Free Fun While at Disney–Wekiwa Springs State Park

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Wekiva Spring

Wekiva River at Wekiwa Springs State Park

When I was much younger–And much thinner–I used to enjoy hiking on the Appalachian Trail.

One of the real treats while hiking is a stop at a spring.  Often, this would be a thin pipe of fresh water spouting up out of the ground.  After a long hike, the cool, clear water is an oasis.  Sometimes the spring would be so large that the water was like a fountain pouring into a pool maybe two or three feet wide.  How refreshing!  I would dunk my entire head under the cool water and drink in gulps of refreshing liquid to cool my hike-weary body.

I have lived in Florida for a dozen years.  I have heard about Wekiwa Springs State Park.  In fact, my good friend Dave Scrivano and his wife Colleen were going to go backpacking there with my family in 1994, but we had to cancel at the last minute because Number One Son got sick.  Both Mrs. LanceAround and Colleen were pregnant and this turned out to be the last opportunity we would have had to enjoy a primitive camping experience as our subsequent domestication eliminated the further possibility of a camping hike together.  I feel so sad we could not go on that trip.  And, until yesterday, I had never been to the Wekiwa Spring.

So imagine my surprise when I go to the spring and find, not a fountain of water, but a huge body of water that is about 40 feet wide, pumps over forty million gallons into the Wekiva River every day, and maintains a cool, clear 72 degree temperature year round–The ultimate swimming hole!

[Ed Note:  The name of the river is “Wekiva” and the name of the spring is “Wekiwa.”  This is not a misspelling.  I never noticed this and my friend, LizTheFair, discovered I was misspelling the name of the spring.]

Perfect Picnic Spot at Wekiva

Perfect Picnic Spot at Wekiwa

This natural paradise comes complete, surrounded by large oak trees dripping with hanging moss; a smooth, sandy spring floor ranging in depth from one to five feet; one large rock in the center that is a excellent playground for the curious; a grassy hillside perfect for a family picnic; and, best of all, it feeds into the Wekiva River allowing one to go on a canoe, kayak or boat trip 30 miles northwards to the St. John River.  Disney could not have planned a better swimming hole!

All this for a cost of only $5–Per carload!

So many tourists come to Central Florida only to find that the cost of accommodations are the least of their expenses.  Tickets to theme parks, meals, small attractions and souvenirs run into the thousands of dollars.  Yet here, right on Disney’s doorstep, is a low cost alternative that allows visitors to experience the REAL Florida.  By packing a picnic lunch and buying a drab of suntan oil, you can have vacation paradise for just pennies.  It provides the perfect respite to a long, hot and tiring day in the theme parks.

Canoeing and Kayaking at Wekiva

Canoeing and Kayaking at Wekiwa

For just a little more money, you can rent a canoe or kayak for two hours, half day or full day.  You can even rent one for two days and camp overnight in the wilds of Florida.  There are guided canoe, kayak and pontoon boat options and guided horseback rides for additional fees.  There is a shuttle to a drop off location that allows you to canoe or kayak back to your car.  Most of these activities are much cheaper than spending a day with the mouse.

The state park has bicycle trails, full facility camping, RV camping, primitive camping, horseback trails, hiking trails and pets are welcome.

The reason for yesterday’s visit was the annual Wekiva Riverfest.  This event is produced by the “Friends of Wekiva.”  According to their website, “Since 1982 the Friends of the Wekiva River have worked to protect, preserve, and restore the natural functions and beauty of the Wekiva River system. As a result of our leadership and the cooperation of our river partners, the Wekiva is designated a Florida Outstanding Water, a Florida Canoe Trail, a Florida Wild and Scenic River, and a National Wild and Scenic River with over 70,000 acres of state-protected lands in the basin.”

 

Number One Daughter and friends enjoying Wekiva

Number One Daughter and friends enjoying Wekiwa

Number One Daughter’s Middle School provided community service at this event by helping to staff the Equinox Documentaries booth.  Their website states “Equinox Documentaries was created by veteran producers and writers who care deeply about our natural world—particularly Florida and the wider region in which we live.  We feel the best way to protect a wild place is to forge a connection with it, and to build an ethic from that connection. It’s our goal to bring viewers engaging images and thoughtful stories that allow that connection.”

Yesterday, as Number One Daughter, her two school chums and I were floating, fully clothed (we didn’t know we had to bring a swimsuit.), in the refreshing Wekiwa Spring, we understood what it meant to “forge a connection to a wild place.”

For the well informed traveler looking for “more than a mouse”™ Wekiwa Springs State Park brings the the best of the natural beauty of Florida that allows your family to also form such a connection.

C’mon in, the water’s fine!

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3 Responses to “Free Fun While at Disney–Wekiwa Springs State Park”

  1. Best Kept Secret IV–Pancake Breakfast « Lance Around Orlando Says:

    […] Last year I was excited to discover Wekiwa Spring. […]

  2. Izumi Sakurada Says:

    Thank you for this information.
    This seems like a perfect place to visit during this summer!
    We need to preserve place like this…
    Pancake Mill sounds really yummy.

    • LanceAround Says:

      Hi Izumi: Yes, wekiwa is a wonderful place for a refreshing dip or a nature hike. DeLeon State Park, about 20 minutes north of Wekiwa, not only has a great spring and hiking trails, they also have the pancake mill and a boat tour that is educational and enchanting. I hope you enjoy it. LanceAround

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