Wekiva Springs State Park - Orlando / Florida Guide
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Whilst spending time re-decorating at our villa on Highlands Reserve, we decided to reward ourselves with a day off and decided to head towards one of the more ‘natural’ attractions of Orlando. Wekiva or Wekiwa Springs State Park is a hidden gem down the I4. It is well worth the journey from Davenport (about 1 hour or so) to experience a natural fresh water spring environment with a swimming area, boardwalk nature trail and canoeing or kayaking.
The park offers a glimpse of what Central Florida looked like when Timucuan Indians fished and hunted the land. Apparently it does get very busy at weekends so it is advisable to arrive early to guarantee space in the car park.
When we arrived we were uncertain what the park would offer in terms of facilities. Would we be in a wilderness or not? There is actually a small shop which sells snacks, sandwiches, drinks, T shirts, sunglasses and pool inflatables. This is where you can purchase kayaking or canoeing tickets and hire a locker. For $18 two people can hire a canoe for 2 hours on the river. You don' t need to be any kind of expert to travel downriver to the beach area about a mile downstream where you can moor up, buy a beer at the bar and, get some excellent food at the snack bar - we had gyros which were really good, served by a really cheerful man in sweltering conditions. What a hero!
It is possible to drive to the beach area and park there. There are beach chairs, river swimming and shady picnic areas. So if you didn' t fancy canoeing, this would be the place to find! We paddled back upstream - better fed and well refreshed by a swim in the springs.
The temperature in the water is between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, which felt chilly as the air temperature was 95 degrees! However we soon got used to it and felt completely invigorated. We ended our visit with a boardwalk tour, admiring the local flora & interesting insects.
At the entrance there is a small visitor centre with live reptiles, such as tortoises and snakes. We were fortunate that Molly the Florida pine snake came out to spend some time with us, and was not averse to curling around my eldest daughter' s neck! A gopher tortoise came out to join us too.
Also available at the Park is a bike trail, horse trail, fishing facilities, playground, and it is ideal for dog walkers. There are several walking trails available ranging in length from an eighth of a mile to thirteen and a half miles. For those feeling more adventurous, the longest trail provides an opportunity to see several plant communities ranging from river swamp to dry sandhill. Some of the animals you may encounter while enjoying the trails apparently include the Florida black bear, white tailed deer, bobcat, gopher tortoise, turkeys and many, many other bird species.
We only did one of the short trails but armed with our new bird spotting knowledge managed to identify a wild turkey on our way home! A good day was had by all and we will certainly be returning again to explore more of the park.
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Page added on: 1 September 2014
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