Just one of many fun and exciting features of this Sante Fe River-neighboring park just 30 miles north of Gainesville. The Sante Fe “disappearing” River, being another one of the park’s unique attractions. Connecting with River Rise Preserve State Park on the south, the two parks offer over 6,000 acres of sandhills, hardwood hammock, sinkholes and river swamps to frolic and explore!
Bike, hike or horseback ride the 13 miles of trail that weave and wander throughout the park or swim, fish, canoe or kayak the scenic waters of the Sante Fe while keeping your eyes peeled for deer, squirrel, alligator, raccoon, turkey, gopher tortoise and other reptiles. There’s no limit to the adventures that are in store at this wild wonder!
The crystalline Ichetucknee River flows six miles through shaded hammocks and wetlands before it joins the Santa Fe River. In 1972, the head spring of the river was declared a National Natural Landmark by the U. S. Department of the Interior. From the end of May until early September, tubing down the river is the premier activity in the area. In addition to tubing, visitors can enjoy picnicking, snorkeling, canoeing, swimming, hiking, and wildlife viewing.
October through March scuba diving is available in the Blue Hole only (you must be cave certified). White-tailed deer, raccoons, wild turkeys, wood ducks and great blue herons can be seen from the river. Picnic areas, equipped with tables and grills, are available throughout the park. A full-service concession offers food, refreshments, and outdoor products from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Osceola National Forest is 200,000 acres of exploration with your name on it! In the northeastern Floridian forest, pine flatwoods and cypress-hardwood swamps surround, with diverse wildlife abound. In this leafy paradise lives gopher tortoises (they act like gophers, but are tortoises!), alligators, black bears, and the skunk ape, also known as the “stink ape,” which bears an uncanny resemblance to bigfoot.
Areas of recreation include Ocean Pond—a fave place for boaters, skiiers, and campers, and Olustee Beach for swimming, fishing, and picnicking. The park is also open to hunters and fishermen with permits. With so much land to explore in this National Forest, we wouldn’t be surprised if Bigfoot was hiding in there!
Come to Stephen Foster and get your glockenspiel on. That’s right, that xylophone-looking instrument, well this park has one and although here it’s called a 97-bell carillon, same diff. Why? We thought you’d never ask! Because one Stephen Foster, after which the park is named, composed over 200 songs on this nifty little instrument (little being very relative here) and his tunes can be heard playing from the folk museum throughout the day. This mixed forest park along the stone-studded banks of the Suwannee River also pays tribute to the days of old by craft making demonstrations such as quilting, blacksmithing, stained glass making and others.
Canoeing, kayaking and freshwater fishing are popular in the river and hiking, biking and horseback riding can be enjoyed on Carter Camp’s ten miles of off-road trails. Numerous other trails, such as Foster’s Hammock Loop Trail, will also let you explore the high river bluffs, limestone outcroppings and floodplain swamp forests. Lots of critters at this park, so be on the lookout for gopher tortoises, frogs, box and snapping turtles, wood duck, white-tailed deer, alligators and other birds!
There's a reason why U of F's football stadium is called The Swamp. Just south of Gainesville, this park contains a rich array of habitats for wildlife. A notable swamp is one of them. This preserve is unique in Florida because you can see animals you don't normally see. If you're lucky, you might spot wild bison or horses roaming free. You might spot alligators among the cypress trees in the swamp.
Birdwatchers love the 300-plus bird species (including bald eagles diving for fish) here. A total of 8 park trails covering 30 miles put you close to nature. The Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail is particularly easy to navigate. If you'd rather see animals from afar, there's a 50-foot observation tower. Lake Wauberg offers great options for water-lovers at any time of year. BYOB (bring your own boat) for fishing and canoeing.