This time of year when temperatures and bugs start to be less of a nuisance to campers, it is a great time to plan a camping trip to any of many outstanding Florida State Parks.
Becky and Nigel Lance plan a camping trip each year to one of the many northern Florida or southern Georgia state parks. This year they chose O’Leno State Park. They chose this park because this time of the year cooler temperatures make sleeping at night without air conditioning more pleasant and the fact that they could make an advanced reservation. If you like to camp, hike, sightsee or go canoeing or kayaking then you will enjoy the O’Leno State Park and the Santa Fe River.
The Santa Fe River is a 75-mile long river located northern Florida. The Santa Fe River has a 1,380 square mile watershed that services seven Florida counties. The headwaters of the river are Lake Santa Fe, near Keystone Heights, Florida. The Santa Fe River is a slow-moving dark-brown river. The color of the water comes from all the leaves that fall into the river and decay. The Santa Fe River ends at its junction with the Suwannee River.
O’Leno State Park is one of Florida’s first state parks. It was created by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. According to the Florida Park Service, “The O’Leno State Park is located along the banks of the scenic Santa Fe River, a tributary of the Suwannee River, and features sinkholes, hardwood hammocks, river swamps and sand hills. As the river courses through the park, it disappears underground and reemerges over three miles away in River Rise Preserve State Park.”
O’Leno State Park has 61 developed camp sites along with primitive camping in the Sweetwater Lake area of the park. The primitive camping area can hold up to 10 ten campers on a first come-first served basis. The 61 developed camp sites have water and electric hookups, in-ground grill, picnic table and a centrally located restroom. For campers in RVs, a dump station and dumpsters are located off the main park drive across from the Law Enforcement Office.
When visiting O’Leno State Park, there are loads of outdoor recreation activities available from hiking, geocaching, canoeing, kayaking, swimming and scuba diving at local springs. There are also other State Parks in the area that offer similar activities. There is one State Park located a short drive from O’Leno that is really different.
This park is the Dudley Farm State Park. According to the Florida Park Service, “Dudley Farm State Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this park demonstrates the evolution of Florida farming from the 1850s to the mid-1940s-through three generations of the Dudley family. An authentic working farm, the homestead consists of 18 buildings, including the family farmhouse with original furnishings, an 1880s kitchen outbuilding, a general store and post office, and a functional cane syrup complex. Park staff in period clothing perform daily chores, raise crops and tend to livestock. The farm features seasonal cane grindings, corn shucking and heritage varieties of livestock and plants. Deer, wild turkeys, gopher tortoises and bluebirds are still seen in the fields. The park has a visitor center, picnic area and nature trail.” This is a great park to spend the day experiencing what a working farm from the 1850s was all about. See slide show of farm photos.
When visiting this part of Florida, you are in Horse County. There are many large horse farms in the Ocala / High Springs area of central Florida. One location that you might enjoy visiting is the Mill Creek Farm horse retirement farm. When visiting this farm, be sure to bring plenty of apples and carrots to feed the horses. See photo slide show.
The closest city to these parks is High Springs, Florida. If camping is not for you, there are two Bread &Breakfast Inns, the Grady House B&B and the Rustic Inn B&B and one hotel, the High Springs Inn, you might find comfortable. In addition to these inns, there is one very good restaurant in high springs, the Great Outdoors Restaurant. See slide show for photos of some of their dishes.
The holidays are over and you are looking for a weekend get-a-way, why not plan a camping trip to any of many outstanding Florida State Parks in north-central Florida.
So until next time, be safe in the sun and have a great day in the great outdoors.