Sunday, August 26, 2012

Salt Springs

Salt Springs is just one of Florida’s fresh water springs located in the Ocala National Forest. This spring produces approximately 80 million gallons of water a day. The crystal clear water from it flows for 7 miles into Lake George. Not only is it a popular destination for day use, it has a very large campground.

Salt Springs is the only campground in the Ocala Nat’l Forest that provides full hook ups with water, electricity and some sites have sewer hook ups as well. There are 106 RV sites and 54 primitive tent sites. This campground is very popular with winter visitors and reservations have to be made far in advance.

We camped there for the first time in September. We found the campground to be very large and open. The facilities were clean and well maintained. The park staff was helpful and friendly. If you like privacy however, there are not many sites that provide buffers between sites. However with so much to do at this park, you, like us, probably won’t be spending too much time at the camp sites.

The spring gets its name from the mineral content in the water. Potassium, magnesium and sodium salts give the waters in the spring a salty taste. The salt content of the water is even high enough to sustain many types of salt water species including shrimp, blue crabs and mullet. For many years the spring was thought to have healing properties for people with different types of illnesses.

Although this spring does have the usual deep boil, much of it is a shallow shelf of lime rock which can be snorkeled over. It’s like swimming in a aquarium. Largemouth bass, bream, sunfish and mullet are abundant. When the sun shines, the mullet are like sparkling silver mirrors below the surface.

Outside the swimming area is a large run or river where boats gather for fishing, swimming, picnicking and just having fun. The campground has a boat ramp to launch boats into the river.

If you enjoy snorkeling, boating, fishing swimming or just taking in all of the parks natural Florida foliage and beauty, Salt Springs is for you. Photo of Salt Springs by M.D. Conner, processing by C.S Conner

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Buck Lake Group Campground

Hidden deep in the scrub of the Ocala National Forest lies an oasis with a crystal clear lake, live oak trees and a group camping area making up one of Central Florida's best kept secrets.

Long time residents of the area have known about this place to camp and fish. In more recent years, the area was gated and is available by reservation only. We had seen signs for it on Hwy 19 on our way to and from other campgrounds in the forest. So, out of curiosity we did some research and decided to check it out on our next camping outing to see if there were sites suitable for our pop up camper.

We were very pleased to see several sites large enough for our camper or even larger ones. There was also a very large group area with picnic tables, tent sites and a fire ring.

Buck Lake is a group campground which can only be used by reservation. The cost is $50.00 a day and accommodates up to 50 people. We reserved it for 3 days in late spring. Upon making reservations a gate code is issued. You will need this code to access the grounds which are gated. If you are accustom to traditional RV campgrounds, this is quite primitive. There are no rangers or campground hosts, water, electric, or showers. Vault toilets are on site and there is a pitcher pump for water. But don't let these minor inconveniences discourage you from a visit there. If you like peace, quiet, privacy, natural beauty and of course fishing and good times with friends, it is the place for you!

The lake has a swimming area and a boat ramp. Boat motors are restricted to 25 hp or less. We took a canoe and john boat with a trolling motor. The bass fishing was awesome! The lake is a perfect place to cool off and for kids to play.

We saw one small alligator during our stay. Other animals sighted were otter, numerous birds including wild turkeys, and kingfishers. We also saw numerous deer and even bear tracks though we did not see any on this trip. As in any campground the same rules apply as to animal safety and food storage.

A portion of the Florida Trail which goes from Alexander Springs to Farles Lake runs through the campground as it is a mapped stop to get water. We were visited by a few hikers. Other than that, we had the place all to ourselves.

What a wonderful time we had with family and friends, eating fried fish caught that day, under a canopy of stars with music and fellowship!

The only down side to the entire trip were the ticks. Mosquitoes and flies were not bothersome. We learned, however, to be diligent with repellents and check ourselves and each other often. Ticks should be removed with in 24 hours to avoid the transfer of disease. They should be removed immediately with pointed tweezers. NEVER try to burn them or smother them as some old remedies suggest.

We highly recommend this campground to anyone who loves the real Florida and wants a break from the typical crowded, noisy campgrounds. You will find nothing but what God created for us to enjoy.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Juniper Springs

Juniper Springs is a very old park and campground in the Ocala National Forest. It is one of four major springs in the forest which flow into Lake George or the St. Johns river. Many of the existing structures, including a working water wheel, were erected in the 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corps(CCC).

The main attraction are two gorgeous fresh water springs, the main Juniper spring boil and a lesser grouping of smaller springs called Fern Hammock. Swimming is not allowed in Fern Hammock and when you see it's natural fragile beauty, you know why.

You can swim in the main spring year round and the river flowing from it makes it's way to Lake George. You can canoe or kayak a 7 mile run to Highway 19. There are also hiking trails; a portion of which is a boardwalk along the spring run. The landscape surrounding the springs and campgrounds are a lush Florida Hammock.

We stayed in the Tropic loop in site 31 in mid October. We were blessed with a early cold snap and enjoyed lots of campfires. This site was very spacious and surrounded by huge live oak trees. It was also very close to the trail leading the main spring.
All the outer sites in the Tropic loop are pull through and most are shady. Many offer good privacy.

This park has no water or electric hook up but we came prepared with lanterns and plenty of water. Generators are allowed during daylight hours. There are restrooms with hot showers and a dish washing station close by and they were clean. The parks staff was very friendly and helpful.

Mosquitoes and flies were not a problem and we did not have any animals raid our campsite the three days there. Even so we were very careful not to leave any food or garbage out because the campground is in bear country.

We were however not so careful about other biting insects. The grounds and surrounding woods must have been crawling with ticks. We all found them crawling on us and three in our party found them attached to their skin. Yuck!

Lesson learned: just because there are no mosquitoes, it's always a good idea to use a good bug repellent especially on your shoes and pants. Check your self and each other often for the nasty parasites.

Overall the Happy Camper highly recommends this campground. The forest, crystal clear flowing springs, and turquoise pools are a Florida must see.

Check out the slide show of Juniper Springs also linked to this site for more pictures of this Florida jewel.

Thanks to Kelli for sharing her wonderful pictures.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Camper Bearings

Fellow campers. You would think everyone would be aware of this but after speaking to a number of boat and camper trailer owners, there is a need to get the word out.
Apparently ALL and I mean all trailers must have their wheel bearings greased and maintained on a regular basis. My husband knew this having had boats for years but had not up until recently greased the camper bearings.
After hearing stories of wheels locking up and even breaking off during route, we decided to take it more seriously. One of our friends had a wheel come off and he watched it roll on ahead of him down the road. This happened on a narrow bridge which was very dangerous. The police instructed him to remove his vehicles to avoid a serious traffic jam. He had to drag his boat and trailer off the bridge with one wheel.
As we prepared for our next trip to Gamble Rogers, I found the camper book and the instructions on greasing the bearings and promptly asked my dear Hubby to take care of this task.
Amazingly on our return trip we saw an unfortunate soul on the side of the road with a wheel missing from the boat trailer. The trailer had made quite a mess as it skidded off the road. We were almost certain this was caused by a bearing problem.
So fellow campers, in the name of safety we urge you to follow your campers instructions and GREASE YOUR BEARINGS!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Grilled Fish in Foil

At our most recent trip to the beach we decided to have some meals with seafood. We had a shrimp boil one night. Then the next we had grilled fish in foil. We used Mahi Mahi but any firm white fish will do. We have done this with grouper, snapper and sea trout as well.
any firm white fish
1 lime (preferred) or lemon
1/2 med. onion
1 Anaheim pepper (Anaheims are best but any pepper can be used)
olive oil
1 tomato
Chef Paul Prudhomme's Seafood Magic

Make a foil pan large enough to cover fish. Squeeze lime over both sides of fish. Sprinkle both sides with salt and Chef Paul's Seafood magic. Cut up vegetables and in separate bowl toss with olive oil and a little white wine if you have any. At this stage I also cut up and added the left over shrimp from the night before. Pour over fish. Place foil bag (closed lightly) on grill over hot coals for approx. 20 minutes. At this point, carefully open foil and check fish. If it flakes easily and is no longer opaque inside, it is done. This entire process takes less than 40 minutes, is easy and most of all, DELICIOUS! Enjoy.
I have to give my brother Craig credit for this recipe. He fixed it for us once with some variations from this. Be creative, you can add whatever you like to this dish.
Tip: You can find Chef Paul's seasonings at most groceries or through the Amazon link on this page. I always keep the Seafood magic at home and on the camper. It makes any seafood a culinary delight.