Juniper Springs National Recreation Area, Ocala, Florida
No trip to Florida is complete without checking out a crystal clear freshwater spring. Set up camp at Juniper Springs in the Ocala National Forest, and you’ll what the fuss is all about. Don’t miss a kayak or canoe trip down seven-mile Juniper Run, one of the most breathtaking and popular paddling trips in the country.
Showcasing sparkling springs in a subtropical setting, Juniper Springs is one of the oldest and best known recreation areas on the East Coast. Located between Ocala and Ormond Beach along SR 40, this complex of swimming and picnic area, campground, and trails was constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The setting is unlike any other found in the United States, with hundreds of tiny bubbling springs and massive springs gushing out of crevices in the earth beneath a dense canopy of palms and oaks, an oasis within the heart of the desert-like Big Scrub.
Day use activities include picnicking, swimming, snorkeling, bird watching, paddling, and hiking. At night, relax in the heart of the forest within our historic campground. A barrier-free self-guided interpretive trail paralleling the spring outflows of Juniper Run and Fern Hammock Run provides information on the semi-tropical vegetation plus beautiful views of the waterways. For hikers looking for a day in the woods, the statewide Florida Trail passes through the recreation area, leading hikers through the rugged Juniper Prairie Wilderness to the north and through the tall pines of the Big Scrub along Farles Prairie to the south. Canoeing is extremely popular year-round. The seven-mile journey down Juniper Run offers a unique perspective on the Juniper Prairie Wilderness, where you might see otters at play or alligators drifting through the shallows. Private canoes can be used, or canoes can be rented from the concessionaire on the premises. Haul-back services are available.
From Interstate 75 at SR 40 in Ocala, drive east through Ocala and Silver Springs to reach the Ocala National Forest. It's about 28 miles from I-75 to the recreation area entrance road on the left.
Photo courtesy of fs.usda.gov
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