Wekiwa Springs State Park
Wekiwa Springs State Park is located near Orlando, so it's a very popular Florida State park. How popular? Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, if you don't get to the park early, you could find yourself standing in the parking lot because they have closed the park to visitors.
You see, in order not to over-crowd the park, the gates will be shut to new visitors until enough others have left for the day. So get to Wekiwa Springs State Park early in the summer!
Hey, want to know what the name Wekiwa means? It derives from the Creek Indian word for "spring of water" or "bubbling spring".
Be on the Lookout For...
Some interesting wildlife when you are on the trails. Unless you are around early in the day or towards late afternoon you'll probably miss them, but deer, foxes and wild boar have been sighted in the park.
So What Is There To Do?Wekiwa Springs State Park has plenty to keep you busy:
Swim and Snorkel at Wekiwa Springs State Park
First things first -- Wekiwa is a natural spring, so the water will undoubtedly feel chilly at first -- it's a pretty constant 71 degrees all
year around. Of course during the hot summer months it sure feels good (after the first shock that is).
If you've never been to a natural spring before, you are in for a treat! The water is crystal-clear, so it's fantastic for snorkeling.
There is a big "swimming hole" at Wekiwa Springs State Park, where the biggest spring is located. There are also little side springs around the main area. Most are pretty small, but they can provide for some peaceful relaxation.
There is usually plenty of room to spread out a blanket on the grassy areas, both to do a little sunbathing and to have a bite to eat. That is, unless it gets crowded enough that the rangers have to close the gates to visitors.
Paddle Down the River
Canoes and kayaks are the boat of choice at Wekiwa Springs State Park. In fact, you won't find any powerboats (unless a canoe happens to have a trolling motor). And some great paddling it is! I've been down the river a few times, and each time there was something new and wonderful to see.
Wekiwa Springs State Park is at the headwaters of the Wekiva River. No, that's not a misspelling on my part -- I don't know why one is spelled with a "w" and the other with a "v". The Wekiva joins with Rock Springs Run and eventually flows into the St. Johns River.
Wekiva River is one of the few Florida Wild and Scenic Rivers. It's well-deserved, too. On a hot summer day, paddling the cool waters under a canopy of trees makes it feel like air conditioning! There is plenty of wildlife, so keep a sharp eye out.
You can bring a canoe, but in this case, a better choice is to rent one from the concession. They provide a shuttle service with the rental, so you don't have to worry about floating downstream and then paddling back up. Unless of course you want to. But if you bring your own canoe and want to use their shuttle service, you can if there is space available on the shuttle (naturally that costs a few bucks).
There are several starting and ending points, and each takes a different paddle time. On average, here are the following estimates:
My favorite happens to be the 4 hour trip that ends at Katie's Landing. Bring some drinks and a picnic lunch to enjoy along the way, as you paddle down the river! Once you arrive at Katie's Landing, you can take the shuttle back to Wekiwa Springs State Park (it's included with the rental).
Note: Katie's Landing is closed for business until March, 2011.
You can also go canoe camping! Yep, it's true -- you can rent a canoe for 2 days and 1 night, and camp in one of the primitive campsites along the river. If you don't have camping gear, you can rent some -- the cost is $132. If you have your own gear, the cost is $60.
For more information, call the concession at (407) 880-4110 or (407) 884-4311.
Wet a Line, Catch Some Fish!
First off -- you need a Florida freshwater fishing license in the following instances:
You can wet a line at either Sand Lake or in the Wekiva River itself for freshwater fish. Either way -- know the rules! You can catch all you like, but you can only keep what is legal. What you can keep varies by species, size and time of year. Current rules and regulations for freshwater limits.
Hike It, Bike It, Ride It
Wekiwa Springs State Park is filled with multi-use trails. Hiking, biking and horseback riding can be enjoyed!
If you plan on bringing your horse, please know that proof of a negative Coggins test is required. There are no horse (or bicycle for that matter) rentals in the park.
There are around 17 miles of trails total in Wekiwa Springs State Park, and for a good idea of where they are and what they are best for, take a look at this map. The main trail head is near the park entrance, but there are also branching trails all over the place.
I don't mean to downplay the trails -- they are wonderful. I just think that in this case a map shows more than I can describe. In any case, stay on the marked trails! If you have a hankering for wandering off the main trails, please bring food, water and a compass (in case you get lost). Remember, you may be near to Orlando, but the park is a wilderness area!
Camping at Wekiwa Springs State Park
There are a total of 60 campsite available in Wekiwa Springs State Park.
Here's something unusual about Wekiwa Springs -- this is one of the few Florida State Parks that allows pets! Yes, pets are allowed in the family campground. (A pet-free campground is also available.) So bring your four-legged friend with you. Of the 60 sites in the park, 30 are pet-friendly.
All the campsites have water and electricity - yay! They also include a picnic table and a grill. There are no sewer hookups at the individual campsites, but there is a dump station for RVs.
There is a bathhouses (with hot water!) in each of the two campgrounds. There is also a changing/shower area in the restroom nearest the main spring.
I recommended that you make a reservation for camping at Wekiwa Springs State Park, and the reservation can be made up to 11 months in advance. This is especially true in the summer months. To make or change a reservation call Reserve America at 1-800-326-3521 or visit them online. Don't call the park - Florida State parks no longer handle the reservation booking themselves.
Picnics - Food!
There is a lunch/snack bar at Wekiwa Springs. Especially when it's busy (summertime), I wouldn't count on being able to get a bite to eat from the snack bar. Or at least not get your first choice. There are also some drink vending machines available -- again, if it's busy the machines can be empty. So unless you plan just a very short day trip, bring what you want to eat and drink.
Picnic tables are scattered throughout the grounds, as are grills.
There are two pavilions in Wekiwa Springs State Park available for rental. The cost is $75 per day, plus tax. There is water, electricity, grills and picnic tables in the pavilions, and they hold roughly 100 people . If you want to reserve a pavilion, call the ranger station at (407) 884-2008.
Here's something you need to know, if you rent a pavilion during the summer. Just because you rent a pavilion, it does not mean you get automatic entry into the park, when it closes because it's reached capacity. Get to the park early or you may not get there until late.
A Notice About Water, Weather and Insects
As always when in natural Florida, be aware of the strong sun, plentiful insects and possible rainshowers. Make sure to bring sunblock, sunglasses and at least have some insect repellent available - you will need it. A hat is also suggested -- it is so very easy to get a sunburn on your scalp, full head of hair or not. Oh, and don't forget some sort of lip balm.
Time and Place
Wekiwa Springs State Park is open year-round from 8 AM to sunset. The entrance and other fees are as follows:
Wekiwa Springs State Park is near Orlando. The official park address is 1800 Wekiwa Circle, Apopka, Florida 32712. The phone number is (407) 884 2008.
To make camping reservations, please call Reserve America at 1-800-326-3521 -- they handle all the reservations.
Wekiwa Springs State Park is in Apopka, in Central Florida. The closest cities are Apopka and Altamonte Springs (although Orlando proper is just a little further away). The closest airport is Orlando International.Top of Wekiwa Springs State Park page
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