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.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Visit to Florida's Rainbow Springs State Park

Located near Dunnellon, there are two entrances to the park depending if you are camping or just visiting the park.  To get to the park from the campground to the spring head and gardens, you either kayak about a mile upstream on Rainbow River, or drive about 6 miles to the main entrance.

There are two loops, A & B, in the campground.  Loop A has no shade or shrubs and is the adjacent to the walk-in tent area. Loop B has sites nestled in the shrubbery offering some side privacy and some have overhead shade.  Those shaded sites are on the west end of the loop.  All the sites are level gravel and are pretty spacious.  The campground and facilities are clean and well maintained.  All sites have Full Hook-Ups.  50/30/20 amp electric.


Loop B looking west.


 Loop B looking east.  Big difference in shade.

Along the river at the campground there is a nice picnic area with pavilions, picnic tables, grassy areas, a dock, boat ramp and canoe/kayak launch and swimming area.  Fishing is permitted off the dock or shore. There is another picnic area at the office building with a pavilion, horseshoe court, shuffleboard court and in the office is a rec room with a few games.

One can rent canoes or tandem kayaks at the campground or you can launch your own.  An alternative is to go into town and rent a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard from one of a few outfitters.

At the campground there are two trails.  At the beginning is signage regarding the wildlife in the area.  One being black bears.  So, make noise on the trails.  

 The nature trail is an easy loop about half mile long and there is a half mile cut off that leads to the entrance gate.  There is another short trail which is pretty much a service road that circles Loop B.  Easy hike.

Along the Nature Trail we spotted this huge cage.  So, maybe there are bears in the park.

This Black Swallowtail is the wildest thing we saw on the trail, desperately hanging on to a thin branch in a stiff breeze.

While down at the river's edge this armadillo searches for food.

The Rainbow River is normally very calm and crystal clear, but there is a current to be aware of.

 One way of traveling the river.

 Or, with man's best friend.  Woman's in this case.


Or, in fleet.  I think these folks entered downstream at an outfitter by the conversation as they passed by.

The entrance to the headsprings is on FL-41, north of the campground.  If you are camping in the park, bring your window sticker so you don't have to pay again.

The headspring is popular for swimming, snorkeling, tubing and kayaking,  and, the waterfalls and gardens throughout the park.  At the springhead are change rooms/restrooms, grills, pavilions, picnic tables, a museum and a small food concession.  This area was once a privately owned day park, but is now part of the Florida State Park system.

For the kids the swimming area is primary.  But, for us it is the waterfalls and trails:


And, a resident of one of the several ponds along the trail.

Also, there is a recreated Indian village depicting life of the Timucua Indians that once inhabited the area.

An interesting means of capturing rain water.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A Visit to Florida's Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park

Nothing like mixing a little culture with your camping.  Located in White Springs, a very nice, well kept park with lots to see and do.  A tribute to composer, song writer Stephen Foster and sitting right on the Suwannee River.

The sites are hard-packed gravel, spacious and mostly well shaded. There is little shrubbery on the sides, but the sites are, with a few exceptions, not close together and angled for privacy.  The campground and facilities are very well maintained.

There are three loops with back-ins and drive-thrus.  Only 4 sites, in Canebreak Loop, have 50 amp service.  The rest of the 45 sites have 30amp.  There is a playground near Suwannee Loop and a trail entrance at the end of Gopher Loop.

The most imposing building in the culture center area has to be Carillon Tower which, like a grandfather clock chimes on the hour, quarter hour and half hour.  Stephen Foster concerts sound at 10, 12, 2 & 4 daily.  Nice background while hiking or just relaxing in the campground or center grounds in an otherwise quiet park.

The rotunda is filled with documents about the carillon and the era.

One can watch the timing mechanism operate, see a scale model replica of the tower structure and see samples of the roll sheet music that keys the chimes, reminiscent of an old player piano. 

The second most prominent building of the center is the museum dedicated to Stephen Foster.

The backside of the museum faces Carillon Tower between which is a huge lawn lined with trees.  Monthly events are held on the lawn and in various other parts of the center grounds drawing a large number of visitors.

Inside are three rooms displaying artifacts, photographs and documents recounting the life of Stephen Foster. 

Each room displays pianos of the era, sheet music, and photographs.


In the entrance room are several animated dioramas depicting some of Foster's popular songs.  Each diorama is hand made.  The pieces are all hand carved from balsa wood. 

A patio with fountain is part of the immediate museum grounds.  The area around the lawn is wooded on with paths and plenty of picnic tables for visitors to sit, have a lunch and listen to the carillon.  Very peaceful place.  Additional event buildings in the immediate area include an amphitheater, an auditorium and a full kitchen and assembly building.

Other buildings in the area include Cousin Thelma Bolton's Craft and Gift Shop (they have ice-cream and wi-fi), and...

 ....Craft Square, five cottages, each containing a craft and resident craftsman on duty to demonstrate their craft and sell their wares,

and, a working blacksmith shop, 

and several period farm implements of interest.  

There is also a playground in the area and a group campfire pit for storytelling.  Interesting pyramid shaped fire log pit in the background.

Had enough culture? Besides a couple of miles of paved park roads to walk or bike, the park offers an 8 miles easy to moderate bike/hike trail plus several more miles of shorter loops to explore along the Foster Hammock Loop Trail (blue trail).  There are several clearly marked intersections. One can combine trails and create one's own length for the hike or ride.

The trails range from lightly used service roads to narrow trails with roots, rocks, grades, etc.  And seasonally, water.

The road to the canoe launch is well kept and easily navigable.

Near the canoe launch is a large gazebo, picnic tables and a boardwalk to the dock on the Suwannee River.

The dock allows river navigators to tie up and visit the park. We met some when visiting Suwannee River State Park.  Very popular adventure, kayaking the river and camping along the way.

In the area are 5 spacious cabins, and

an area called Seminole Area reminiscent of tribal dwellings. Some contain small or large grills for family outings or larger events.

Outside the park near the south gate is Florida's first tourist attraction. The Spring House
People came from all over to be rejuvenated by the natural spring emptying into the river. 

 Sadly, this is all that remains today.  Recent heavy rains have filled the pool so you cannot see the spring water flowing in and exiting to the river beyond the wall.

  Things seen along the way:

Ground Skink a courting.

Tree art for the visit.

Pileated Woodpecker.  Seeing more of these lately.

Cardinal.  Always see cardinals.  A good omen. 


A welcome sign on the blue trail.  It says "Exit to Parking".  We took that way. Enough of the trail for the day.