This is Lake Eaton 5 min's from the lot.
80 X 100
|Zoning Click Here||
Yes at lot
|Phone||Yes at lot|
Must install a well
Palms at the Boat Ramp at Lake Eaton
About the Ocala National Forest
Nearly three-quarters of the Ocala National Forest is in Marion County. The Forest offers 383,573 acres of unique ecological sites, trails, natural springs. There are hundreds of camping sites throughout the forest offering everything from full-service campgrounds to more rustic sites. The National Forest also has designated trails for horseback riding. Hunting is permitted in designated areas where the enforcement of state regulations is strict. Recreation areas include Alexander Springs, Fore Lake Recreational Area, Juniper Springs, Lake Eaton Loop Trail, Lake Eaton Sink Hole, Mill Dam Recreation Area, Salt Springs and Salt Springs Trail.
Specially marked walking/hiking trails are located throughout this wonderful resource. Lake Eaton Sinkhole and the Lake Eaton Loop are only two of the trails that allow the visitor to explore the area on easily traveled interpretive trails.
Fore Lake Recreation Area is a day use and camping area that is open year-round. A 250-foot sandy beach provides swimming and sunbathing opportunities. Fishing and boating in small, non-gasoline powered craft are allowed, and a fishing pier is at the southeast corner of the lake.
For further information, call (352) 236-0288.
Other attractions and recreation:
FLORIDA FRESHWATER FISHING SERIES - LAKE GEORGE
Lake George is the second-largest freshwater lake (only Lake Okeechobee is bigger) in the Sunshine State and the largest along the trace of the St. Johns River. Covering some 46,000 acres (14 miles by 6 miles), George lies approximately halfway between the headwaters of the St. Johns River (the Melbourne/Palm Bay area) and the river's closure with the mighty Atlantic Ocean at Jacksonville.
As with most Florida lakes and rivers, Lake George has a number of very specific 'personal' traits and characteristics which give it a distinctiveness all its own.
First, it has possibly the most consistent bottom structure possible. Once you have moved across the shallow areas bordering the shorelines and out past the sloping drop-off, from six into 10 feet of water, the bottom topography of 'Big George' has hardly any variation in its entire length and width. We cruised a large portion of the lake with an Eagle graph recorder and found virtually no variations, save the normal drop-line that follows the shoreline.
Second, George has a significant salt content. In fact, the saline level is high enough that numerous salt-water fish and plant species thrive in its waters. There is a large blue crab fishery that forms a significant part of the local economy. The St. Johns River waters, entering the lake at the South end, contain a good amount of salt from the run-off waters and springs, which enter between Lake Harney and George. In addition, three feeder creeks (Juniper, Silver Glen Spring Run, and Salt Springs) on the West side of George add a salty water influx. Salt Springs Creek, as the name would imply, is particularly salty. The waters gradually dilute as the river flows to the North, particularly when the clean, fresh waters of the Oklawaha River enter.
The sources of the salt are the massive, underground marine deposits left from eons ago when the St. Johns basin, and the lands to the East, were still a part of the Atlantic Ocean floor. The third trait of Lake George is the lack of vegetation, except along the shallow shorelines. Within the areas of open water, there is virtually no natural cover or growth. And, finally, the fourth item is the active Armed Forces bombing range, which lies along the East-central portion of the lake. This is an approximate nine-mile by two mile rectangle used for the training and certification of pilots and bombardiers. There are some features of the range area, which are of fishing and boating significance, and we will cover these in our usual tour of the lake.
For our tour, let's start mid-way along the eastern shore, at Pine Island camp grounds and fish camp. John and Mary Solmonson, who manage the facility, gave us a general orientation and 'map-talk', plus some pointers on seasonally fishing the lake.
Exiting from the small, short canal that leads from the ramp to the lake, we turn North, up along the eastern shoreline. As we start this turn, we note the large, wooden pilings far out into the foggy mist that shrouds the main lake. These we file away for later reference.
The area in near the shoreline is very shallow and generally bordered by reeds and some standing grasses. To the outside of the reeds, we find significant amounts of eelgrass, mixed with some peppergrass. The eelgrass usually thins out and disappears when the depth gets to 4-5 feet. From that point, out to the gentle, rolling main drop-off, there appears to be no vegetation to speak of. It is generally 100-400 yards from the natural shoreline, out across this flat, to the main drop-off into the main lake. Once past the drop (into 10-12 feet) and in the deep water, we found no vegetation, either. This shoreline and vegetation pattern seems to hold constant all around the main lake body.
You will note old pilings scattered along the shoreline flats, with some extending out to the edge of the deep water. Those, which reach close to the deeper area, have potential for bass. We found a plastic worm to work well. Obviously, a Springtime lure would also be a spinner bait. These pilings also indicate that for each one we can see, there are possibly 10 underwater hidden from view. A 'word to the wise' says to confine your high-speed motoring to the deep-water areas and only idle in the flats. On the Northeast shoreline, marked on the map accompanying this article, is an area of special interest to bass anglers. The Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission (FG&FWFC) has designated this stretch of water as off-limits to fishing during the prime bass spawning season. It is well marked with large poles and brightly-colored signs. Approximately mid-way of the restricted area are the remains of an old target ship. Lying on its side in the shallow waters, this relic of a war era gone by spends the remainder of its days rusting away and serving as a curiosity to the visitors.
The intent of this restricted area effort is prohibit the taking of bedding bass and insure a maximum spawn. The hatched fry are then sampled to determine a density count in the area. The FG&FWFC biologists compare this count to counts taken in other parts of Lake George to determine if the taking of bedding bass has any significant effect on the results of the spawn. So far, the answer is no, it appears to have no appreciable effect. Apparently, two factors strongly influence this finding. First, few large, bedding female bass are actually taken. Most are very reluctant to strike any live bait or artificial. Second, these trophy-size bass constitute only a small portion of the overall spawning population.
At the North end of Lake George, we find Drayton Island. The main river channel and lake exit passes to the East of the island, with numerous marinas and camp areas along the East shoreline. To the West of the island, another passage exists. This one is not a main passage, but most boaters can navigate it easily if they follow the deeper water. The area around Drayton Island is Coquina stone, a form of compressed small stones, sand and shells. This provides some very hard and clean bottom structure and has some nice drop-offs and deep bank areas.
The West side of Drayton Island, in-between Kinsley and Rocky Points, was found to have a very sharp drop from 6 into approximately 12 feet of water. A medium-depth crank plug (we used a Bagley DB II and a Rebel Deep Wee-R, as examples) produced good, chunky largemouths all along the West drop-line. The drop on the East side was not as steep and a plastic worm seemed to work better there. As a suggestion, this area would appear to be best on windy days, when strong southerly or northerly winds would push induced water currents through the channel. We suspect that the bass gather to feed on this artificial current flow.
As we start down the West shore, we first come to Salt Cove. This is fed by the influx of the already-mentioned Salt Springs Creek. This section of Lake George is usually the first to experience a spawn of both bass and speckled perch (crappie). This is primarily because the entering spring waters run a constant 72 degrees (F) year-round. Also, the northern portion of a lake always gets more of the warming late-Winter/early-Spring sun and the northerly winds of Spring have less effect in this area. At the lower corner of Salt Cove is a small feature known as Lisk Point. There is a good amount of eelgrass in this area and it produces some fine bass angling.
Just below Lisk Point, there is a shallow flat that extends far out into the main body of the lake. There are some pilings out on the edge of the deep water, which nearly always seem to hold bass. If the bass are not in against the pilings, move out on the drop and try a very deep crank plug (such as a DB III or Magnum Hellbender) and a plastic worm. There are some remains of an old pier or some structure that collapsed and slid off into the deep water, right at the base of the drop-off. These remains have rotted away significantly, but can still hang up a lure. Hunt for them and you should also find a bass or two. In the Summer, crappie will also hang out on this deep cover.
Approximately two-thirds of the way down the West shoreline, we come to Silver Glen Spring Run. About two miles further South, we find Juniper Point, just above the entrance of Juniper Creek. From Silver Glen Spring Run to Juniper Point is another of those FG&FWFC off-limits areas to fishing during the bass spawning season. Again, it will be well marked and easily detectable.
All three creeks on this side of the lake are very good bass fishing, especially when heavy rains have made the creeks run strongly. Try the areas around the mouth first and then move into the creeks for a distance. Since all three run at the constant 72 degrees (F), the cover and flats near their mouths are good for spawning bass. Striped bass also make good spawning runs into the creeks (although they do not actually reproduce in these waters), particularly the more-saline Salt Creek. We were told that this Striper migration usually occurs in the Spring.
From the mouth area of Juniper Creek to Volusia Bar, there is a line of submerged pilings. Some are visible, especially when the water levels are low. Bass and crappie are regular inhabitants. We suggest you motor carefully in this area and place a few marker buoys to reference the piling line.
Juniper Cove is rated as very good for drift fishing for crappie. A the extreme South end of Lake George is the entrance of the St. Johns River. Through years of river flow, a very large and shallow slit area, called Volusia Bar, built up across this entrance. In order to retain navigational freedom, a channel is maintained. A portion of this man-made entrance point is lined with rock and some timbers and is locally referred to as the 'Cow Pen'. Many different species of fish gather at this moving-water location to feed. Largemouth and striped bass are the two most commonly found. Watch for surface feeding action in and around the Cow Pen and use spoons, top-water lures and Shad-A-Lac (vibrating, free-running crank plug) style lures. Also, be sure to toss crank plugs and plastic worms near the obstructions present.
In the Southeast corner of the lake is Jones Cove. Surface schooling bass use this location well during the May/June and September/October periods. Some of the lake's larger crappie are taken drifting live minnows and small jigs a few hundred yards out from the shoreline.
Nine-mile Point is the next feature and lies just up the lower East shoreline. On the bank, you will note a bombing range control tower and a microwave communications tower. Directly in front of this complex, a line of old pilings runs from the shore out to the drop into deep water. At the end of these pilings, some 250 yards into the lake, there are the remains of a deteriorated dock. While the squared-off set of dock pilings are mostly still visible, the platform materials have long since rotted and sunk. Some of the old boards and timbers are in amongst the remaining pilings, while other slid off into the deeper zones. On our visit to George, we took a good string of 2-3 pond bass off the dock remains and the outer 100 yards of pilings. A Texas-rig plastic worm was used in the more snag-prone dock area, while a Carolina-rig worked extremely well around the individual pilings.
Nine-mile Point is bordered by an outer growth ring of eelgrass and an inner ring of reeds and small pads. Some peppergrass is mixed in. This entire point is rated excellent bass fishing by all the local anglers we talked to. We were told to work the eel grass using spinner baits (in the Spring and Fall) and plastic worms (year-round.) A slowly fished, weedless Johnson Spoon, with a plastic trailer, was recommended for hot weather. Willow Cove was indicated as a good spawning location for bass and crappie. Willow Point has a large stand of isolated reeds out in the open water. This was the only place in Lake George that we noted this condition, although there may be others. The water in the reeds is 4-6 feet deep and there is no grass or other hindering growth. A spinner bait or worm can be cast far into the reeds and retrieved back with no far of hanging up. My partner and I found a huge school of small bass (1-2 pounds) dispersed throughout this reed stand.
John Solmonson, at the Pine Island Marina indicated that the East shoreline was his overall choice for the better fishing and that it helped the angler avoid the common easterly winds from the coast. For certain, he indicated, this shore was the best for shellcrackers and big, bull bluegills in the June-August timeframe. The West shore, particularly near the creek entrances seem best during the late-Winter/early-Spring.
When we started the tour of Lake George, we noted a cluster of pilings out in the lake. There are actually three of them and they are laid out in a circular pattern and serve as 'targets' for the bombing range. The center cluster is the largest and is significant because it has a ship sunk in the middle of the piling circle. Local anglers, who know the ship is there, find it a fine place to take crappie year-round.
In the months of May through July, the lake's striped bass population often provided great surface action in the bombing range area, particularly near the pilings. Watch for them and you can get the kinks out of your line in a hurry.
There are numerous fish camps and facilities around Lake George, particularly along the upper, Northeast section. Another is located at the South end, at Volusia Bar, and, of course, the Pine Island facility is on the East side. Additionally, the town of Crescent City is only 15 minutes East of Lake George and has ample facilities for overnight stays.
Named an "All America City" in 1995, Ocala is the county seat, and has a present population of 46,453 making it the largest city in the county. Drive down Fort King Street in the Ocala historic district, and you will be impressed by the obvious care taken with the renovation and preservation of the area's homes.
The Ocala Historic District, offers the opportunity to take a walking tour through stately neighborhoods of lovely Victorian homes. Fort King Street was named after the military post of Fort King, the site of which is within city limits. Fort King was built prior to the Second Seminole War of Florida (1835-1842) according to archaeologist Gary Ellis. Three substantive archaeological surveys have been conducted in the vicinity and the findings of these earlier studies led to a new study in 1993-94 identifying two distinct prehistoric components. The investigation of the history of Fort King is still ongoing with plans to offer the public a chance to learn more about life in those times.
Our walking tour will travel from prehistoric finds, to the modern day, within a few blocks. In 1998 the Ocala/Marion County Veterans Memorial Park was dedicated on Fort King near 25th Avenue. The four acre park is just north of the Marion County Governmental complex and has been created to honor veterans from all military conflicts and serves as a gathering place for special celebrations.
Downtown Ocala has been revitalized during the past several years with renovations to the town square, and the beautification of historic buildings surrounding it. The Ocala Down-town Development Commission and a coalition of citizens, property owners, and public officials are working steadily to continue the economic revitalization of downtown. In the past year the Ocala Police Department moved into new quarters on South Pine Street; Ocala Electric Utility built a new Customer Services Office adjacent to City Hall; and the City Auditorium which has served as a focal point for a wide range of community activities. Early in 2003, the Ocala Recreation & Parks Department will move into new quarters off Sanchez Avenue, an attractive addition to the Tuscawilla Park campus.
In addition to the Ocala/Marion County Chamber of Commerce building, the Ocala Public Library, a variety of large and small restaurants, Brick City Center for the Art, shops, financial institutions, and commercial businesses are located around the square or within a short walk. The center of Ocala has come to life in the evening with a number of restaurants, clubs, and special events bringing people back downtown. On Friday and Saturday evenings, horse drawn carriage rides bring a touch of the past to visitors. Distinctive neighborhoods with lovely homes are situated throughout the city in price ranges for every budget. Each spring dogwoods, azaleas, and other colorful flowers invite visitors to drive along
About the Florida beaches.
Florida has some of the nicest beaches in the world. Several of these beaches routinely receive awards by various rating organizations. The waters are generally warm compared to the the rest of the US. Surf tends to be higher on the Atlantic coast with relatively little surf on the Gulf coast. Surf temperature is also warmer on the Gulf coast throughout the year.
Sand consistency in the northwest along Pensacola, and Panama City Beaches is fine and very white. Clearwater Beach also shares this same fine and very white texture. Beachesalong the Atlantic tend to shade towards light beige with a somewhat coarser texture. Daytona Beach is unique with its hard packed sand suitable for driving motor vehicles.
Recreational Activities: Ocala
So Much To Do & See
Water plays an important part in a variety of recreational opportunities on the forest. There are huge springs, twisting streams and lakes for fishing and water skiing. Many of the scenic lakes were formed when limestone bedrock dissolved, permitting the surface layer to slump and fill with water. The cool crystal-clear water of Juniper Springs, Alexander Springs, Salt Springs and Silver Glen Springs entice many visitors to take a cool dip. Snorkelers frequently find a thrilling underwater view of fish, swaying vegetation and cavernous springs. No wonder the Ocala National Forest is one of the most heavily used National Forests in the United States. Some recreational activities require a pass or permit. Please see Passes & Permitsfor more information.
Be Bear Aware! You are in Bear Country.
Alligators are present in this forest. They are an important part of Florida’s ecology and may be found wherever there is a body of water. They have a natural fear of man, but may lose that fear by being around people especially if they are fed. When this happens alligators can be dangerous. For this reason alligators should not be fed or molested in any way.
Camping can be enjoyed during all seasons on the Ocala. Visitors are welcome to stay as long as fourteen days in most campgrounds and even longer in other campgrounds, depending on the season. The majority of camping is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Salt Springs, Juniper Springs, Alexander Springs and Clearwater Lake now take reservations through ReserveUSA, in addition to a first-come, first-serve basis. You may make reservations onlineor by telephone, toll free: 877 444-6777. All of the group campgrounds and cabins are by reservation only.
Camping can be divided into three classes based on the type of facilities offered and fees charged; developed campgrounds, primitive campsites and dispersed tent camping. Developed campgrounds provide a variety of amenities including; showers, restrooms, picnic tables, charcoal grills, fire rings, lantern holders, drinking water, sanitation facilities and trash receptacles. Primitive campsites provide very few if any of these amenities. Dispersed tent camping is for the adventurous that prefer no facilities at all and is permitted throughout the general forest area.
Fees at developed areas range from $4.00 to $20.00, while primitive and dispersed camping is free. Camping permits and discount passports for senior and disabled U.S. citizens are available. Please see Passes & Permitsfor more information.
Be Bear Aware!
Never feed a bear! Bears that are fed by humans, either on purpose or by accident, learn to associate people with food and lose their natural fear of humans. Bears that show no fear of humans may be dangerous and may have to be destroyed.
Please take care not to accidentally feed bears:
Please, do not let your carelessness lead to the injury or death of a person or bear!
Large families and small groups will enjoy a cabin either at Lake Dorror Sweetwater Spring. The Lake Dorr cabin is nestled on the south end of Lake Dorr and can accommodate 10 persons. Sweetwater Spring cabin can accommodate 12 people and is situated on a freshwater spring that flows into Juniper Run.
These cabins are very secluded in the general forest area and have their own secured entrances. Guests have the exclusive use of the cabins for a week. Both of these facilities are managed by Recreation Resource Management, a concessionaire contracted by the Forest Service. Since availability is limited, a lottery drawing for dates is held annually for the following year. Long range planning is necessary for these two gems of the forest. For more details call: (352) 625-0546.
The word Ocala is thought to be a derivative of a Timucuan Indian term meaning “fair land” or “big hammock”. The Ocala’s vegetation lives up to its name, as you will discover towering palms, huge live oaks and scrubby sand pines. Developed campgrounds in the Ocala are nestled in each of these settings. Of the twenty developed campgrounds, only Salt Springs offers full hook-up service. However, several campgrounds have dump stations and shower facilities. The remaining campgrounds offer fewer amenities. All of Ocala’s campgrounds allow pets, but they must be kept on a leash no longer than six feet and are not permitted in designated swimming and picnicking areas. Many swimming areas also prohibit alcohol.
An annual pass is available for several of the campgrounds. Because these campgrounds have fewer amenities, the proceeds from the sales of the passes go towards improvements. These annual passes are part of the fee demo program and are sold at Ocala’s visitor centers and ranger stations.
Use the following chartto find the best area for your camping experience.
Accessible campsites, restrooms, showers and walkways are available throughout various campgrounds in the Ocal National Forest. Call the appropriate district to determine if the facility you have chosen will suit your needs. Contact information is located on the Contact Uspage of this website.
The “Leave No Trace” ethic is a consideration for all visitors whether they are dispersed camping, primitive camping or developed camping. To leave no trace of ourselves each time we use the Forest can be challenging, but every effort to maintain the natural state of the area will contribute to protecting it from overuse. Remember to remove all garbage and trash, “pack it in, pack it out”. Leave vegetation intact, replace sticks and logs that were moved to clear areas for tents and campfires, and preserve water systems. Erasing evidence of our presence will keep each individual’s impact on the Forest at a minimum.
Dispersed Tent Camping
Groups of various sizes are sure to appreciate one of the 4 group campgrounds available. These areas offer exclusive use, varying amenities and are used by reservation only.
Lake Shore Group Campground
River Forest Group Campground
Mill Dam Group Campground is available for overnight stay as well as those desiring only day use rental. It is available for reservations October 1 – March 15. (The remainder of the year, Mill Dam is a swimming and picnic area, open to all.) Groups up to 150 people may reserve the area on a first come, first serve basis by calling the Lake George Ranger Station at (352) 625-2520. Mill Dam is located on the 168 acre Mill Dam Lake. Water play is popular here and campers bring their boats for easy access to lake activities. A large swimming beach adjoins the area and is accessible by wheelchair. A new restroom facility was constructed in 2003. Other amenities include a picnic shelter, group grills, picnic tables, flush toilets and a 70 car parking lot. The fees for this area depend upon the number of people in a group. Up to 99 people is $50/night with a two night minimum. For 100-150 people, the fees are $75/night with a two night minimum. Included in this fee is a $25 non-refundable deposit. Reservations and payment must be made no later than 20 working days in advance.
Doe Lake Recreation Area
Camp Ocala 4-H Center
Let Camp Ocala’s relaxed natural atmosphere be the setting for your group’s next meeting, retreat, training session, reunion or picnic. The staff at Camp Ocala will help make your event a success by customizing programs to suit your professional, educational or personal needs. Programs can be tailored for groups of any age or size. For more information write t Camp Ocala 4-H Center, 18533 NFS 535, Altoona, FL 32702 or call: (352) 759-2288. Click here to see the location of Camp Ocala.
Day Use Areas are among the many recreational opportunities in the Ocala National Forest. Swimming and picnicking areas are available in almost all of the campgrounds shown on the recreation and trails map. In each area, day use fees can be unique from or the same as a camping fee or parking fee. It is wise to check a recreation schedule to determine what kind of fee is applicable in each recreational area. Many boat ramp areas in the Ocala National Forest incorporate swimming and picnicking also. Click here to view recreation and trails map.
The Ocala portion of the Florida National Scenic Trailtraverses the forest north to south, winding through multiple ecosystems. Hikers can experience rolling hills in the open longleaf pine forest, vast prairies, wooden boardwalks through swamps, thick scrub oak – sand pine, and oak hammocks. The Trail meanders approximately 67 miles through the Ocala National Forest, making it an excellent choice for backpacking. Hikers may primitive camp while backpacking as long as campsites are at least 200 feet from the trail. Those who prefer not to rough it as much will encounter a spur trail to a developed campground about every 10 or 12 miles. These developed sites offer varying levels of facilities. Descriptions for these campgrounds may be found in the developed recreation and trails map. Backpackers are not required to have a permit nor register with the ranger station prior to their outing, although filing a hiking plan with family and friends is highly recommended. Primitive camping in the general forest area is prohibited during the general gun deer hunting season, which is November 8, 2003 to January 4, 2003. The only exception to this regulation allows primitive camping within the Juniper Prairie Wilderness, which is closed to all hunting. Click to view the Florida Trail Association(hikers) website.
Many shorter loop trails are available for hikers looking for a less arduous experience. The Salt Springs Trail, Lake Eaton Sinkhole and Lake Eaton Loop Trails are among these, while the St. Francis Trail provides 2 loops 3 and 8.5 miles long.
The Salt Springs run provides habitat to many species of wading birds such as; limpkin, little blue heron, great blue heron, snowy egret, and American egret. Eagles and Osprey are frequently seen along the run as are alligators. The Salt Springs Trail winds down to the run where an observation platform has been built. The trail is approximately 2 miles long, depending upon which route you choose, and has benches along the way. Click here to view a map of this trail.
High in the sand pine - scrub oak forest is the Lake Eaton Sinkhole Trail, winding through palmetto and deer moss to a dry sinkhole about 80 feet deep and 450 feet wide. A choice of 3 different routes lead to the rim of the sinkhole, where an observation deck allows you to take in the magnitude of this geological feature. An interpretive board offers an explanation of the formation of sinkholes and a boardwalk and stairs allow you to walk down into the sinkhole. Here, at the bottom, the vegetation is similar to that of an oak hammock, featuring magnolias, live oak, dogwood, loblolly pine and the sabal palm. The total length of the Lake Eaton Sinkhole trail varies from 1 to 2 miles. Click here to view a map of this trail.
Across the road from the Lake Eaton Sinkhole Trail begins the Lake Eaton Loop Trail. This trail wanders through several plant communities down to the lake itself, where an observation deck takes you out to the water’s edge. A little more than 2 miles of walking takes hikers through the fire-dependent sand pine scrub down to the hardwoods found along Lake Eaton’s shore. In mature sand pine scrub, the lower story contains scrub oaks, including sand live oak, myrtle oak and Chapman’s oak. Also found under the sand pine are rusty lyonia, known as crooked wood, and silk bay. Small balls of deer moss can also be found dotting the ground’s surface. In contrast to the sand pine scrub, red maples, cypress, water oak, loblolly bay and laurel oak flourish in the area surrounding the lake. Wax myrtle and button bush are among the many shrubs that live in the under story of these hardwoods. Click here to view a map of this trail.
For an historical adventure through the forest, hikers may enjoy walking the grounds of an old pioneer town on the bank of the St. Johns River. Originally known as “Old Town”, St. Francis was founded in 1887 and thrived as a shipping community for north Lake County. But the advent of railroads and the devastating freeze of 1894 spelled the doom of the small town. The St. Francis Trail is an 8.5 mile experience through riverine swamp and bayhead swamp to open flatwoods and oak hammock. The site of St. Francis is at the bank of the St. Johns River, however, the buildings no longer remain. Hikers can experience hiking along an old logging railroad bed or exploring an old levee, built to flood an area for rice cultivation. A small trail leads up to a natural spring and back around to the main trail, giving enthusiasts the option of a shorter trail or an additional trail for more avid hikers. Click here to view a map of this trail.
Pats Island is one of the most popular historic attractions on the Ocala National Forest. The area was named after it's first postmaster Patrick Smith who settled there in the 1840's and the unique relationship of two ecosystems, long leaf pine and sand pine scrub.
Much of the land bounded by the St. Johns and Ocklawaha rivers consists of the largest concentration of sand pine scrub in the world. Within this vast area there are oases of fertile soils and moisture that support growth of longleaf pine, wiregrass, turkey oak and other trees and plants not found in the surrounding arid scrub. Pioneers who settled in these areas called them islands because a sea of scrub surrounded them.
The Reuben Long family came to the area around 1872 and individual family members applied for and were granted homestead acres that they worked and lived on for many years. Human habitation on the island peaked before the turn of the 20th century when about a dozen families sought to eke out a living on the 1400-acre island. A living was made from farming, running woods cattle and hogs, hunting, fishing, making moonshine whisky, and trading with boat travel on the St. Johns River.
There is an ecological uniqueness of this of a longleaf pine island surrounded by scrub pine, which creates a single community isolated from the mainstream of central Florida life. The imposed remoteness contributed to a community essentially untouched by outside forces. The community had its own church, school, post office and self-appointed lay ministers.
Life was hard on the island and after the big back-to-back freezes of 1894 and 1895 the population began to decline. Most of the settlers had sold or leased their homesteads before the Ocala National Forest was formed in 1908. Outside forces were slowly bringing life as it had been on the island to an end. In 1935 the island was abandoned by man and surrendered back to the elements after less than 100 years of human occupation.
The natural beauty of the area and the colorful life style of these rugged people fascinated the author, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. She stayed with the last two inhabitants of the island, Calvin and Mary Long in October 1933. During this and other visits she recorded many stories told by the Longs. Calvin's childhood story of nursing a deer from a fawn gave her the idea for the Pulitzer Prize winning novel "The Yearling". The book was made into a movie starring Gregory Peck, Jane Wyman and Claude Jarman, Jr. and was filmed on location in the early 1940's.
Today you too can visit Pat's Island via the Yearling Trail. The trailhead is located on SR 19 across from the Silver Glen Springs entrance. From there you can hike up to 6 miles visiting various sites of historical significance and enjoy the natural beauty of the island.
Pats Island is located in Juniper Prairie Wilderness where natural processes are the primary influences and human activity is limited. Forest Service management of Pat's Island preserves and protects its physical and biological characteristics and allows us to experience this treasure without intention to disturb or destroy natural processes. As wilderness, the island is closed to motorized equipment and bicycles.
As you circle the island, stop and notice the sites where the residents once lived. When you once again see the sand pine scrub, you will be arriving back at the trailhead. Perhaps you may want to complete your trip with a visit to Silver Glen Springs. Snacking at a shaded picnic table or swimming in crystal clear 72 degrees year around water is a great way to top off the day. You may want to visit the Boils Trail at the glen where Jody (of The Yearling) built a "flutter mill" with palmetto leaf and sticks. It was here that he nodded off to sleep when he was supposed to be home attending his chores. The Lake George Trail from the Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area to Lake George also offers another hiking adventure. Click hereto view a map of this trail.
The Paisley Woods Bicycle Trail is a challenging 22 mile long ride through live oak domes, grassy prairies and stands of pines. Since the trail is in a figure eight shape, shorter loops can be made at the halfway point. Because this trail is not paved, bicycles need to be suited for rough terrain. Mountain bikes are ideal. There is no fee to ride the trail and there is free parking available at the trailhead at Clearwater Lake and the parking area of FR 538. Alexander Springs is located at the north end of the trail and Clearwater Lake is located at the south end. Water, showers and flush toilets are available at both locations, but please note there is a fee to use these facilities. Water is not available along the trail, so be sure to bring plenty of water. The trail is marked with yellow diamonds and arrows and posts at road crossings. Click hereto view a map of this trail. Click here for a link to the International Mountain Bicycling Associationwebsite.
Recreational opportunities abound on the many water bodies of the Ocala National Forest as well as on land. Activities range from canoeing, boating, skiing, to use of personal watercraft. All visitors engaging in water sports should keep safety first and foremost. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) regulates water vessels and should be consulted for safety requirements, registration and other regulations. Click here to link to the FWCwebsite.
The Ocala National Forest Visitor Centers offer a book, Fishing Opportunities in the Ocala National Forest, which lists and describes boat ramps that are available in the forest. Lake descriptions, sport fishing information, specific regulations, recreation facilities, and lake access are also included in this handy guide. Copies of this book may be purchased at all three Visitor Centers for the Ocala National Forest.
The Ocala National Forest’s canoeing adventures are many, as it contains approximately 600 lakes and ponds, several streams and has 2 rivers along its boundary. There is no whitewater such as you would find in the mountains, but a variety of streams awaits your visit.
Each stream has its own characteristics that make it unlike any other. Some, like Alexander Spring Creek, begin broad with slow moving water and then become narrow and deep downstream. Others, like Juniper Creek, start scarcely wider than the canoe and end up more than a hundred feet wide.
You can usually cover 2.5 miles per hour in open streams, assuming you periodically stop to enjoy the scenery. In streams with obstructing logs you may only move about 1.5 miles per hour.
The streams are kept in their natural condition. You won’t find roads running parallel alongside the stream. You may have to duck under low hanging tree branches or lift the canoe over partly submerged logs. The streams are left in these primitive conditions to provide a challenge and a sense of achievement, and to let visitors experience the quiet beauty of the unspoiled environment.
Be considerate of those who will canoe after you. Carry out all your trash so the stream will look natural. Please leave flowers, cypress knees, and shrubs for others to enjoy.
Canoe rentals are available from the concessionaire at Salt Springs Marina (352-685-2255), Juniper Springs (352-625-2808), Alexander Springs (352-669-3522), Silver Glen Springs (352-685-2799) and Clearwater Lake (352-669-0078) or you may bring canoes and paddle on your own. If you prefer, arrangements may be made with the concessionaire for rehaul service. Canoes need to be rented before 11am. Reservations are possible by calling each location, but canoes can also be rented on a "first-come, first-served basis".
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 the once again the stream 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. Click here to view this canoe trail.
The canoe trip from Juniper Springs Recreation Area to Juniper Wayside flows about 7 miles 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 2.5 miles of this creek are narrow and winding, with a channel scarcely wider than 6 feet. Past 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 4-5 hours to complete the trip. Click here to view this canoe trail.
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 Salt Springs Marina, located at the head of the Salt Springs Run. The Slow-moving current allows paddling back upstream to the Marina, rather than entering the often-rough Lake George. Powerboats are also available at the Marina and therefore, share the run with canoes. Click here to view this canoe trail.
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. Click here to view this canoe trail.
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 paddles 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. Click here to view this canoe trail.
Temporary closure of 8,200 acres in the southwest portion of the forest will affect Off-Road Vehicle users. For more information, visit our newsroom.
Please check with the Ranger District Officefor the latest handouts and information about regulations pertaining to off road vehicle riding.
The Ocala National Forest offers many enjoyable locations to ride Off Road Vehicles. While the Forest Service has not designated or marked specific ORV trails, there are many unnumbered roads and travel ways that zigzag throughout the forest where you may ride. Restricted Areas are designated to protect certain biological communities, such as wetlands. These ares are shown in the Off Road Vehicle Use Restricted Area map. In addition to this information you may want to purchase a detailed forest map or topography map.
Be Courteous. Be Responsible. Be Safe.
Horseback riding on the Ocala National Forest provides opportunities to quietly become part of the woodlands community. Forest riding trails are actually old roads six to eight feet wide, marked at intervals with painted spots – called blazes – on the trees. These trails offer safe passage through the leaning sand pines of the “big scrub”; the straight, sturdy longleaf pines of the “flatwoods”; plus numerous lakes and grassy prairies.
The Ocala One Hundred Mile Horse Trail consists of three sections: the 40 mile Flatwoods Trail (marked with red blazes), the 40 mile Prairie Trail (marked with white blazes), and the 20 mile Baptist Lake Trail (marked with blue blazes). Click here to view this trail.
The LAM (Lake/Alachua/Marion) Trail is marked with yellow blazes. In the Ocala National Forest it stretches 34 miles from Doe Lake to a point near the town Eureka. The trail does continue beyond the forest towards Paines Prairie near Gainesville, but not all sections may be completed.
The Swim Pond horse trailer parking area is shown on the horse trail map. While this is the only developed parking facility available at this time, many individuals choose to park alongside a forest road wherever trails cross. As long as the vehicles do not obstruct traffic or destroy natural resources, this is permitted.
There is no permit or fee to ride horses on these trails, nor is riding restricted to the established trails, however, horses are not permitted on the Paisley Woods Bicycle Trail, the Ocala section of the Florida National Scenic Trail, or in developed campgrounds. Tent camping with horses is allowed throughout the general forest area, except during deer hunting season. Campers wishing to camp in a rig or motorhome with their horses are restricted to the primitive campsites designated on the primitive campsite map. Individuals seeking more developed sites for their rigs and horses or tent campers wishing to camp with horses during the deer hunting season may wish to seek alternative locations.
JNB Horse Haven Farm is a permitted outfitter with the Ocala National Forest. Guided trail and wagon rides are available from this farm, located approximately 8 miles west of Altoona. Tent sites and picnic areas area available for independent horse owners. Trail ride lessons are also available. Call (352) 753-4756 for more information.
Doe Lake Recreation Area is a group camp and is by reservation only. Several horse clubs reserve this facility and some call it a “horse camp“, however, many different groups use Doe Lake throughout the year.
The Ocala National Forest is a wildlife management area, in which hunting and fishing activities are managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. A $26.50 Wildlife Management Area Permit is required for all hunters (except those indicated as exempt) to hunt in this area. A Quota Hunt Permit may also be required during certain time periods or certain game. General hunting information may be found on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s website, or in the current Hunting Handbook available at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Office, their various subagents, or the Forest Service Ranger Stations. For specific regulations that pertain only to the Ocala Wildlife Management Area a unique brochure is published annually and can be obtained at the same locations, including the website. This brochure identifies specific hunting units and regulations of the Ocala Wildlife Management Area. Click here to see this brochure.
Freshwater fishing is available in the many lakes, streams and ponds of the Ocala National Forest. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also regulates fishing and produces a Fishing Handbook that outlines specific rules, bag limits, licensing, and health advisories. This handbook is available at the same locations as the Hunting Handbook. The Forest Service produced a specific fishing guide for the Ocala National Forest. This handy paperback book, entitled Fishing Opportunities in the Ocala National Forest, identifies 50 bodies of water within the Ocala and provides great detail for each one. These details include: recreation facilities available, ramp access, specific regulations, sport fishing opportunities, and lake description. Fishing Opportunities in the Ocala National Forest is sold at all three visitor centers.
Hunting and Fishing licenses and permits for residents and nonresidents are available at county tax collector’s offices and their subagents, such as sporting goods stores or other retailers selling hunting and fishing equipment. For your convenience, you may use a major credit card and purchase your license over the phone: 1-888-HUNT-FLORIDA or 1-888-FISH-FLORIDA; or through the FWC website.
The Ocala Rifle Range was built with funds provided by the Pittman-Robertson Act to be used by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Hunter Education Program. This Act levies an excise tax on all sporting arms and ammunition, which is then used for wildlife restoration and hunter education. When classes are not scheduled, the range is available to the public. The facility is open from sunrise to sunset and is unsupervised, so cooperation among shooters is a must! While backboards are provided, they must be maintained and the range is usually closed on Wednesdays for repairs. Shooters should bring their own targets and tacks or staples, and those using the shotgun range should bring their own targets. There is no fee to use the range. The range is located within a wildlife management area boundary, so transporting firearms to and from the range is limited to state and county roads and prohibited on forest service roads. Find the range’s location on FS 88 just 0.7 mile north of SR 40, see the developed recreation sites/trails map.