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.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Back to Florida's Manatee Springs State Park

We returned to this park just west of Chiefland and along the Suwanee River searching for colder weather and seeing manatees in the spring escaping colder water in the Suwanee. We got the colder weather, but the manatees were not there. But, this is a nice park and a good place to get away and relax. Phone coverage was fair, 4G comes and goes, and there is a wi-fi hotspot at the concession stand near the camp loops. 

The park has 80 campsites in three loops. Seventeen of the sites are tent specific and the remaining are tent or rv sites. Most sites have ample space and/or palmettos for privacy.  Most are at least partial shade. All the sites have 30/20 amp and water. Three sites in Magnolia 1 Area have 50 amp. No sewage. Our site was #54 in Magnolia 2 Area. Mag 2 is our preferred area. We would definitely return to this site again.

While the main road is paved from the entrance to the day area, the loop roads are packed sand. They are a bit narrow but big rigs can navigate cautiously. There are pot holes. They serve the purpose of keeping traffic slow.

The park has 80 campsites in three loops, two youth, areas and a large day use area. There is hiking (8.5 miles of trails), biking, kayaking, swimming and scuba diving. There are six pull-through sites most of which 5 are in Magnolia 1 Area. The 6th is in the Hickory Camping Area.

There is lot of wooded area surrounding the campground. This is a view from one of two small cul-de-sacs in Magnolia 2 Area looking toward the Suwanee River.  Many trees, dry land. Then many trees, swamp land. Then the river.
The day area is adjacent to the campground and has a lot of running room for the kids, a playground and two covered pavilions, and stand alone benches and picnic tables.

 Near the concession stand is the ranger's amphitheater and boat storage. There is hiking (8.5 miles of trails), biking, kayaking, swimming and scuba diving., two youth, areas and a large day use area.

Also, at the spring's edge is a long boardwalk running along the springs.  There are a couple of out-takes that overlook the spring. These provide a good view of the spring and the manatees, many species of fish, turtles, birds, and maybe an alligator.
The boardwalk goes to a marina at the bank of the Suwanee. There is a Suwanee River tour boat ride available.


Walking along the boardwalk on the one side is the swamp with a lot of grass, cypress trees and knees.....

 ....and on the other side is the spring.

Sights along the river side include a heron,

leaves turning fiery red,

turtles and a lone manatee,

and an Ibis.

 Interestingly, this photo shows trees and greenery, no water.

The next day, same place, water covering the greenery.  I was not aware there is a tidal effect in the Suwanee causing this. 

A hole in the trunk. 

 Approaching the boathouse and pier on the Suwanee we are greeted by a turtle,

Many buzzards doing what buzzards do,

A Cormorant standing vigil,

and, a so far unsuccessful fisherman.

A  buzzard playing Cormorant in the trees.

Late afternoon at the Suwanee River.

The spring head. If you look close you can see ripples where the water is rising up from the aquifer. Crystal clear and about a constant 68 degrees.  The air temp today was a lot less. There is a boardwalk that surrounds the spring head and leads to a hiking path.

What you can do in the spring. Scuba, snorkel, swim, kayak. No fishing.

A sinkhole adjacent to the spring head.  Algae covers the water. There are several sinkholes in the spring and campground area. Some dry, most wet. One larger sinkhole allows scuba diving. Called Catfish Hotel.

A Green Heron searching for dinner at the springhead.

In the meantime this squirrel found his dinner.

There are 8.5 miles of trails to hike and bike in the park. This is Sinkhole trail and typifies the trails throughout.  Easy hiking through various plant communities. The trails are blazed and have informative signage along the way.

One of the sink holes along the trail.

Many Hickory trees inhabit the area. The ground is full of these nuts that were once a food staple of the animals, and of humans that once inhabited the area. Other trees are the Bluff Oak and Magnolia.

Deer tracks along the trail.

And, speaking of deer, these are part of a family of five that travel around the campground. Usually in the morning and then in the evening, they walk right through your campsite.  They are not skittish and will look up at you while feeding or walking by.  But, do not feed them. According to the ranger they do not do well on human food. For a while the population was not looking healthy due to campers feeding them. After a great effort to curb the feeding, the deer seem to be making a comeback to good health.

Friday, October 5, 2018

A Weekend at Florida's Silver Lake Campground Withlacoochee State Forest


Spent a long weekend at this part of the Withlacoochee State Forest just outside of Brooksville. In this complex are three campgrounds: Silver Lake, Cypress Glen and Crooked River.

I chose Silver Lake campground. It is the smaller of the two CGs with electricity. Crooked Lake campground is tenting only. Water only.  It also is a trailhead for the 5.2 mile River Trail.

I think I had the best site.  #10. Appropriately numbered. It is pretty level, sand/gravel, partial shade with 20/30 amp and water. The bath house was nearby and, while a little dated was clean and functional.  The site has a lot of side privacy on one side and, as you can see, none on the other.  But, still the best site, I think.  Most of the sites had little shade and little side privacy although they were far enough apart.

My fire pit when I arrived.  Ready to light. Ample supply of wood, too.  What a service. Got me spoiled. Thank you host/ranger.

The loop road is a little rough, limestone with a few potholes, but no overhangs.  Encourages one to drive slow as it should be. 

The campground boat ramp. Not much boat activity. This couple spent their evenings by water's edge each evening. Quiet lake at this end.

The lake was at a higher level due to recent rain. The low water trail normally passes just this side of the tree per the sign.

There's the trail. Under water.

A calm, reflective Silver Lake.


The day park adjacent to the campground. There are several pavilions, rest rooms, a field for activities, grills and picnic tables.

And there is a boat ramp. This is for the day visitors.  Not too well maintained. Some pretty deep potholes.


A couple of the small pavilions at the boat ramp. I'll bet many a fish was cleaned here.

Just past the pavilions the low water trail becomes impassable. A couple of weeks ago it was well under water.


Hiking along the trail. This follows the edge of the lake to Cypress Glen campground. 

The Cypress trees reveal the water height of recent weeks. Still wet and dark.

The end of the trail. Wash out. Won't get to Cypress Glen campground and the boardwalk this way.  I'll have to take the road.


An apple snail shell.  It's owner flooded out of its home.

The Cypress Glen campground loop road.  The sites are mostly on the outside of the loop with corral fence defining the sites. Half are partial shade, half full.

In the center of the loop is a large activity field and the bathhouse.


The campground boat ramp. Mother, daughter and man's best friend enjoy the cool lake water. In the distant background is the I-75 bridge.


The boardwalk. This is the reason I was headed to Cypress Glen.  Almost missed it as it was nestled between two heavily foliaged campsites.

As it turns out the low level trail becomes the boardwalk. Real swampy here. Even without the recent rain storms.


The boardwalk eventually comes to an end and there I was at a washout section again. But, to my left a trail existed that was really dry.  This is a connector trail to pick up the River trail at Crooked River campground.

A little ways up the trail is Turtle Hill. Saw no turtles, but did see these:

A little color after all that wet brown ground and trees and brackish water.

 As the trail continued it got dryer.  It eventually came out at the entrance road to Cypress Glen campground.  The road continued on to Crooked River campground as does the connector trail.

As you turn off SR50 llgoing to Silver Lake Recreation Complex you are at a Withlacoochee State Trail access point. There's a parking area, restrooms, trail map and info, and refreshments here as you ride by or start or complete your trip.  All paved, for bicycles and pedestrians.

Though mostly flat there are challenges like this bridge crossing SR 50. Just the sight of the elevation changes tires me. I don't think my bke has a gear low enough for me.  I'll stick to the woods.