Discharging cool, clear freshwater at a rate of 107 cubic feet per second, Alexander Springs in the Ocala National Forest is a favorite destination on the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway, particularly during the warmer months when the springs become one of the region’s favorite swimming holes. The springs are a major scuba site, as well as a stop on the Great Florida Birding Trail. Camping, snorkeling, and canoeing on the seven mile spring run are available.
Orange City’s Blue Spring State Park covers 2,644 acres of pristine wilderness in the heart of Central Florida’s urban sprawl. Blue Spring has a swimming area like most springs, but has a few unique qualities that set it apart from the rest. One is a four-mile hiking trail through cool, shaded hammocks and flatwoods. Perhaps the park is best-known for its winter gathering of manatees, but during the spring and summer, it’s a magnet for cave divers. Home to Native Americans for centuries, Blue Spring attracted famed naturalist William Bartram in the 1760s. He was the first person to produce a written account of its plant and animal life.
Deleon Springs is as famed for its unusual dining facility as it is its springs. At the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant, diners make their own pancakes on griddles at their tables. The springs form a pool 250 feet by 250 feet, with the depth ranging from 3 feet to 30 feet. It has a sand shell bottom and a blue-green color. Next to the swimming area is a shaded picnic ground, perfect for birthday parties or family get-togethers. A 9 1/2-mile canoe run to the St. Johns River, a side run to Lake Woodruff, and a 5 1/2-mile hiking trail offer chances to see turkeys, deer, bears, alligators and wild hogs.
Juniper Springs has a nice, cement-and-rock-rimmed swimming pool and a new concession stand and restroom facilities — but its main attraction is an unforgettable canoe run. The first half of the 7-mile Juniper Creek canoe trail is a twisting, narrow channel with some fallen trees offering just 18 inches of clearance. Canoers can exit the run at the wayside bridge on State Road 19 in the Ocala National Forest. There, a shuttle will transport paddlers and their canoes back to the park and the spring head. There are 77 campsites and canoe rentals are available at conveniently located docks. You're likely to see deer, turkeys, alligators and, even, black bears.
Silver Glen Springs
Located six miles north of State Road 40 along State Road 19, the best way to visit Silver Glen Springs is via boat. The spring run is along the western side of Lake George. Today it is one of the region's most popular boating destinations. The swimming area is roped off from the run. However, to escape the large crowds, it is best to visit the spring during the week. On holiday weekends, as many as 800 boats line the run. Near the spring on land is the Yearling Trail, a popular trek made popular in Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’s book sharing the same name.