Tag Archives: ocala national forest

Other Spots of Interest in the Salt Springs Florida Vicinity

Salt Springs, Florida Tourist Attractions Off the Beaten Path

Ocala National Forest is a Florida tourist attraction as well as an oasis of solitude and offers a wide variety of activities. Salt Springs sits in its upper half, nestled between Lake Kerr and Lake George. Nighttime activities are mostly limited to hot dog roasts and star gazing unless you care to venture into a nearby bar. You will, however, find restaurants, gas stations, post office, laundry facilities and shopping in the town of Salt Springs, lest you think this might be too much wilderness for your tastes.

A quick trip to the visitor center will familiarize you with the area and offers a chance to learn about on-going efforts to protect this natural habitat from deterioration. If you’re interested in exploring the origins of Paleoindians and the days of mastodons and saber tooth tigers, this is the place for you. Nearby Welaka Maritime Museum is well-known for its hand-crafted wooden boats, but time did not allow, so it is added to our “Must See on the Return Trip” list for this magical area of Florida.

The Salt Spring Recreation Area between the St. Johns and Ocklawaha Rivers and nearby Lake George teems with activities. The campground offers full RV hookups as well as a tent area. Salt Spring vacation rentals abound, as do homes and land for sale, for those who find this area fills their soul with peace and harmony.

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Salt Springs Activities

Approximately 82 feet wide and 25 feet deep, the spring bubbles from the west bank of the Withlacoochee River. Rising deep from underneath the earth, the natural mineral spring water is laden with potassium, magnesium and sodium, giving its name to the area: salt.

Swimming and snorkeling in the crystal clear 74º (F) waters offers up glimpses into a primeval past and certified cave divers explore to their heart’s content. There is no boating or fishing allowed in the swimming pool which is lined with sidewalks and concrete walls that allow for easy access.

Others are attracted to the boating and fishing. Salt Spring, Lake George and surrounding area boat rentals are easy to find and range from paddle boards, canoes, and kayaks to power and pontoon boats. Anglers also enjoy fishing the four mile long Salt Spring Run (downstream of the swimming area and marina, of course).

For those who prefer to discover the area on foot, 1400 miles of scenic trail await you. Besides hiking, you’ll find amenities such as basketball and horseshoes.

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Life is decidedly slower in the forest and time slips away before you get your fill of nighttime bear-watching and wild flower arrangements.

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In the Solitude of the Ocala National Forest

Peace and Quiet at the Edge of Ocala National Forest

Our friends own a cabin that backs up to the Ocala National Forest and invited us up for a visit. Since it was the last weekend before deer hunting season began, we figured it would be safer walking in the woods if we went then rather than later! We’d been visiting Brooksville and the only way to Salt Springs that made any sense was to take State Road 50 over to 19, then take 19 straight into Salt Springs.

The cabin is a simple one and its owner is a good carpenter so it is solid and well kept. We see with carpenter’s eyes, as well, and there are things I would change, such as install a larger window on the bedroom wall that looks out over the forest, but there are fun touches here and there: a large screened outdoor kitchen that overlooks a large circular fire pit, an outdoor shower, etc.

Mostly, though, we were seeking solitude, and it was gloriously quiet as no cell phone signals could get through. The forest’s 383,000 acres encompasses parts of four counties and is the southernmost and oldest national forest east of the Mississippi. The forest is bear habitat and they sniff around at night, hoping humans forget to secure the hatches (we didn’t).

The Woods Near Salt Springs Florida

The picture below was taken in the morning, just as the fog was lifting into the trees. The silence was complete. We ran into a couple of musket hunters later in the day (musket hunting is allowed the weekend before regular deer season, a nod to the days of the early settlers), but the morning was a solitary experience as I watched the forest wake up.

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When I first saw this part of the pine forest, my first thought was, “Telephone poles!” The forest protects the world’s largest contiguous sand pine scrub forest east of the Mississippi River.

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This area, as was much of Florida at the time, was a bustling turpentine industry around the turn of the century. After a burn, you can walk around and find broken terra cotta pots on the forest floor. These pots were used to collect the pinesap and hung high in the trees. When the industry folded, the pots were abandoned, unnoticed until the heat from a forest fire causes them to burst and the shards fall to the ground.

The path before us is such an unknown entity, isn’t it? You can see the tunnel up ahead, but where does it lead?

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Find mysteries that amaze your eyes such as Deer Moss, so named because it grows out of the forest floor in soft, small double clumps, looking just like new antlers on a deer.

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Remember the first rule to walking in the Florida woods and swamps: watch out for snakes when you are walking.

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This is a Pygmy Rattler, one of Florida’s most dangerous snakes. Its bite is quite venemous and requires a hurried ride to the hospital. Because it’s rattle is so small, the noise gives no warning. It seems to me that most trouble comes that way.