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Lake Louisa State Park - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > State Parks

Searching for some real Florida countryside and wildlife, we made the short drive from our lovely villa on Highlands Reserve to Lake Louisa, just off the H27 and a short drive from Orlando. We had my disabled father with us and he remembered a visit there several years before. He was keen to revisit the memorial to Lieutenant Dean Gilmore, a World War Two pilot, veteran of active service over Africa and Italy and holder of the Distinguished Flying Cross. Only 23, Gilmore crashed into Lake Louisa – tragically on his birthday – whilst leading a training flight in that area.

Sure that there was good disabled access, we set off and easily found the Ranger Station, in the middle of spectacular countryside. This place is a tonic for anyone who, like me, gets a little bored of endless roads that look the same, with the same old retailers and restaurants. It was good to see something of wild central Florida, which I am willing to bet is largely undiscovered by tourists.

Having paid the small parking fee (if memory serves it was about $5) we were given a map and directions. I wish we had listened better! We took the right fork in the well surfaced access road and arrived at the car park. We set off (Dad on his crutches, insisting it was only a few yards) along a boardwalk trail which we thought would lead us to the lake. Ten minutes later we realised we were going nowhere, except deeper into the forest on a gravel track. This would have been a fascinating adventure if we were all able-bodied. Unfamiliar bird calls sounded out, huge colourful butterflies were everywhere and large, slightly menacing long- legged spiders hung from the trees (maybe don’t touch? ) Sadly, we didn’t see any of the Gopher tortoises which apparently frequent the park and feature on the animal crossing signs! It was becoming apparent, though, that this was the Nature Trail and not the disabled access route to the lake.

Re-tracing our steps, we got into the car and drove along the access road again to explore what lay in the other direction. Two other large lakes lay that way, along with a camp site, but no memorial. Finally we went back to the Ranger Station. We had been in the right car park but had turned the wrong way. If we had parked in the disabled area, the entrance we needed was just in front of our noses, down a short boardwalk by a wooden house. Finally the lake was in front of us.

Lake Louisa is huge and breathtakingly beautiful, with a beach of fine white sand. It is very easy to access and there are picnic benches to sit at. The very moving memorial is to the right, and a trail leads around the lake to the left. Dad was happy to sit and look out over the lake, watching the herons, egrets and buzzards while we explored the wooded path. There are places to swim and canoe, as well as camp, and you can stay in a cabin or bring your own tent or RV. You can cycle or ride your horse there – we only had Shanks’s pony (our Lancashire expression for walking). So when we had explored to our hearts’ content, and my daughter had cooed over all the tiny little froglets and large beetles she could find, we returned to the car.

We drove once more through the rolling, green hills, back to H27, content that we had seen a bit of real Florida, and hoping to see some more. Just one word of advice – don’t forget the mosquito repellent!

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Page added on: 7 September 2012
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