Springs Fever: A Field & Recreation Guide to 500 Florida Springs.
2nd Edition by Joe Follman and Richard Buchanan

Juniper Springs

Marion County

Summary of Features

  • Scale -2nd magnitude
  • Scenery—excellent
  • How Pristine? -pool surrounded by concrete/rock wall and sidewalk, partially cleared park/picnic area, adjacent to old mill
  • Swimming -fine
  • Protection -excellent
  • Crowds -heavy on warm weekends
  • Access -excellent
  • Facilities -excellent
  • Safety -fine
  • Scuba -no
  • Cost -$3 per person, additional fee to canoe run



Juniper Run


Otters in the run


Directions

The spring entrance is clearly signposted and is about 5 miles west of the junction of State Roads 19 and 40 on the north side of SR 40 in the Ocala National Forest.

For maps, latitude/longitude data, driving directions, satellite imagery, and topographic representations as well as weather conditions at this spring, go to Greg Johnson's informative "Florida Springs Database" web site at the following address:  http://www.ThisWaytothe.Net/springs/floridasprings.htm#Florida

Spring Description

The springs are in a park setting in a hardwood and palmetto palm forest. Two vents have been surrounded by a concrete and rock wall forming a gourd-shaped pool that is about 125 feet long. The north (downstream) end of the pool is about 50 feet wide, and the rounded south end is about 80 feet wide. The overall depth of the pool is 8-10 feet, but there is a shallow area in the south end for children and for wading. One spring vent is at the shallow end near the steps. Water flows strongly out of a 2-foot limestone opening, blowing small pebbles in an underwater cascade. The water is clean and clear and the vent is about 15 feet deep.

The second vent is near the center of the pool and is similar to the first vent except for being slightly smaller and not as strong. It is about 13 feet deep and also issues clear and clean water. The flow points are easy to spot as dark blue openings among the green vegetation and white sand in the rest of the pool. Minnows and eels may be observed in the main pool. Three sets of steps lead into the pool at the south end, and people can leap into the water from the top of the retaining wall on the north end.

At the NE corner of the pool is a small dam designed to raise the pool depth and create a flume that was used for many years to turn a small mill and generate electricity for the recreation site. The run meanders for perhaps 150 feet in an area of lush subtropical vegetation. This section has several small and large sand boils that add to the volume of the flow. Other seeps and flows add to the volume from the main pool. The upper run is less than 10 feet wide and only a few inches deep. There are trails along the run until it reaches a wooden platform from which canoers put in to paddle down Juniper Creek. The creek flows 10 miles to the lower end of Lake George, one of the chain of lakes along the St. Johns River. The creek is shallow, virtually transparent in the upper portion, and lush with plants and trees. Otters, alligators, herons, and fish may be observed in the run.

Use/Access

The spring is a major recreation area in the Ocala National Forest and offers camping (60 RV sites and 19 tent sites), swimming, canoeing (with drop-off and pick-up), canoe rentals, rest rooms, concessions, visitor center, museum, picnic facilities, and showers.

Fern Hammock Springs are located within the Juniper Springs campground area—ask for directions at the pay station when you enter the Juniper Recreation Area. A trail connects the two springs and follows the Juniper Springs run.

Juniper Creek flows north and east through dense semi-tropical forest, and a portion of the Florida National Scenic Trail goes right through the heart of it and may be accessed from the Juniper Springs Recreation Area.

The Juniper Creek canoe trail is considered by many to be the best canoe run in Florida. The creek flows through a designated wilderness area of the national forest. The run is seven miles, and canoe rentals and pick-up can be arranged for about $25. Carts are provided to wheel the canoes down the long path to the creek. The trip takes about 4 hours.


 

Notes by RB on Canoeing Juniper Creek:

The creek is only about as wide as the canoe is long for much of the way. It starts off clear as glass and about 10 inches deep, with a lush canopy of trees overhead. Palm trees hang low across the stream, and canoers often have to bend low to pass under them. Gradually the water acquires a yellow tint from tannic acid, and eventually turns the color of tea, like so many other streams in Florida. Toward the end, the canopy disappears and reeds flank both sides, with dense forest beyond. Otters and alligators may be seen in the run.

The creek is said to have a large alligator population and paddlers are warned not to swim or wade in the stream. I saw no ‘gators and many people ignoring this advice. Memories of a news story kept me in the canoe. In fall 1997, at the lower end of the canoe trail, a snorkeler (who had snorkeled the creek three times that day) was attacked by a 12-foot alligator that bit him in the neck and punctured his lungs before he managed to free himself.

Toward the end of the trail, cars will be heard passing over the SR19 bridge at the take-out. A sign warns you not to wade in the water. You have to bend over to pass under the low bridge, and on a weekend you might see crowds of people swimming and wading on the other side of the bridge where you take the canoe out. Children can be seen dropping into the water from the rope swing on the north bank. A shuttle will return you to Juniper Springs. For a small fee, they will take you back even if you have used your own canoe.

Local Springiana

Juniper Springs was developed in the early 1930s as a CCC project. Displays in the old millhouse detail the history and development of the site. Photographs reveal the spring to have had a strikingly different appearance before it was developed. The land around the springs appeared to have been clear-cut, but is mature forest today.

Personal Impressions

The blue pool, canopied by hardwoods and palmetto palms, is captivating. The old mill and trails behind the pool are just as interesting, and it is fun to explore the upper part of the run looking for sand boils. Because the spring is mostly shaded, swimming is a chilly experience on all but the hottest and sunniest of days. Juniper Creek, with its transparent water and narrow canopied waterway, simply begs to be paddled.

Nearby Springs

Other Nearby Natural Features

  • Alexander Springs
  • Lake Woodruff Wildlife Refuge
  • Welaka State Forest
  • Tiger Bay State Forest
  • Withlacoochie State Forest
  • Contact Information

    Ocala National Forest Visitor Center
    10863 E. Highway 40
    Silver Springs, FL 34488
    352-625-7470