Category Archives: Spring Garden Creek

Spring Garden Creek at DeLeon Springs State Park – January 4, 2017

We had been saving a return to DeLeon Springs for a winter trip.  As open as Spring Garden Creek is, you are totally exposed to the sun so late fall to early spring is the best time to go.  Plus that’s the time when you will see the most birds. Also, if you can arrange it, try to choose a day  with little to no wind because the Creek is wide and Lake Woodruff is fascinating to explore.

The ramp is located behind the main building of the park, so be sure to tell the person at the gate you are kayaking and get directions.  There is a concrete ramp with a grassy-sandy area beside it for hand launching.  You can drive right up to the ramp to unload.  If you have a short car then move your vehicle back outside the gate.  If you have a long truck or trailer there is an area just inside the gate where you can park.  Also, before your paddle, check out the little museum so you have a overview of the park’s history.  It’s between the ramp and the bathrooms, so it’s very convenient!

We were ready to launch around 9:30 and first paddled up towards the top of the run.  DeLeon Spring has been walled in since it was a private attraction but a beautifully crafted lime rock cascade was built where the water flows out of the spring into the creek.  There is also a nice view across the water to the Old Spanish Sugar Mill.

Water cascade where De Leon Springs meets Spring Garden Creek

Water cascade where DeLeon Springs meets Spring Garden Creek

Old Spanish Sugar Mill

Old Spanish Sugar Mill

We then turned downstream and paddled out past Spring Garden Lake and the entrance to Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge.   Lake Woodruff was established as a refuge for migratory waterfowl and it’s a wonderful place for bird watching.  Osprey, Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Ibis, Limpkins, Cormorants, and Anhinga abound.

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

Male Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) surveying his kingdom

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) taking flight on Spring Garden Lake

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) taking flight on Spring Garden Lake

Limpkin (Aramus guarauna)

There are a lot of Limpkin on the creek – must be lots of Apple Snails

We also saw some of the largest gators we had seen in a long time.  Several in the 8- to 11-foot range were out sunning on the banks and logs.

A big and well-fed gator - about 11 feet

A large and well-fed gator – about 11 feet

After a smooth 4-mile paddle you will reach Lake Woodruff.   If it is not too windy the shore line is an interesting place to explore and you are guaranteed to see more birds and gators.

Entering Lake Woodruff

Entering Lake Woodruff

On our trip back we took a little leg-stretch break on a high spot of land on river left where the shore line was covered with snail shells and the ground sported a carpet of little violets.

Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia)

Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia)

We also spotted three manatee cruising the creek.  One was trailing a radio beacon, the other two we spotted when they surfaced to breathe.  Since Spring Garden Creek is dark and tannic it’s not a great place for manatee photos, but it’s wonderful to view them in the wild.

Manatee surfacing to breathe

Manatee surfacing to breathe

On the way back keep your eyes peeled on the east side of Spring Garden Lake for the whimsical statue indicating the entrance to the state park.

New Swamp Booger

New Swamp Booger – We think the old one was spookier

And of course, no trip to DeLeon Springs State Park is complete without stopping at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill for a post-paddle late lunch of stone-ground flour pancakes which you cook on griddles built into your table.

Enjoying our pancakes in the Old Spanish Sugar Mill

Enjoying our pancakes in the Old Spanish Sugar Mill

Another great paddle with a few of our YakPak members to start off the new year.