Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Visiting Wakulla Springs

If you are ever visiting in the panhandle of Florida and have some time to spare you may enjoy visiting Wakulla Springs State Park.   There is a large rustic Lodge providing a perfect place to vacation and relax in a retreat away from the modern world.

Also, available in the park are the main attractions, which are swimming in the Springs and boating down the beautiful Wakulla River.

Wakulla Springs is located about 15 miles south from the heart of Tallahassee, Florida.

465 Wakulla Park Drive
Wakulla Springs, Florida

Our family has been visiting Wakulla Springs ever since our children were very young and now our  grandchildren enjoy visiting as well.  

As you can see from the first two photos we arrived during a rain shower.

Edward Ball was a very successful Florida businessman in the 1930s.  He purchased 4,000 acres surrounding Wakulla Springs in 1937 and constructed Wakulla Springs Lodge.  He developed the area as an attraction that focused on the preservation of wildlife and the surrounding area.

In the mid 1960s Mr. Ball sold this land to the State of Florida, which then created Edward Ball Wakulla Springs Park.

There is a $6.00 admission fee per vehicle to enter the park.  We were told this fee would be reimbursed if we should decide to have lunch or dinner in the Wakulla Springs Lodge Restaurant in the park.

After driving about a mile along this beautiful natural roadway we came upon this information sign.

Some of our children and grandchildren were interested in heading directly to enjoy an afternoon of swimming in this beautiful natural Springs.

In the below photo we see an overall photo of the Springs. 
By this time the skies had cleared and it was a beautiful day.

The Springs and shoreline are open year round.  
The park hours are 8AM until sunset.
Swimming is available from 9:30AM until sunset and  there is a lifeguard on duty.

The Springs water temperature is a constant 69 degrees year round.  69 does not sound that cold, but I can remember when the children were little,  I would get into the water with them,  with a snorkel-and-mask to swim around and see the fish.   Wow!  After about 15 minutes I felt frozen and could not feel my ears.  Fun memories;  but, now I let the children and grandchildren swim and I watch.

They say that swimming in Wakulla Springs is a rite of passage that has been enjoyed by generations of visitors to the park.  That is certainly true with our family.  We have been coming here for years and never tire of visiting this beautiful place.

Summertime, of course, is the very best time to visit the Springs for swimming.  When the temperatures are in the 90s outside you can imagine how refreshing (or freezing) it is to hop into the 69 degree water.

In the above photo is grandson Nate just about to enter the water after he jumped off the second level of the diving platform.  That is quite a jump from the 22 foot tower.  When the children were little there was a third level.  Somewhere along the line that part of the tower was removed. 

 I personally never got the courage to jump off of this tower even in my younger days.

In the above photo  is daughter DNai and granddaughter 
Sydney jumping off  of the tower together.  Sure looks like fun!!

I think it is so pretty the way the Cypress Trees grow along the waters edge ... To me it looks so much like what I think of as Old Florida.  These are such unusual trees the way those little Cypress Knees sprout up everywhere from the roots of the tree.  They remind me of little fairy houses.

Oh! My goodness!  If you do ever come here to Wakulla Springs you do not want to miss the boat tour down the amazingly beautiful, scenic and pristine Wakulla River.  You are in for a treat if you ever do take this boat tour.

You will spend 45-55 minutes slowly floating down the river for a two mile loop downstream and back meandering among majestic ball cypress trees, spotting amazingly beautiful birds and you will see many alligators of all sizes, turtles and fish.  If you are lucky you will  see a Manatee or two.

In the above photo you see the tour-boat taking the tour visitors past the swimming tower before heading down the river.

After the children and grandchildren were finished swimming we did purchase tickets to take the tour down the river.  Just as everyone was in line for the tour the thunderstorm came rolling in.   The clouds  looked like they had come to stay for the rest of the afternoon.  Therefore, everyone was reimbursed for their ticket.

Also, on a clear day there are glass-bottom-boat-tours giving passengers amazing underwater views.  These tours have been part of the Spring's story as far back as 1875.  The incredible water clarity made it possible to recover a complete mastodon skeleton from the Springs which is now on display at the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee.

From the Springs looking across through the trees,  one can spot the beautiful old rustic Wakulla Spring Lodge.  You can get a glimpse through the trees in the below photo.

In the below photo we see the back of the Lodge and Restaurant.

The Wakulla Lodge is an excellent example of Mediterranean Revival architecture with it's quiet elegance.  There are twenty-seven guest rooms with period furniture and private bathrooms.  Some would call this a private retreat from the modern world.

Walking into the double entrance doors we enter into the very large lobby.  
In the distance you can see the grand piano 

And there is also a massive fireplace located in the lobby.

As you can see in the below photo the very high ceilings were painted with murals.

This beautiful porch is located outside of the lobby and looked like it would be used for large events.
I don't know for sure, but the wooden ceiling looked like Cypress wood.

In the below photo we can see the view through the double doors 
at the back of the Lodge toward the Springs.

After all of our activities we all decided to have a very late 
lunch/early dinner at the Lodge Restaurant located at the end of the Lobby.
This Restaurant is a full service restaurant overlooking the beautiful Springs.

At this time of day the restaurant was not at all crowded.

From our view by the table we were able to look out the windows and see the Springs.

There were so many delicious sounding items on the menu we had a hard time deciding.
They were serving lunch or dinner.

The below photo shows the fried shrimp I ordered which came with sautéed vegetables and a baked sweet potato.  I am making myself hungry again just looking at this photo.

And one of the dishes my husband ordered was an amazing dish called Lobster Macaroni and Cheese.  He shared with the rest of us and it was completely delicious.

The Lodge Dining Room is open each day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

After dinner we walked around the Lodge Lobby and ended up in the next room which was called the Soda Fountain/Gift Shop where Old Joe was on display.

Poor Old Joe!!!   He is an 11-foot, 2-inch stuffed alligator with quite a story to tell.

If you scroll down to the next photo you will see the details of what happened to poor "Old Joe" ... So sad!

Poor "Old Joe" almost looks like he has a smile on his face.

Humans have occupied Wakulla Springs for nearly 15,000 years.  Archaeological evidence shows intermittent habitation from Paleo-Indians.  Evidence of Spanish and other European explorers has also been found.

There are many other things to do in this beautiful natural park including bicycling, hiking, horse trails, picnicking, and as mentioned before,  swimming and boat tours.

Wakulla Springs Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated as a National Natural Landmark.

I mentioned earlier that we have been visiting Wakulla Springs most every Summer since our children were just little tikes,  and now we are coming back with the grandchildren ... 

Thank you for coming along with us and sightseeing around Wakulla Springs while we again visited this quietly beautiful natural park.

I hope you are having a wonderful Summer wherever you may be.

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