Visiting Florida's state parks and beyond in our Roadtrek. This is how we saw it all. Hopefully, the posts will give you some useful information. Questions and comments are welcome.

Friday, January 22, 2016

A Week at Florida's O'Leno State Park


Returned to this park in a winter month.  Rewarded with some cold mornings and mild afternoons.  South of Lake City, a very nice park, with some updates since our last visit.  Plenty of hiking and biking on paved and unpaved surfaces.  Clean restrooms/showers. There are two loops of campsites, two youth camping areas, a primitive camping area and 16 cabins. The main road is paved to the river and area that once was the town of Leno, but the campsite loop roads are packed sand/limestone.  A unique thing at this park is the O'leno State Park Cell Phone Tour.  Haven't seen this at other parks.  Check out the brochure at the ranger station when you check in.

Stayed in our previous campsite, #23, Magnolia Loop.  Level sand, new corral fence, 30/20 amp service & water. Lots of shade even in winter.  The last four sites on the loop have 50 amp service.


The Magnolia Loop is in a level area nearest the Santa Fe River and the old town site. The sites are mostly very level and spacious with a lot of privacy and shade.

The Dogwood Loop is just inside the park. The loop road has elevation changes.  The sites appear to be mostly level, though.  Good shade and privacy. 

The suspension bridge over the Santa Fe River.  Built by the CCC in 1934.

A view of the bridge from the river shore.

There are seven trails for hiking and biking ranging from .61 miles to 4.25 miles in length.  The Yellow Trail, probably the most traveled, is a loop along the Santa Fe River.  Start at the suspension bridge on either side and you travel along the river to the sink and loop back to the bridge.

Generally, an easy trail. The south side has a few elevation changes and roots to negotiate, but other wise easy going. The north side is more level. There are a few bridges, and well placed benches along the way, and an observation deck near sink. 
No bikes are allowed on this trail.

The River Sink.  The river disappears underground for 3 miles and resurfaces at River Rise State Park.  More than 900 million gallons per day flow underground at this point.

The trail offers excellent views of the river....

....water-filled sink holes....


 ...and an opportunity to sit, relax, and watch for bats at the bat house.

Near the bridge you get a good view of the remains of a dam built to power two grist mills, six cotton gins, one cotton seed oil gin and a circular saw mill during the existence of the town of Leno.

Also, nature-made levees created when flood waters deposited sand when they receded back to the river.

Ogden Lake is one of many long narrow lakes that are actually part of the underground river. They have a current and their levels tend to rise and lower in conjunction with the river.  These are formed due to sections of earth collapsing into the underground river.

Visiting in winter we expected to see only trees with no leaves.  But, that was not the case.  There were bare trees, but also trees that were just changing color and trees still with green leaves.  Made the hiking very colorful.

The Dogwood Trail is an easy hike paralleling the entrance road from the Dogwood Campground 1.2 miles to the day park and river.  Benches along the way.

Another trail of interest is the Limestone Trail, a .6 mile loop off the Dogwood Trail that is pretty much an easy trail except for a short area of obstacles.


The trail offers a view of the remains of the quarry where limestone was mined and used by the builders of Leno for buildings and foundations.

Paraner's Branch is a 4.4 mile loop that meanders near several natural sink holes. The trail also connects to Sweetwater Trail (~2 mi.) which leads to Sweetwater primitive campsite and on to River Rise Trail, a 4.25 mile loop trail in between O'leno State Park and River Rise State Park.  Take plenty of water and allow plenty of time.

The area that used to be the town now is a large day park with plenty of open small pavilions with grills and one large open pavilion ...

...a swimming area with dock and canoe launch...

...old buildings made of limestone...

...and wood.  This was the infirmary.

 There is a very nice CCC museum and nearby a small Nature Center.

 A display of gears and grinders from one of the grist mills.

For large events there is a CCC built log building with kitchen and a large fireplace at each end...

...and a more conventional building similarly equipped.  No fireplace, though. 

 There are 16 cabins for overnight use in the day park area.

Other things we saw.

A woodpecker knocking on wood.

A red-shouldered hawk.

We saw several deer during our stay.

And a Loggerhead Shrike that wouldn't stay off the head of the CCC worker statue.

A couple of lone Red Maple leaves.

Sun lighting up the palmetto from behind early in the morning. That may be Cottonweed standing tall with the palmetto.

Some fascinating tree roots.



Work of an aggressive woodpecker?


A couple of trees against a cloudless, cold winter sky that caught my eye.

Soon to be extinct in Florida?  I've read that the state is closing several fire towers.  Some states have started a "Spend a Night in a Tower" program. Some are pretty elaborate, some pretty primitive.  They all require a long climb.  Ready for a different adventure?  Maybe Florida could do the same.

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