Kelly Park, Rock Springs
400 East Kelly Park Road, Apopka
Admission: $3 per vehicle for 1-2 people; $5 per vehicle for 3-8 people.
Hours: Daily 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. in summer; 8:00
a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in winter
Location: Take Rock Springs Road north from Apopka; right onto Kelly Park Road and follow signs
This 248-acre Orange County park is built around one of the Apopka area’s crystal clear springs. As its name suggests, Rock Springs bubbles up from a cleft in a rock outcropping and, instead of spreading out into a pool, becomes a swiftly running stream that quickly slows to a meander. The activity of choice here, and the major reason for the park’s obvious popularity, is riding down the stream in an inner tube or on a float.
Kids, and not a few grown-ups, jump into the headwaters by the dozens and bob and splash their way downstream for about a mile. The trip takes about 25 minutes at a leisurely float. There are exits from the river along the way, and an excellently maintained network of boardwalks (with flooring designed to protect the barefooted) lets you carry your tube back to the beginning for another go. You can also go down without a tube but, for most adults at least, the stream is too shallow for swimming during most of its course. At the middle of the tubing course, the stream blossoms into a series of lagoons and pools that form the centerpiece of the park. This is the place to come for a cooling, if somewhat crowded, swim. Or join the sunbathers thronging the shores and islands. This is a great park for kids and, if you don’t have any, you may feel a bit overwhelmed by other people’s.
Tubes are not available in the park, so unless you bring your own, stop at one of the tube rental shops near the park entrance. The cost is modest, about $5 for a day’s rental.
Most of the rest of the park is given over to nicely shaded picnic tables, most with a barbecue nearby. The park also offers camping sites ($18 a night for Orange County residents; $13.50 for Orange County seniors-55-plus; $23 for all others); electricity and water included. Your admission receipt lets you leave the park and return the same day. No pets, no alcohol, no firearms or weapons are allowed in the park, and there’s no fishing here.
Nearby: C.A.R.E., Central Florida Zoological Park, Kelly Park, King’s Landing Canoe Rental, Rock Springs Run State Reserve, Wekiwa Springs State Park.
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