Camp at Alexander Springs
Florida › Alexander Springs Recreation Area
Added by Christian Murillo
This is an incredible natural spring in the heart of the Ocala National Forest, just an hour and a half north of Orlando. Perfect place for both underwater and hiking adventures.
Alexander Springs Recreation Area is an incredible natural area that provides something for any adventure seeker to love. The main attraction here is the beautiful headspring, which is one of the 27 first magnitude springs here in Florida. This spring in particular maintains a cool 72 degrees fahrenheit year round and is the only spring in the Ocala national forest where Scuba Diving is permitted.
The swimming area has stairs (which can be slippery) going into it and then it keeps a sandy bottom and is about 4 feet deep until you get near the spring itself. Then it gets deeper and more grassy, until it drops of to about 20 feet deep. The water is crystal clear, so you can test your comfort levels by observing the depths from the surface or by diving down against the flow of rising water. Due to the cool water, this spring attracts many day-use visitors during the summer months.
Just to the left of the swimming area is the canoe/kayak launch. If you follow the path down from the left of the public restrooms, you will easily find it. Paddling down the river starts at the head springs and then winds down for about 8 miles until the river merges into the St. Johns River. The water stays pretty clear for about a mile or two. The flow of the river is gentle, so it is almost as easy to paddle back upstream as it is to paddle downstream. On a short paddle, you will easily see lots of fish, turtles, a variety of birds, and maybe even an alligator. You can rent canoes here as well.
The Timucuan hiking trail begins just to the right of the swimming area. This one mile long loop is an easy stroll, but be sure to still bring water with you, as the Florida heat can become unbearable. A good portion of the loop is a boarded walkway through dense subtropical forests. On the loop there are two lookout points over the spring. If you are going clockwise, the first lookout point is a great place to watch the sunset over the river. The trail is very flat, so the direction you take the trail really does not matter. If you go clockwise, you will get to both of the viewing platforms on the first half of the hike, and then cut deeper into the forest for the second half of the hike. Additionally, the Florida trail passes right next to the recreation area and is easy to link up on. Just make sure you check if it is hunting season or not before you head out on this hike because they can be popular hunting grounds in the winter time.
Lastly, the camp site. The camp site is located just about 100 yards south of the swimming area, in the middle of the shady oak and palm forest. There is a fire pit, BBQ, picnic table, and trash bag hanger at each camp site and full bathroom facilities nearby. Although there are some first-come-first-serve camp sites, it is best to reserve them ahead of time. Make sure you lock away all open food containers and dispose of your trash at night in the nearby dumpster because raccoons and even Florida Black Bears can be a problem here.
On a final note, bring your sun screen and bug spray and come have a good time! Between the swimming/diving, paddling, hiking, and camping, Alexander Springs is the ideal adventure for anyone. Whether you come for the day or come for a week, I am sure you will not get bored!
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Camping, Chillin, Diving, Fishing, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Stand Up Paddle, Swimming
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Good Dive Beginners Spot
I went to Alexander springs after getting my scuba cert for a easy practice dive. The water was super clear and dropped down about 35-40 foot at the head of the spring. It had a small cave in one of the corners of the pit that I climbed into. The current was pretty strong so I had to hold on to the side of the cave to make my way in. Because the current was so strong it was also pushing up sand so when I got out I had a good half inch of sand stuck to my scalp.
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