A small sign at the start of the path to the water pretty much says all you need to know about what’s to come: “Be lazy in Juniper Springs.”
Nestled on the north side of State Road 40 about 30 miles east of Ocala, Juniper Springs is an inviting site for those looking for a way to beat the heat in relative isolation.
The crystal clear water flowing from the springs is the heart of the Juniper Springs Recreation Area, which is part of a surrounding federally owned wilderness preserve that spans some 14,283 acres.
Site: Juniper Springs is located at 26701 FL-40 in eastern Marion County, in the heart of the Ocala National Forest.
On: With a picnic area, campground, trails, waterwheel and mill built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, Juniper Springs is one of the oldest recreation areas on the East Coast , according to the Forest Service.
Hundreds of small bubbling springs and large gushing springs include Juniper Springs, a second-magnitude spring surrounded by palm and oak trees in a scrub ecosystem. Juniper Spring discharges approximately 5 to 6 million gallons of water per day into the 90 by 120 foot pool.
Juniper Springs forms the headwaters of Juniper Creek, which flows about 10 miles east into Lake George.
Visitors: Juniper Springs is a popular paddle boat destination for visitors wishing to canoe through the Juniper Prairie Wilderness. Kayak and canoe rentals are temporarily unavailable, but guests can bring their own for a $10 launch fee.
The busy area is also a popular swimming attraction, but there is no paddling pool in the spring tracks. Visitors can hike, picnic, camp, and learn about the history of the area.
It is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Access costs $7 per day on weekdays and $10 on weekends, or $70 annual passes are available.
Problems: Juniper Springs currently has healthy flow levels and nitrate levels well below the maximum set by the state.
However, like all springs that allow visitors, Juniper Springs has suffered recreational damage.
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Future: The Ocala National Forest is planning a working group that will examine the impacts of recreation on springs. Juniper Springs currently has no capacity limit, although some advocate that all springs that allow recreation should limit visitors.
Contact reporter Danielle Johnson at [email protected]