Having suffered through two miserable nights of noise and rude neighbors we pulled stakes at Clearwater Lake Campground and headed for the campground at Alexander Springs.
The Alexander Springs Recreation Area is well known for its first-magnitude springs by local residents and central Floridians. Pumping out 70 – 80 million gallons of crystal clear water a day at a year round temperature of a constant 72 degrees it’s no wonder it has become a favorite place for both snorkelers and scuba divers, but during our stay we discovered a lesser known jewel inside the park called the Timucuan Trail.
The 1.1 mile loop nature trail starts at the end of the swimming and picnic area. It loops through an Oak Hammock, some aquatic and swampy areas as well as a Sand Pine Scrub. These four systems are common sites in the Ocala National forest, but each is uniquely beautiful.
A portions of the trail is on a raised boardwalk making it accessible for those with mobility issues. Other portions are dirt with limited obstacles making for a fairly easy hike.
There a few interpretive signs along the way describing the native plant life and other resources and how they were used by earlier inhabitants.
The discovery of artifacts in the area such as pottery and bows lead archeologist to conclude that this area has been inhabited by native people for almost 10,000 years. One group of those people were the Timucuan Indians. We would soon learn more about these people on our travels throughout Florida.
One reason for the long history of habitation is that the area is rich with food resources including a number of fish species, turtles, white-tailed deer, birds, and palmetto berries. But it’s also abundant in fresh water mussels and crawfish as evidenced by the large shell midden that now makes up the picnic area near the springs.
A shell midden is a mound of shells created by human activity. They are in essence a trash heap. Discovery of these mounds help archeologist uncover information about the diets and cultures of past civilizations. We also find this insight interesting.
As you make your way around the trail you will see areas of crystal clear water seeping from the ground that form streams. These are actually small springs and another source of fresh water. If you’re lucky you may stumble upon one of many forest critters lapping a drink. Don’t forget to look up. Many birds species, as well as native magnolias trees populate this area. When in bloom the magnolias are a magnificent sight to see.
Along the boardwalk portion of the trail you will find two observation platforms that look out over Alexander creek as it winds six miles through the forest before meeting up with the Saint John’s River. Fishing is permitted from these overlooks as long as you acquire the appropriate fresh water license. Canoe and kayak rentals are also available for those wishing to paddle the creek in search of alligators, turtles, and otters.
There are four camp circles comprised of 67 primitive campsites in the campground. Loops A & B are closest to the springs. Non-potable water is available via common pumps placed throughout the campground. Bathhouses with hot water are centrally located in each camp circle. Each campsite consists of a bear box, grill, fire ring, picnic table and lantern post. A bear proof dumpster is located near the bathhouse for your trash. Not every campsite has a tent pad and some driveways are more slopped than others. Walk-up sites are available but go very quickly on weekends. Reservations are accepted through Reserve America.
Another keeper to add to our list.
We spent our nights gazing at stars, watching satellites and being entertained by the resident armadillo. There was a little traffic noise coming from the road behind us, but all-in-all the nights were peaceful.
Our final stop on this short trip was a hike at Silver Glen Springs. More on that next week. Until then…
Ocala National Forest Alexander Springs 49525 CR 445 ALTOONA FL 32702 Phone: (352)669-3522 Website
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