Alexander Spring's canoe run in Central Florida is wide and slow, ideal for beginning canoers, and the water is the purest in the state -- "the benchmark against which all the state's other springs are measured," said Ray Willis of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service.
It also has some of the "greatest variety of wildlife species," concession manager Chris Watson said.
"We have pileated woodpeckers, wood storks, bald eagles, redtail hawks and ospreys," Watson said. WHERE: A 25-acre recreation area north of Umatilla, via State Road 19, off County Road 445. Alexander Springs is located approximately 50 miles from Orlando.
THE SPRINGS: Spews 65.2 million gallons a day up to form a 300-foot by 258-foot pool that is 25 feet deep, with a rock wall on the south shore. Alexander Spring Run flows east for 8 miles, entering the St. Johns River.
HISTORY: Timucuan Indians occupied the site as long as 7,000 years ago, according to remains of small shell middens. In the 1800s, residents of nearby Astor Park set up turpentine operations along the run. The U.S. Forest Service purchased Alexander Spring in the 1930s, and it was developed as a recreation area in the 1950s.
ACTIVITIES: There is a 7-1/2-mile canoe run that takes 4-5 hours to complete, and canoers are met by a vehicle to take them back to the recreation area. A 1.08-mile Timucuan Indian walk, a boardwalk to the creek where you can view the diverse fish life, a swimming beach and 67 campsites also additional offerings to travelers. There is also a camp store with necessities such as charcoal, propane, insect spray and snacks.
Call 352-669-3522 for park information and prices.