Today we decided to spend the day at Juniper Springs. From where I live in Port Orange it is around an hour 's drive to get there. Located a little further away from Alexander Springs, it is surrounded by the Ocala National Forest.
Juniper Springs is a 13 million gallon natural springs area that was developed in the 1930's to enclose it with a cement wall. It is surrounded by a beautiful setting and has a lot to offer. Not only can you swim, tube, and snorkel in the spring (as well as dive/jump into the spring), the place also offers canoeing/kayaking rentals, camping, an old mill to look at, and some good hiking.
We took the Juniper Creek Nature Trail, which is located behind the spring and old mill. The Juniper Creek Nature Trail is around .75 miles each direction (you reach a spot where it ends and you need to turn around and take the same path back). The trail is all boardwalk and is wheelchair and stroller accessible. Before you hit the trail there is an old mill to tour, which features interpretive information about the mill and spring's history.
We had a great hike on the Juniper Creek Nature Trail. There are little spots to stop along the way to view things. We several skinks, a toad, spiders, a pileated woodpecker, and more. The nature trail takes you back to a bridge where you can overlook some springs bubbling up. It's beautiful!
After the hike we changed clothes to cool off in the spring. They do have full bathrooms and changing areas, plenty of picnic tables (even some that are covered), and even a small supply store. You can rent canoes to take the 7-mile run. You can also take your own canoe or kayak.
The one thing I was surprised by was the size of the spring. It is much smaller than it looked to me in all the pictures I had seen. It is not a big spring, but it is beautiful! The spring, like the others in the area, is a chilly 72 degrees. I love the chilly water, so it's all good to me. There is plenty of area around the spring to set up chairs and get your own little area. There are also plenty of picnic table areas. Note that there are no lifeguards on duty at this spring. The water is deep. At the one spot where I could touch the bottom (close to the edge) it was up to my neck.
When we first arrived my daughter saw a snake skin near the edge of the spring entrance. Then moments later someone yelled that there was a snake in the spring. Sure enough, there was and the few people in there got out momentarily. It looked like a Florida banded water snake. I spoke to a man that works there and he said it was rare to see them, but they have seen the non-venomous banded water snakes there before. The snake swam the length of the spring and then we never saw it again after that.
All in all we had a great day at Juniper Springs. It's a beautiful place to check out and enjoy. During the summer you should arrive early to get a good spot to set up. When we arrived there were only a few people there, but with a couple of hours the place was packed! There is a per person fee to get into Juniper Springs (as of today it was $5.50 per person ages 6 and up).
You can get more info about Juniper Springs here. Below are pictures taken today at Juniper Springs, as well as a video of people jumping into the springs (there is a designated jump/dive area).
UPDATE: The jump platform has been closed down due to liability concerns.
(above: my son on the red shorts, taking a jump into the spring)