Juniper Springs is located at Juniper Springs Wilderness and Recreation Area on the Southeastern part of the Ocala National Forest off of SR 40. It offers a full range of outdoor activities.
The springhead area offers swimming, a pleasant picnic area and a great nature trail that runs along the spring creek run. One of the highlights of this place has got to be the canoe run on Juniper Creek, Juniper Springs’ crystal clear spring run. It is 7 miles long and it takes an average of 4 hours to complete the course. Because the course runs through a National Wilderness area, you are guaranteed to see wildlife.
We had visited the park once before last Spring and we had a blast! We did the canoe run and walked the nature trail.
Last week my sister and her husband were visiting his folks in Kissimmee, FL. The whole family drove up from Kissimmee to Juniper Springs last Friday to do the canoe run with us. We invited another friend of ours along as she has never been on the canoe run before.
NOTE: You cannot bring any food/drink in a disposable container on the canoe run (I believe it is an effort to minimize trash in the pristine wilderness area). So, put your food/drinks in a reusable container.
The canoe rental/loading process is a little lengthy. First, you check in at the gift shop. Then you walk over to the canoe rental area to load your canoe on to a cart. After that you wheel your canoe down a path to the take out point and drop it off. Now, walk back to the check in and collect your oars, life jackets and whistle and walk back to your canoe. Before you lift you canoe into the spring, there is a cooler check to make sure that you don’t have anything disposable. Finally, off you go!
The canoe run has a lot of challenging turns with many low hanging trees that you have to duck under. Some branches are so low, you have to lay back completely. Since we recently has a couple storms come our way, the water level is higher than normal thus creating “rapids” in a few sections . One fork of the path had a fallen tree completely blocking the entire length of the creek. We had to get out and lift the canoes over. There are a couple places along the run where you can take a break and stretch your legs. We decided to take a lunch break at once such spot. Jonathan had pulled the canoe half way up the bank. He got out. As our friend got off the canoe, it rocked and SPLASH!!! I was under the water! I was so certain, we would not flip that I put on Canon PowerShot SD770 in my shirt pocket! So, no more still pictures after this moment. I reverted to using the waterproof video camera.
Sometime after this episode, we converged at a point. We hear my sister making funny noises and I turned around with the video camera in hand to catch her & her husband flipping their canoe over. The look on her face and the events proceeding that were priceless! I feel so bad for them but it was so funny! No one was hurt, thank goodness! (You’ll have to wait for Jonathan to edit the video.)
The wildlife scenery is incredible. We saw lots of turtles sunning themselves with their legs spread out, a couple of alligators sunning on the bank and otters swimming around. My sister and her husband saw a snake hanging from a branch. We saw one otter playing in the “rapids”, its heading was bobbing up and down with the waves. There was a variety of birds including blue and tricolor heron. It is a wonderful thing to see animals in their natural habitats.
It took us (3 canoes) about 5 hours to get through. Last time when it was just Jonathan and I , it took us under 4 hours.
We got picked up at Juniper Wayside, located about 4.3 miles north of SR 40, on SR 19.
The events of the day was certainly memorable:
- Park entrance: $5 per person
- Canoe rental: $35
- Dinner at Lena’s Seafood: $44
- Camera damage: $145
- Whole experience: PRICELESS
Yes, my handy dandy Canon PowerShot SD770 IS is toast! Every time I tried to power it on, I get “Lens error, restart camera” and the camera lens will not retract. I am saddened by my loss but I am already researching a water proof one for my next purchase.