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Backpacker Magazine – BACKPACKER.com Online Exclusive

Florida's Oklawaha River

Take a lazy cruise through exotic scenery, where monkeys swing and eagles soar.

by: Sally Trepanowski

PAGE 1 2

Contact Information:

Lake George Ranger District Rt. 2, Box 701 Silver Springs, FL 32688 352/625-2520 Location: The Oklawaha is in north central Florida, just east of Ocala. The river borders Ocala National Forest.

Getting There: From Ocala take SR 464 southeast until passing through Candler, turn east on Rt. 484 for a short distance to the town of Oklawaha, then north on County Road 464 to Moss Bluff, where you can park.

Seasonal Information: Typically, winter temperatures are in the 70s during the day and the 50s at night. Summer temperatures are generally in the mid-90s with high humidity. Thunderstorms are also a possibility, even in the dry months of winter.

Wildlife: This is accommodating habitat for wildlife.

It's a place where wildcats still scamper along sandy pathways and exotic birds perch motionless, hanging their feathers out to dry. Wild monkeys, which legend says are escapees from the days when jungle movies were filmed here (they're actually cared for by a local tourism company), swing from branches along the river's edge.

Cormorants, egrets, herons, and other fishing birds will give you plenty of competition for the bream and largemouth bass. On the lakes, ospreys and eagles pluck fish out of the water within yards of paddlers.

The Ocala National Forest supports more than 20,000 whitetail deer, the largest herd in Florida. There are also hawks, owls, woodpeckers, and vinegaroons (scorpions found nowhere else in Florida).

Insects: There are always mosquitoes in Florida, even in winter months.

Plant Life: The river flows through moss-draped cypress forests. are accompanied by live oak, holly, magnolia, wild orange, and bay trees. Live oak, holly, magnolia, wild orange, and bay trees line the shores, with Spanish moss dripping from the branches.

Hydrilla, a pervasive water plant, can be annoying between Eureka and Rodman dams.

Facilities: Camping is permitted anywhere along the river, but campsites are small because high, dry ground is rare.

Limited overnight camping is available at Gores Landing.

Camping is also available in Ocala National Forest and ranges from primitive to developed sites with electricity. Some sites are free; others range from $5 per night to $12 per night (with a maximum of five people). Camping is restricted in Ocala National Forest during hunting season (September through March).

Canoe livery service is available from Oklawaha Outpost, Ft. McCoy, 352/236-4606; or try Orange Springs Inn, Orange Springs, 352/546-2052.

Parking: Contact park office for information.

Permits: No permits are required.

Policies: Contact park office for information.

Hazards:

  • Winds can be a threat.
  • Also, watch out for lightning March through May and snakes and bugs any time of year.

Leave No Trace: All LNT guidelines apply.

Maps: USGS topo maps of Lake Weir, Lynne, Ocala East, Eureka Dam, Keuka, Rodman, Lake Delancy, Welaka, and Salt Springs quads are available.

Other Trip Options: The 65-mile Ocala Trail in Ocala National Forest is part of the 1,600-mile Florida Trail. For information about the Florida Trail, contact: Florida Trail Association P.O. Box 13708 Gainesville, FL 32604.


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READERS COMMENTS

Postman Matt
Mar 27, 2009

I went on here once with the Boys Scouts nice trip we swam in the water. Went once with the family.The gators were going under the canoes and hitting the bottom they were really active that day. My kids did not like it at all.

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