Crystal River Preserve State Park
A place of exceptional natural beauty, the undisturbed islands, inlets, backwaters, and forests of this preserve are especially cherished by nature lovers and photographers. The park borders 20 miles of the northern Gulf Coast between the two cities of Yankeetown and Homosassa. Visitors can hike or bicycle along nine miles of trails or study the native wildlife and plants on the two-and-a-half mile interpretive trail. Anglers can walk down a short path to the Mullet Hole for a relaxing afternoon of fishing. Paddlers can launch a kayak or canoe into the waters of the scenic Crystal River to see the park from the water. On the third Saturday of each month, the visitor center features the Redfish Revue Theatre, a video presentation about the park. Located west of U.S. 19 in Crystal River.
For Information about Crystal River Preserve State Park, please call 352-563-0450.
NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA
Devils Millhopper Geological State Park
In the midst of north Florida’s sandy terrain and pine forests, a bowl-shaped cavity 120 feet deep leads down to a miniature rain forest. Small streams trickle down the steep slopes of the limestone sinkhole, disappearing through crevices in the ground, and lush vegetation thrives in the shade of the walls even in dry summers. A significant geological formation, Devil’s Millhopper is a National Natural Landmark that has been visited by the curious since the early 1880s. Researchers have learned a great deal about Florida’s natural history by studying fossil shark teeth, marine shells, and the fossilized remains of extinct land animals found in the sink. Visitors can enjoy picnicking and learn more about this sinkhole through interpretive displays. The park is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. Located two miles northwest of Gainesville, off State Road 232. For Information about Devils Millhopper Geological State Park, please call 352-955-2008.
Dudley Farm Historic State Park
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this park demonstrates the evolution of Florida farming from the 1850s to the mid-1940s-through three generations of the Dudley family. An authentic working farm, the homestead consists of eighteen buildings, including the family farmhouse with original furnishings, an 1880s kitchen outbuilding, a general store and post office, and a functional cane syrup complex. Park staff in period clothing perform daily chores, raising crops, and tending to livestock. The farm features seasonal cane grindings, corn shuckings, and heritage varieties of livestock and plants. Deer, wild turkeys, gopher tortoises, and bluebirds are still seen in the fields. The park has a visitor center, picnic area, and nature trail. Self-guided tours are available Wednesday through Sunday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Group tours can be reserved one month in advance. Smoking and pets are not allowed at the farmstead. Located seven miles west of I-75 on State Road 26 between Newberry and Gainesville. For Information about Dudley Farm Historic State Park, please call 352-472-1142.
Fanning Springs State Park
Located on the Suwannee River, this inviting source of cool, clear water has attracted people for thousands of years. Fanning Springs produces an average of 65 million gallons of water daily, making it one of Florida´s 33 first magnitude springs. Swimming or snorkeling in the spring is a refreshing activity on a hot day; fishing is also a popular recreation. Visitors can enter the park by boat from the Suwannee River as well as by car. Many visitors enjoy the picnic area, playground, and the park’s large open areas for Frisbee, football, soccer and also for several local events. A nature trail and boardwalk overlook the spring and river. White-tailed deer, gray squirrels, red-shouldered hawks, pileated woodpeckers, and barred owls are some of the animals seen in the park. Manatees sometimes visit the spring during the winter months. Reserve a canoe or kayak by calling Suwannee River Tours at (352) 490-9797. Located on U.S. 19/98 in the town of Fanning Springs. For Information about Fanning Springs State Park, please call 352-463-3420.
Forest Capital Museum State Park
The importance of forestry in Florida dates back to the early 1800s. The museum celebrates the heritage of Florida’s forest industry. The heart of the museum is dedicated to longleaf pines and the 5,000 products manufactured from them. The 50-plus-year-old longleaf pines growing on the museum grounds provide a majestic canopy and create an enjoyable walking trail for visitors. Adjacent to the museum is an authentic 19th century Cracker homestead, much like those scattered throughout Florida at the turn of the century. Rangers lead interpretive tours during special events and upon request. Three covered pavilions, that seat up to 60 people each, are available. The park is open Thursday through Monday, 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m., except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. Located south of Perry, on U.S. 19. For Information about Forest Capital Museum State Park, please call 850-584-3227.
Fort Clinch State Park
A part of the park system since 1935, Fort Clinch is one of the most well-preserved 19th century forts in the country. Although no battles were fought here, it was garrisoned during both the Civil and Spanish-American wars. During the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps began preserving and rebuilding many of the structures of the abandoned fort. Daily tours with period reenactors depicting garrison life bring the fort to life for visitors. Sunbathing, swimming, and beachcombing are popular activities at the beach. Anglers can fish from the pier or take advantage of excellent surf fishing. Hikers and bicyclists can enjoy a six-mile trail through the park. Self-guided nature trails provide opportunities to learn about and observe native plants and wildlife. A full-facility campground and a youth camping area provide overnight accommodations. Located north of the city of Fernandina Beach, off State Road A1A. For Information about Fort Clinch State Park, please call 904-277-7274.
Fort Cooper State Park
The sparkling waters of Lake Holathlikaha were a welcome sight to sick and wounded soldiers during the Second Seminole War. In 1836, the First Georgia Battalion of Volunteers built a stockade for the soldiers resting here, enabling the Volunteers to hold their own through several skirmishes with the Seminole Indians. The park´s diverse natural areas provide a refuge for many plants and animals, including threatened and endangered species. Fishing in Lake Holathlikaha is a popular activity; swimming is available only when the lake level is high enough. Private boats are not allowed on the lake, but paddleboat and canoe rentals are available. Nearly five miles of self-guided trails offer some of the best bird and wildlife viewing in Citrus County. Park visitors also can enjoy the picnic facilities, a recreation hall, and primitive group campground. Located off U.S. 41 on South Old Floral City Road, two miles south of Inverness. For Information about Fort Cooper State Park, please call 352-726-0315.
Fort George Island Cultural State Park
Native Americans feasted here, colonists built a fort, and the Smart Set of the 1920s came for vacations. A site of human occupation for over 5,000 years, Fort George Island was named for a 1736 fort built to defend the southern flank of Georgia when it was a colony. Today´s visitors come for boating, fishing, off-road bicycling, and hiking. A key attraction is the recently restored Ribault Club. Once an exclusive resort, it is now a visitor center with meeting space available for special functions. Behind the club, small boats, canoes, and kayaks can be launched on the tidal waters.
To reserve the Ribault Club for a special event, contact Amelia Occasions at 904-251-1050. Located approximately 16 miles east of downtown Jacksonville on State Road A1A, or three miles south of Little Talbot Island State Park.
For an eco-friendly experience you won’t soon forget, sign up for a guided tour of Fort George Island on a cross terrain Segway with Ecomotion Tours. This 2 hour tour departs from the historic Ribault Club and visits the Kingsley Plantation while traveling along more than 3 miles of maritime forest, abundant with plant and animal life. No experience necessary, but advance reservations are required so please call 904-251-9477 for more information. For Information about Fort George Island Cultural State Park, please call (904) 251-2320.
Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail
Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail State Park stretches 16 miles from the City of Gainesville’s Boulware Springs Park through the Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park and the Lochloosa Wildlife Management Area. The recreational trail is designed for walking, cycling, and horseback riding. Parking is provided at three trail heads, Boulware Springs Park (3500 SE 15th Street) in Gainesville; near C.R. 2082 west of Hawthorne at 7209 SE 200th Drive; and at 300 SW 2nd Avenue, in Hawthorne. Primitive restrooms are located at mile markers 1.0 and 6.6. For Information about Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail, please call 352-466-3397.
George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier State Park
Located northeast of Jacksonville, this mile-long, pedestrian-only fishing bridge spans Nassau Sound providing access to one of the best fishing areas in Florida. Fishermen catch a variety of fish, including whiting, jacks, drum, and tarpon. The fishing bridge is open twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year. Primary access is on the north end through Amelia Island State Park. A small parking lot at the north end of Big Talbot Island State Park allows access to the southern end of the fishing bridge. The Nassau Sound Bait and Tackle shop (904-277-9772), located on the north end of the fishing bridge, is open year-round and offers live bait, snacks, and (more importantly!) some of the best fishing advice in the area. The whole family (no pets) can enjoy a safe, fun day of fishing or give the fish a rest and take a leisurely walk along the beach of Amelia Island State Park. The George Crady Fishing Pier State Park is located seven miles north of Little Talbot Island State Park on State Road A1A. For Information about George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier State Park, please call the Talbot Islands Ranger Station at 904-251-2320.