Many Floridians enjoy state parks that are reminiscent of old Florida. There's just something comforting about visiting a location that hasn't changed all that much in many years. Many of these parks also have a historical significance that dates back to the time of Native Americans and mastodons. Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park is one example.
The park also has many amenities that arguably make it stand out, as follows:
The Old Florida Setting That Served as the Backdrop for Movies: The spring is surrounded by an ancient cypress swamp, and this aesthetic has meant that Hollywood has taken notice of how natural and lovely the park looks. Movies such as Tarzan's Secret Treasure and The Creature from the Black Lagoon have been shot here.
The Springs: Wakulla Springs is one of the world's largest and deepest freshwater springs. The water is near 68 degrees year-round. The park features a two-story diving tower that can be used to view the springs or jump into them.
The Boat Tours: Although there have been glass-bottomed boat tours previously, this is rarer today as the water is sometimes too cloudy. The park suggests calling to see if the glass-bottom boats are running before any visit. The park does offer 45-minute river boat tours along the Wakulla River where guests can view wildlife like alligators, birds, and manatees. River tours run 365 days per year unless it is raining or temperatures are under 40 degrees. (But again, visitors should call to confirm to avoid being disappointed.) Boat tours are $8 for adults and $5 for children.
Plenty of Nature Activities: Although this park is known for its boat tours and springs, it functions like many other state parks. The park has a 9-mile nature trail where one can see terrestrial and epiphytic orchids along with other wildflowers in season. Sometimes, visitors can see songbirds such as robins, waxwings, phoebes, and warblers. The park also has a 1.4-mile sink trail that leads to an 80-foot-deep sinkhole lake. This trail features crabapple and dogwood trees.
The park allows for bicycle riding, geocaching, picnicking, and horseback riding. Swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving (with certification) are allowed in designated areas.
The Historic Lodge: The Lodge at Wakulla Springs was originally built in 1935 and serves today as a glimpse into Florida’s past. The Lodge still has its original elevator, which is the only surviving art deco elevator still in use. Surrounded by trees, springs, and wildlife, the Lodge arguably offers a peaceful place to stay for those visiting the park.
The History of the Park (and the Mastodon Bones:) The land where the park sits has had much historical activity. According to Florida Traveler, Ponce de Leon visited twice. Native Americans lived at or around the spring as early as 13,000 years ago.
In 1850, a visitor saw the bones of an ancient mastodon on the bottom of the springs. Since then, scientists have identified nine other extinct mammals that date to the last glacial period.
Reviews for Wakulla State Park: The park has almost 1,000 reviews on TripAdvisor for an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars. Many reviewers called the area peaceful and were complimentary of the boat tour and the Lodge. Some noted that most of the hiking is shaded.
Location and Cost: This park is located at 465 Wakulla Park Drive in Wakulla Springs. It is open 365 days per year from 8am to sundown. The admission fee is $6 per vehicle. It is always a good idea to call the park to ensure that amenities are open. As of this writing, the park can be reached at 850-561-7276.