Juniper Springs–Ocala National Forest

Juniper Springs 2016

After leaving Silver Lake on Tuesday we went to visit our friends Helen & Paul Tempesta in Inverness, FL. Paul had a nice place for us to camp overnight and Helen cooked a great Lasagna dinner. We really enjoyed their warm hospitality.

We left their place around 7:30 AM with the thought of canoeing on Silver Springs along the way to our next four day stop at Juniper Springs in Ocala National Forest. We did some grocery shopping but then got anxious to get a campsite, so we skipped paddling for today. Whenever we are in Central FL, we try to camp here ever since our first visit 47 years ago. I found some of my old pictures to show how little the spring has changed and how much my family has changed over the years. They still keep this place really nice.

Our first Juniper Springs visit in 1969. Peggy with Pam 2 yrs and Jeff 5 yrs old.

Juniper Springs 1969 Juniper Springs 1975

Pam (7), Joan (4) & Jeff (10) swimming in the spring in 1975

Kobak Family Paddling 1976





Peggy, Joan, Jeff & Pam canoeing in 1976.

Juniper Springs-2 2016

Juniper Springs is a constant 72oF, which is too cold for swimming except on hot days. It is the source of the river we canoed on Thursday.

In the past I did my own bike shuttle but FL40 & US19 now have a lot of very fast traffic and the park canoe concession does shuttles for only $10. You first drop off your canoe at the put-in. You then pay and drive your vehicle at 8:30, 9:30, 10:30 or 11:30AM, they follow your there and bring you back to the put-in to start your trip. They have an option to bring your canoe and people back without a shuttle, but you must be at the take-out at specific times and the cost is $10 per boat plus $10 per person. I liked having the RV at the take-out when we finished.

Juniper Run - 1

Juniper Run is 7 miles long and when it starts at the spring is no wider than a canoe and it moves with a good current through a very isolated area. Other springs along the way add more flow and the last two miles the river broadens to a meandering swamp where gators and large birds are normally abundant.

Barred Owl FrontThis year we saw dozens of large turtles who had little fear of boaters. We saw this great big Barred Owl right at the start. but only one small gator.

Juniper Run - 2There are a lot of low hanging trees and shallow logs in the river which gives you a real workout maneuvering around all the obstacles.

We passed at least 12 other canoes and kayaks along the way. I’d hate to see what the weekend river traffic would be like when all the rental canoes are on the river. They do not recommend that novice paddlers even attempt the river and I sure agree. The river is very wild and scenic the entire way. See a typical view below.

Juniper Run - 3

It took us about 2-1/2 hours to paddle the river without any rest stops. I would guess it is normally a 4 hour trip for most paddlers. Near the end of the run there is actually a little rapid that they say appeared there about 3 years ago.

There is no Wi-Fi or even cell service in the campground. On one of the trails I got a weak phone signal but won’t be able to post this story until I can connect again to the internet.

Ocean Pond Our Last Florida Campground


On Sunday morning we leave Juniper Springs. If the weather is good our plan is to drive to Silver Springs State Park and paddle the 5 mile long Silver River from a small marina up to the source of the spring where all the glass bottom boats are.

Over the years we have always enjoyed this run, especially with our kids when there were wild monkeys along the way. There is lots of wildlife since it is now in a protected State Park.

Later in the day we hope to make it up to Ocean Pond Campground in Osceola National Forest. We camped here on the way south over Thanksgiving and it was very full. We hope that on a Sunday, we will be able to get a campsite with electric power.

We will then start watching the weather up North and plan to take three days to make it home from here. We will start on I-10 to I-95 and I-26 which will bring us to I-77 our route home. See the map on the left.

Monkeys at Siver River

We made it to the marina to launch our canoe for our paddle up the Silver River to the source of the Springs by 8:30 AM Sunday morning.

We were on our way upstream by 9 AM. It is a 5 mile paddle  against a strong current and it took us 2 hours. About 1-1/2 miles up from the put-in we saw a big group of monkeys along the river that were introduced when they were making a movie here 50 years ago. Despite attempts to remove them they still seem to be surviving just fine.

Silver Springs

There was still all sorts of birds, turtles and a few alligators and the concession still looked the same but there were very few glass bottoms boats and no jungle cruise.

What we did notice was that there were all sorts of rental kayaks near the head of the spring.

The biggest change was there was no more nice white sandy bottom and there was all sorts of sea grass in the water and lots of algae. It is not nearly as pretty as it used to be.

It took us a little over an hour to paddle back downstream and we were on our way by 12:30 and got to Ocean Pond by 3:30, only to find out that we just missed the last site with electric hook ups and there was only a couple of other sites available.

However on Monday morning several electric sites became available. Now we just have to decide when we will head for home.

Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park

Ocean PondOcean Pond is a 2 mile in diameter lake with the campsites along the North shore. Here we are, packed up for our last night in Florida.

Ocean Pond Last Day

Olustee Battlefield Memorial1a











On our last day here we decided to take a bike ride over to the Historic Battlefield. It is only 4-1/2 miles by bike from our campsite and it is well worth the visit.

SoldierThey have a small museum that shows a film with a good explana-tion of the battle that the Union should not have fought and ended up losing because of their incompetence. There were 2800 casualties and nothing was accomplished that mattered in the war.

Olustee Battlefield Memorial2

There is a big reenactment of the battle every February, but today we were the only visitors.

Heading Home a Little Earlier This Year

Finally the weather turned warm and dry for us, so what do we do? That’s right, we plan to head home to take advantage of the warm weather forecast for NE Ohio. Our plans could change if the weatherman lets us down, but right now it looks like it would be good for unpacking our RV at home with the temperatures in the 60’s.

This means we would want to get home by Friday night 3/11 or Saturday morning. To allow a leisurely drive home, we will leave our campground here at Ocean Pond on Wednesday morning. We hope to be in SC on Wednesday night and in WV on Thursday night.

Back Home on Friday Morning 3/11

It has been pointed out to me that I never finished my blog for this year’s winter trip.

First, the drive home went as planned. We always watch the weather carefully and decided to come home a little early to take advantage of the beautiful warm, 80oF weather for the rain free drive home.

We overnighted at Wal-Mart’s in Columbia, SC and S. Parkersburg, WV, and were home by 10:30 AM on Friday. We had warm weather to unpack when we got home. We were totally unpacked by Friday night.


Peggy and John Somewhere on the Trail

56th Anniversary

As you can see, we clean up well.

It was great trip, we stayed in beautiful campgrounds with lots to see and do.
It was much different than our Mexico trips and I’m sure it was less expense.

Now, being an engineer, here is:

Our Trip by the Numbers

The total trip duration was 121 days but we were home for the holidays for 17 days.
We drove 3700 miles, spending $725 for gas, averaging about 9.2 mpg.
Considering the days at home, friend days and Wal-Mart nights as zero camp cost our average camp cost was only $15/night.
We paid as high as $39/night at the only private campground on Jekyll Island.
We paid as low as $8/night at Ocean Pond Campground with no electric hookups.
We canoed on 8 different rivers for a total of about 140 miles.
We biked a total of over 250 miles.

This is my last Blog for the season.

If this is the first time that you are visiting our Florida Blog you may want to click this to read about our trip in Chronological Order rather than going backwards from the present day to trip start.