Florida is literally shaped by its relationship to water.
In the past glaciers have locked up the earth's seas and then turned them loose again causing the whole state to go from being underwater except for a narrow ridge down the middle to having its gulf coastline extend out 300 miles beyond where it is now.
Over millennia, tiny sea creatures died and their skeletal remains were compressed into the limestone/dolomite base that sits under the entire state as we know it.
Rain water ate away at the limestone creating a network of caves, springs and underground rivers that permeate the peninsula and come back to the surface as more rivers and lakes.
My Old Florida puts a toe in the water wherever we can and it's surprising what's in there and what's waiting on the edge.
Taking a canoe down lazy Rock Springs Run
Just a short drive from the bustle of Orlando and Disney World are a bunch of crystalline springs that lead out into runs and rivers and wander through the countryside. The springs deliver water from deep in the Florida aquifer at a constant year-round temperature. The water is clear though it can turn dark, laced with tannins from overhanging trees.
Pick up a canoe or a kayak and spend an afternoon paddling down one of these. If you are lucky you will see few other people and can imagine you have stepped back in time several hundred years.
Join me for a paddle down Rock Springs Run just outside of Apopka. It's close to town but a long way from city life. Read more about Rock Springs Run.
Newnans Lake —a beautiful fishing lake snugged up next the Gainesville
Almost anywhere that there's water there's fish and Newnans Lake just south of Gainesville is no exception. There's plenty of bream and shellcrackers but it's the speckled perch that fishermen really love to go after.
That's been true for thousands of years and Native Americans fished and hunted around the lake long before the settlers arrived. Arrowheads and handhewn dugouts have been found in the lake and if you pull out of sight of land you can feel you are right back in those days.
Read about Newnans Lake and me fishing with my Dad back in the day.
Cabbage Key and Cayo Costa — off shore but on your mind
Pine Island Sound separates the West Coast of Florida from the barrier islands including the well-known Captiva and Sanibel and the lesser known Cayo Costa. Cayo Costa is largely a state park that can only be reached by boat and offers rustic camping that is like your own little Swiss Family Robinson.
And on the way to Cayo Costa is the charming Cabbage Key (also only reachable by boat) with its handful of small cottages and an inn with a restaurant and its own dollar bill lounge. Did Jimmy Buffet write Cheeseburger in Paradise here while digging into their really good cheeseburger and pulling on an icy beer? Maybe.
Read more about Cayo Costa and Cabbage Key.
Salt Springs, blue crabs, clear water, lazy days
Salt Springs looks the same as it has for over a century. it is clear, cool, full of waving grass, schools of mullet and succulent blue crabs skitter across the bottom.
What has changed is the land around it. The sandy hills are covered with grass. Walkways have been put in along with bear-proof trash cans and a concession stand has plenty to offer. It's a park now. Access by water to the springs themselves is cut off from the run to Lake George but there is still great swimming and picnicking and memories waiting to be made.
In 1941 when this photo was taken Salt Springs was flooded to overflowing with no trace of today's improvements. Read more about Salt Springs.
Fossil hunting on the Peace River
You never know what you will find in the Peace River but one thing for sure, no human eyes have ever seen it before. The river is full of remnants of land and sea animals that have fossilized and now are washing out, bit by bit. As far as Old Florida goes, it doesn’t get much older than this.
Get in when the water is low and find sharks teeth and maybe an entire mammoth. Read More about the Peace River.
Soon to Come:
Ocklawaha — where steamboats loved to go
Suwannee River — Swamp to Sea
St. John’s — Florida’s First Highway
© Copyright 2012: text Sue Harrison; photos Sue Harrison & Lee Brock for MyOldFlorida.com.