Juniper Springs looks like something out of a fairytale. Tucked away in Ocala National Forest, surrounded by oaks, palms, and flowering bushes, are two cerulean pools of water. The path to them sprinkled with stone and wooden bridges that one might find in an estate garden. A beautiful Monet painting comes to life.
The Juniper Recreation Area was constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC was established by President Roosevelt as one of the New Deal programs after The Depression. This work relief program provided jobs for many men while working on environmental conservation. The CCC planted billions of trees and constructed most of the trails and shelters you find in our state parks today.
To enter the park, it costs $8.00 per person on weekdays or $11.00 per person on weekends. Surrounding the swim area are picnic tables and grills. There are restrooms and showers.
Juniper Springs has a smaller swim area compared to Alexander Springs, only 100 feet wide. The circular swim area is wrapped in stone. There are four sets of steps into the swim area, including a ledge encircling the pool to sit on. At one end of the swim area, is the old mill house, which looks like a cottage out of a Disney movie. The mill was part of the Civilian Conservation Corps effort, the wheel once producing energy for electricity. The electricity produced illuminated the mill house and powered the entirety of the recreation area. Over by the mill is a little carved-out cove underneath a fenced-in overlook. If you dive down from there, you can find a springhead. The center of the swim area is filled with lots of seagrass, but the bottom, towards the side, is sandy.
Fern Hammock Springs
A boardwalk path will guide you on a picturesque journey through the forest to the true gem of this area Fern Hammock Springs. You will see birds, squirrels, and even deer as you stroll along. There is also a chance of a Florida Watersnake crossing your path. They are non-venomous and scurry past pretty quickly. You can’t swim in this spring, but you can enjoy the view of the stunning blue waters from its fairytale bridge. This place is a great opportunity for a photo op. Below the bridge, you can see multiple sand boils bubbling with fresh spring water from Florida’s aquifers.
Kayak Juniper Springs Run
You can rent or bring your watercraft to paddle Juniper Run, listed in the top 25 river paddles in America. It is a narrow waterway carrying you through the forest surrounding the spring. Juniper Run/Creek flows for 7 miles till meeting the St. John River. When paddling the stream, be aware of low-hanging trees and a lack of entrance and exit points. The further away you get from the spring head, the more copper colored the water will become. The last time to launch your watercraft is at 11:30 a.m. You can also drop into Juniper Run/Creek further down by SR 19, called Juniper Wayside. There are restrooms available. Payment is required to park.
The campgrounds at Juniper Springs are one of the most popular in Ocala National Forest. The shaded area is a short distance from all the fun activities. As mentioned before, there are brick-and-mortar restrooms and showers available. There are no sites with full hookups. Campground reservations can be made by calling 1-877-444-6777 or online at Recreation.gov.
Animals To See
Squirrels | Deer | Florida water-snakes | Otters | American Eels | Alligators | Turtles | Variety of Birds
What to bring:
Sunscreen | Bug Spray | Bathing suit | Snacks/Beverages | Grilling Equipment | Gopro/Waterproof Camera | Comfortable Walking Shoes | Mask & Snorkel | Kayak/Paddleboard/Canoe
This spring and its views will make anyone believe that the places in fairytales might be more real than you think.