Wekiwa Springs State Park
1800 Wekiwa Circle, Apopka 32712
Admission: $5 per vehicle (maximum of 8 people); single occupant vehicles $3; pedestrians, bicyclists $1
Hours: Daily 8:00 a.m. to sunset
Location: From I-4 Exit 94 take route 434 West to Wekiva Springs Road, then about 3 miles to the park entrance
This gem of a park boasts what must be the most beautiful spot to take a swim in all of Central Florida. The spring that gives the park its name bubbles up at the base of an amphitheater of greensward, forming a crystal clear circular pool of pure delight. The water is a steady 72 degrees year-round, making for a bracing dip in the heat of summer and a heated pool for snowbirds in the winter. The pool is fairly shallow, seldom more than five feet deep. Bring a snorkel and mask for a peek down into the spring itself.
The spring is one source of the Wekiva River, which flows from here northeast to the St. John’s River. If you wish, you can rent a canoe to explore this lovely stretch of river. (See the canoeing section of Chapter 12: Do It!) The river is gorgeous from a canoe but some daring souls snorkel it. The park police tell me this is a foolhardy venture given the population of large alligators who have lost their fear of man, thanks to being fed by ignorant tourists. Shortly before one of my visits to the park, an 11-foot gator was pulled from the waters of nearby Wekiva Marina. Because of its aggressive behavior and total lack of fear of humans, the trapper was forced to kill it.
If you get hungry after your swim, there’s a bare-bones snack bar at the top of the hill. But a better choice might be the picnic area at the other end of the park, where you’ll find a couple of dozen picnic tables artfully sited around the shores of Sand Lake. There are alligators here, so be careful.
In between there are some beautifully maintained trails. If you begin from the spring-fed swimming pool, a boardwalk takes you from the swampy jungle of the river’s edge to the sandy pine forest of the drier uplands. This is one of the nicest spots I found in Central Florida for a visitor to get a quick appreciation of just how different Florida’s ecosystems are. There’s plenty of wildlife, too. I’ve spotted white-tailed deer fawns leaping through the woods and armadillos grubbing in the underbrush.
Family campsites are available by reservation if you’d like to stay longer. The fees for up to eight people are $20 per site per night. Primitive camping is $4 per person per night. The park requires written proof that pets have had a rabies vaccination. Call Reserve America, (407) 326-3521, for campsite reservations. Call the park at (407) 884-2008 for more information.
Nearby: Central Florida Zoological Park, Rock Springs Run State Reserve, Wekiva Falls Resort.
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