An Oasis near Orlando – Wekiwa Springs State Park

There is so much to do at Wekiwa Springs State Park and being located in the suburbs of Orlando makes it especially crowded on the weekends. Arriving on April 13th for 4 nights didn’t give us enough time (seems to be a common problem!!) to do everything we wanted to do.

After a long drive from The Everglades, our arrival on Saturday started by waiting in line to get into the park, which had just reopened from being overcrowded. This 95 degree Saturday and the beautiful spring water bring more visitors than the huge parking lot can handle so the rangers close the park until space becomes available. On Sunday, we avoided the park crowds and went exploring to Mt. Dora and Tavares. Bruce’s folks lived on Lake Eustis before they moved to Oregon and the lakes are interconnected making a nice boat ride over to Mt. Dora area. I remember enjoying that ride much more than the approach from the road this time. We were so happy when Bruce’s folks relocated but it must have been hard to leave such a beautiful area!  A rainstorm reduced the traffic at the park and the crowd had thinned out by the time we returned.

Monday and Tuesday were photo-safari hiking days. It’s hard to believe this wild place exists in the suburbs of Orlando. We saw lots of animals but not the bear which are frequently seen in the park.  We had sightings of tortoise, lots of deer and turkey, a hawk and woodpeckers and some other birds. An alligator and some turtles were in Sand Lake on a nice trail. The landscape is unexpectedly wooded but mixed with palmettos and palm trees in soil alternating between sand, moss, or covered in leaves. Little shady spots in the trail led to little babbling streams and lots of ferns. I even thought I saw rhododendron which is a very Oregon plant that typically likes cooler temperatures and more rain.

The kayaking is excellent nearby but again, that will have to be on the list for a return visit.  Our route now takes us steadily back to Oregon for Memorial Day so we need to keep moving.

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