Juniper Springs Florida - Kayaking, Canoeing, Camping

Juniper Springs Run is a natural waterway that runs through the Ocala National Forest in Florida. Canoeing and kayaking (no motorboats allowed) are popular year round down the Run. The Run is about 7 miles with a current of 1 to 2 mph. The Run is spring feed with cool, crystal clear water. There is no development along the water banks as you gently glide through the Ocala National Forest and Juniper Prairie Wilderness. Flora and fauna are abundant. On any given trip you might see alligators, otters, turtles, bears, deer, raccoons, ospreys, egrets, and more. Semi-tropical vegetation, tall pines, and canopies of trees make for a peaceful water trip with only the sounds of nature surrounding you.

The canoe and kayak launch is accessed from Juniper Springs Campground, a national park and recreation area. It's best to go during a week day if possible. Weekends and holidays see heavy usage. A park entrance fee of $5 per person is collected at the gate that includes access to hiking trails, swimming, snorkeling, and facilities. They offer canoe rentals, or if you have your own you pay a $6 launch fee per boat. The cut off for launching is 12:30 p.m. since it is a 7 mile run. No fishing is allowed in the run and you cannot take any disposable containers. Thus, your drinking water needs to be in a thermos or other non-disposable container.

The first part of the run is winding and narrow to very narrow at times. Also, you may come across logs that you need to maneuver over, but for the most part it will be a slow moving, relaxing run. When you reach the bridge (SR 19), this is your take out point. If you are using your own canoe or kayak, you can plan your own shuttle by leaving a vehicle at the take out (no parking fee) or you can arrange a shuttle back with the Park.

The Park also offers camping under the huge live oaks. We prefer to primitive camp when available. No primitive camping is available at Juniper Springs Campground but for campground camping, I'd said it is pretty good. Sites are under beautiful shaded canopies and feel very private. It's listed in the top 100 of Family Campgrounds in the U.S.

Diving the Benwood wreck off Key Largo

Benwood wreck - photo credit Florida Keys Natonal Marine Sanctuary
The Benwood wreck off Key Largo is one of my favorite dives. Besides being easy (maximum depth is 55 feet) it is full of colorful fish and corals and you can still see part of the ship and swim around it. As the old cliche goes, it's like swimming in an aquarium. It's true! You'll see brain coral, sweeping sea fans, and abundant fish. Grunts, snapper, grouper, lobster, hogfish, moray eels, and more frequent this wreck.

The Benwood is located in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and there are mooring buoys to tie your boat to for the dive. The Benwood, a 285 foot ship, sank off the coast of Key Largo in 1942 during World War II. Here are the waypoints: Degrees Latitude 25.052667 and Degrees Longitude -080.333667; Degrees/Minutes Latitude N 25 03.160 and Degrees/Minutes Longitude W 080 20.020; or Degrees/Minutes/Seconds Latitude N 25 03 10 and Degrees/Minutes/Seconds Longitude W 080 20 01. If you don't have your own boat, try (Benwood Wreck Dive) for a list of dive boats you can charter.

Manatee in Salt Springs Run

Make your own slide show at Animoto.

Canoeing in January in Salt Springs Run in the Ocala National Forest, a manatee swam up to our canoe and began rubbing against the bottom to scratch her back. She gently rubbed her back against our canoe and oars. When she was done, she paused to look at us as if to thank us and then swam away. 

Salt Springs Run FL Shallow Water Snorkeling

Salt Springs Run is a 5 mile water trail from the head of Salt Springs to Lake George, part of the St. John's River. The spring is located in the Ocala National Forest where crystal cool 72 degree water flows out of it year round. Swimming and snorkeling around the springs are popular in the summer. Boating, canoeing, kayaking and fishing are popular year round. Fish and wildlife are abundant. I have seen alligators, otters, and manatees in Salt Springs Run. We've been down the run in a boat, on a jetski, and in a canoe. Each trip offers something new. We've even camped over night in our boat anchored at the end of the run. For those who want to camp on land, check out the Salt Springs Recreation Area in the Ocala National Forest.

We use the Salt Springs Run Marina boat ramp. The fee is $5 a day for parking and boat ramp. They also rent boats, canoes, and kayaks.

Peterson Cay National Park in Freeport Bahamas

Okay, so this is not in Florida but it is pretty darn close. Peterson Cay off Freeport Bahamas is one of our all time favorite places to kayak and snorkel, so it deserves a spot on our water nature blog. The water is so beautiful it's hard to stay in your kayak; it makes you want to jump ship and swim with the fish all day.

Let the Florida Scalloping Begin!

Florida's scallop season on the Gulf Coast runs July 1 to September 24 this year. The most popular areas are Steinhatchee, St. Joseph Bay, St. Marks, and Crystal River. You can find the rules and regulations for Bay Scallops Open Harvest Season online at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. You can also check out the annual abundance survey on their website to see where the best luck has been reported in years past.

Going scalloping this season? Here are some items you will need for the Easter egg (errr scallop) hunt:
  • current Florida saltwater fishing license (whether scalloping from boat or shore)
  • boat (the best scalloping grounds are only reachable by boat)
  • mask, snorkel, fins 
  • divers-down flag (vessels should remain 300 feet from a divers-down flag)
  • mesh bag and gallon bucket to measure your limit
  • cooler of ice or a live well on your boat
  • sunscreen, snacks, and drinking water
  • camera to show off your successful day of scalloping
Good luck and enjoy!