Date Visited: 12/8/2019
After our return trip to Washington Oaks Gardens we headed toward the west coast of Florida for an overnight stay at Lake Griffin State Park.
The campground was typical of most Florida State Parks; it was clean, the sites ranged in size, they were a little pushed together in some areas (as most campgrounds seem to be these days), but most could accommodate the average RV.
There were only a few smaller sites for those who like to camp the way it was done 30 years ago and with us in the middle in our little SUV we fit into any spot comfortably or with room to spare. The sites were mostly shaded, but since water and electric are available at all sites, finding a little sun for your solar panels shouldn’t be a issue.
The park is approximately 620 acres which is nearly double the initial acquisition of 383 acres that were purchased by the state in 1943. Between 1943 and 1961 more of the surrounding land was acquired and in 1961 a generous donation from the city of Fruitland Park expanded the grounds by an additional 4 acres and construction of the park was underway. The park opened in 1963, and as with most state parks, improvements to the campground and trail systems have been made over the years.
Amenities at the park now include:
- Accessible campsites. Sites 1, 2 and 27
- Picnic pavilion, picnic tables and benches.
- Fire rings.
- Wheelchair-accessible fishing.
- Wheelchair-accessible boat tours.
- ADA accessible bathrooms
- 9 of the 40 campsites have sewer hookups
The park is also a great place for families with children boasting a decent playground for the kids, and kayak rentals. There is also a pontoon boat tour for those interested in learning about the local ecosystem.
Florida’s Second Largest Live Oak
Now you might be wondering why we chose this park over others in the area. Well, we were on a mission to see the second largest Live Oak tree in Florida, and boy this thing was not a disappointment!
There is a short 1/2 mile trail that leads to the oak which is believed to be around 400 years old. This thing was huge! As we walked around the tree all I could think was, “Man this would make a great place for a tree house for adults!”
Now Mr. McGee is not a short guy at 6′ tall, but compared to this mammoth of a tree he looks like a little kid.
We spent some time touching the bark, and breathing in the fresh air and aged wood before bidding farewell to this giant and heading out on one of the other small trails that meander through the park.
At the time of our wanderings we didn’t realize that there is also a massive pine in the park they call Bear Tree. Why the name you ask? Because on this particular pine you can view the claw marks of one of the Florida Black Bears that frequent the park. I really wish I had known about this at the time we visited, because I sure would have liked to see that. Maybe this is cause for another trip back to the park.
After we had spent a couple hours driving across the state, a walk through the woods was just what we needed to stretch our legs and recharge.
The stroll was nice and cool (being mostly under the canopy) and we eventually made our way down to the Dead River which sits adjacent to the picnic area and playground. The boat launch is also located here and rumor has it that the fishing in this area is not bad at all. Just a note: One of the trails goes through a swampy area, so leave those Gucci and NikeCourt Lunar Ballistecs at home.
Although we didn’t see any wildlife on the trail the ranger informed us that black bears, coyotes, racoons, and bobcats do call this park their home. The most we saw of the fur bearers was a handful of playful squirrels, but we did see a great number of birds ranging in size and color from Red Cardinals to White Egrets.
If we had one complaint about the park it would be this. The park sits off of Highway 27 which is a very busy road both day and night, and it might be because we were there during the winter when some of the deciduous trees had lost a good number of their leaves, but we could hear the traffic from our campsite all night long which did not result in a restful nights sleep. Other than that we had a most enjoyable one night stay hanging around the campsite reading and watching the birds as they flicked from tree to tree in search of their dinner while we ate our own.
The next morning we took in the sights, sounds and smells of four other locations on the long list of Florida State Parks. We hope you join us next week. Until then…
Lake Griffin State Park 3089 US Hwy. 441-27 Fruitland Park, FL 34731 352-360-6760 Website
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