted to swing around the jungle from The Jungle Book

Jungle Book state park alternatives to fictional lands

Image: www.comicbook.com

Take a trip to Silver Springs State Park in Florida.

svr-calmwaters-charleneknight

Image: www.floridastateparks.org/silversprings/img/photogallery/original/svr-calmwaters-charleneknight.jpg

Yes, we know; it seems like a bit of a stretch (“seem” being the operative word), considering the jungle in The Jungle Book is in India. But here at PBN, we haven’t exactly expanded out of the country yet, so we’re suggesting the next best thingthe “jungle” in Silver Springs State Park. I mean, look at it! Don’t those landscapes look the same?

There’s swamp-like water. There are trees and aquatic plants. There are Florida’s versions of Jungle Book characters: you can meet your own Baloo (trade sloth bear for Florida black bear), Shere Khan (trade a bengal tiger for a bobcat), Jacala (trade crocodile for American alligator), and more!

Pretend to be Mowgli, and explore the wilderness by canoeing and kayaking, hiking and horseback riding, and swinging from jungle vine to jungle vine (and by jungle vines we mean playground bars), all while viewing the park’s wildlife.

On your way, everyonetime to get exploring!

state park alternatives to fictional lands

Image: adore-theworld.tumblr.com:post:70054552822:500px-untitled-by

Do you know of any other real-life counterparts to your favorite fictional lands? Let us know in the comments!