Ocala National Forest
Ocala is probably the most famous canoeing destination in Florida outside of the Everglades. See you on the run...
Lower Oklawaha River
This is a dark, slow-moving, twisting river with little fluctuation in water level. The current is slow enough so that you can paddle upstream. Put in at the Rodman Dam Landing and take out at the Highway 19 Landing, which is reached by paddling south just after passing under the Highway 19 bridge.
There are several high bluff areas along the river where you can stretch your legs or camp for the night. Fishing can be good to excellent.
The canoe trip from Juniper Springs Recreation Area to the Highway 19 bridge is about 7 miles long and flows through the heart of the Juniper Prairie Wilderness. You will be surrounded by a lush tropical forest comprised of palms, cypress and many kinds of southern hardwoods.
The first 2 1/2 miles of this creek are narrow and winding, with a channel scarcely wider than 6 feet. Below Half-Way Landing, the stream broadens out and becomes shallow and slow moving. There are no intermediate access points, and the average family takes about 4 to 5 hours to complete the trip. Camping is discouraged along the stream.
Farles Prairie Sellers Lake
Prairies are shallow lakes with fluctuating water levels and wide, grassy borders. While there are not developed trails for canoeing, these chains of lakes offer a chance for extensive exploring and wandering during periods of high water. Best water conditions are from June through October.
Alexander Spring Creek
The water that pours from the giant spring flows for the first 5 miles as a broad, clear, slow-moving stream. After that, there is a transition to a narrow, winding stream and finally, near Shell Landing the stream once again becomes broad and slow moving. This canoe run is usually open and is an easy trip. However, sometimes during the late summer, water hyacinths may jam the stream between the Ellis and Antonio Landings.
From Ellis Landing, the slow current permits paddling back upstream to Alexander Springs or on the lower portion of Alexander Creek. Average canoeing time from the spring to Ellis Landing is 1 1/2 hours; to 52B Landing is 4 hours. The trip to 52B is recommended only for those who have had some canoeing experience.
Canoes can be rented on a "first-come, first-served" basis from the Alexander Springs Concessionaire. Plan on arriving before 9 a.m. to improve your chance of getting a canoe. The Concessionaire is not open all week so plan ahead to be sure of a canoe rental.
Salt Springs Run
Crystal-clear water gushes year-round from the springs and flows about 5 miles before emptying into Lake George. Canoes can be rented and launched from Carrol's Marina, located at the head of Salt Springs Run. The slow-moving current allows paddling back upstream to the Marina, rather than entering the often-rough Lake George. Although there are few intermediate access points through the surrounding marsh, an area suitable for primitive camping is located on higher ground about 1 mile upstream from the lake. Power boats also use this run.
Upper Oklawaha River
This twisting, dark-water river offers few public access points. There is no problem with logs or fluctuating water levels. The current flows fast enough to make it tiring to paddle upstream. Two days are required to make the entire trip, but you can launch a canoe or take it out at several points along the river, reducing total floating time. Those points are at Sharps Ferry, Wayside Park, Gores Landing, and Eureka Bridge. Limited overnight camping is available at Gores Landing.
This is an easy trip, crossing Lake Eaton and then down the narrow creek to Highway 314. Slow current in the stream permits paddling back up. A few logs may be encountered during periods of low water.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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