Friday, March 17, 2006
Visitors to Orlando, Florida usually have a few main goals: Disney World, Sea World, and Universal Studios, but what they end up missing out on is Florida's hidden treasures: crystal-clear, freshwater springs that well up from underground. They are chilly and can cool you off on a hot, sweltering summer day.

Rock Springs is one of many in central Florida alone. Others are Wekiwa Springs (in Apopka), Mastodon Springs (Wekiva Falls Resort) and Blue Springs.

Rock Springs - official name is Kelly Park - is a place I have visited many times since I was a child. In fact, my parents and grandparents visited there when they were young. It seems to be a family tradition and one I will continue with my own children. Purchased by Orange County, Kelly Park is known for its free-flowing, natural spring, tubing, camping and hiking. I even wrote a poem about it. You can read it here.

Visitors start out at the headwaters of the spring.
Water flows from a cave set into a limestone wall and continues a hundred feet or so into a pool where swimmers splash and sunbathers lounge around on the banks soaking up the Florida sun. Those on tubes or floats can bypass the pool area and continue their run down the spring. Just a note - tubes are not rented at the park, but you can rent them down the street at various service stations and tube rental stores.

The bottom of the spring is rocky at the beginning, but smooth sand after the pool. Crystal-clear, bottle-green water carries you about a mile down to the end where there is an exit platform and boardwalk to carry you back to the beginning of the run.

Snorkeling is very popular. The current is so strong, swimmers can float all the way down without using much effort at all. I remember once when I was snorkeling there, I just floated and looked around at the underwater life near the banks. Fish hung out under plantlife growing near the bank, the current disturbed the sand below me causing ripples and patterns...It was beautiful!

There is a campground at Rock Springs for those who like to camp. The park also offers picnic pavilions, a concession stand and a playground for the kids.

Usually, on summer weekends it can be terribly crowded, but the spring is great for the whole family, offering a shallow paddling area for toddlers right next to the playground. At night, campers can occasionally hear the grunting of an alligator, but don't worry, they tend to stay away from the park itself.

So, next time you are in central Florida, visit one of the state's freshwater springs and see for yourself what others discovered long ago: that nature can offer just as much fun as the theme parks can.

Hours: Summer: 9 a.m. - 7 p.m.; Winter: 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Entrance fee of $1.00 for 6 years old and up.

Address: Kelly Park
400 E Kelly Park RD
Apopka 32712
(407) 889-4179

Copyright Dana 2005
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Name: Dana
Location: Chicago, and if y'all call me a Yankee, I'll have to cyber-smack ya'!

I'm just a mom of two, a crafter of jewelry, and to keep my sanity among the Yankees (kidding)I write southern-themed poetry, short stories and memoirs. I have been published on the web on sites such as USA Deep South, Southern Humorists, Muscadine Lines - A Southern Journal, Mosaic Minds and Long Story Short. I am also a contributor in Dew on the Kudzu and Weight-Loss where I write dieting humor.

And this is my blog... Kudzu, funny family stories, poems, family ghosts, snakes, sun-kissed southern memories all inside! Plus some travel reviews, recipes and more! I also make handcrafted jewelry! Check out my jewelry blog - Colors of the Woods

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Copyright  2005 Dana Sieben - All Rights Reserved

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