Real Places

Umatilla Southern Gateway

Gateway to the Ocala National Forest and Gateway to the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway, is located in northern Lake County on SR 19. Umatilla is known as a “Sportsman’s Town” and offers many outdoor activities such as boating, fishing, camping and hiking. There are forty fish-rich lakes within two miles of the city limits and several hundred more within a half hour’s drive.

One of the nicest natural springs along the byway is at nearby Alexander Springs Recreation Area. Canoe rentals are available at the Springs for cruising along Alexander River. Umatilla also has close access to the Florida Trail.

Palatka Northern Gateway

sits on the shores of St Johns River as it narrows and converges into Lake George and meets with the Ocklawaha River. Its strategic location along the St. Johns has shaped its history. Notably in the 1850s the Steamboat Era brought tourists to Palatka as they made their way on the Ocklawaha River to Silver Springs, Eustis and Leesburg or took the St. Johns River down to Welaka, Astor, Sanford and points south. The Steamboat Era boomed after the Civil War, and new hotels were built in Palatka, including the Putnam House, built by Hubbard L. Hart, and the Larkin House, which had accommodations for 250 guests.

Silver Springs/Ocala Western Gateway

The Gateway cites of Silver Springs and Ocala have long been a part of Florida’s tourist areas. Even before the famous glass-bottom boats were invented, steamboats brought tourists such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ulysses S. Grant, Thomas A. Edison and Mary Todd Lincoln from Palatka to Silver Springs in the 1870s.

Ormond Beach Eastern Gateway

The Gateway City of Ormond Beach bridges the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway and the Atlantic Ocean. Situated just north of Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach is known as “the Birthplace of Speed.”
Henry Flagler bought the stately Hotel Ormond in 1890 and also purchased the railroad, which had been brought into Ormond Beach. A bridge was erected across the Halifax River so that Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway could discharge passengers at the entrance of his Hotel.

Early in the 1900s, a visitor at the Hotel Ormond found out that the new motor cars could drive on the sands of the beach. The first race took place on the beach in 1903. For the next eight years, Ormond Beach was the world’s center for racing. Inventors such as Winton, Ford, Chevrolet, Stanley and Packard came to test their machines on the only reliable flat track in the United States – the beach.

The Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway starts on the west side of Ormond Beach as SR 40 crosses under Interstate 95

Pittman Visitors Center

is Operated by the USDA Forest Service, and located in a historic Civilian Conservation Corps-era cabin on the south SR 19 Spur, north of the rural community of Pittman.

Salt Springs Visitor Center

is operated by the USDA Forest Service and is located in a small shopping center in front of the Encore RV Resort in the community of Salt Springs along North SR 19.

Operating hours vary by season. Call 352.685.3070 to verify.

Ocklawaha Visitors Center

and Trailhead was built and donated by Silver Run Properties, Inc. in 1999. The center is maintained and operated by the Florida DEP Office of Greenways and Trails and the USDA Forest Service.

The center is located near the western terminus of the byway at the intersection of CR 315 and the Scenic Byway.

At the center, look for a trailhead for the Silver River Trail within the Cross Florida Greenway, a linear interpretive nature trail leading through pine flatwoods and a cabbage palm bottomland and ending at the Ray Wayside Park along the Silver River, a 3.5-mile round trip.

Natural springs

are Florida’s lifeblood, pouring fresh water out into the landscape drawn from deep within the aquifer. There are three first-magnitude springs (Silver Springs, Silver Glen, and Alexander) and four second-magnitude springs (Juniper, Salt, Fern Hammock, Sweetwater) along the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway corridor, including one of the world’s largest springs, Silver Springs.

Video

Alexander Springs

has the greatest flow of any natural spring on U.S. Government land. It is a magnitude one spring with a discharge rate of 107 cubic feet per minute. The spring is located within the Alexander Springs Recreation Area of the Ocala National Forest. Here you’ll find a sandy beach at the water’s edge and a gentle slope off into the sandy bottom. This is a great spring area for families with children because of the easy access to the water.

Juniper Springs Recreation Area

in the Ocala National Forest is one of the oldest and well-known national forest recreation areas in the eastern states. Here you’ll find two spectacular groups of springs: Juniper Springs and Fern Hammock Springs. Juniper Springs, with a discharge of 11 cubic feet of water per second, is home to the American eel, which swims up the St. Johns River from the sea to the springs as part of its life cycle. Juniper Springs was one of showcase projects developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. The CCC built the picturesque Millhouse and watermill adjacent to Juniper Springs and added the cement walkway and access to the Springs pool area. Originally, the watermill generated electricity to power the adjacent campground. No longer used to generate power, the millhouse now contains interpretive displays.

Video

Salt Springs

high salt content of the springs provides a unique habitat for Florida aquatic life normally found on the coast, nearly 40 miles away. The unusually high salt content is the result of the water rising to the surface through ancient salt deposits. Blue crab, needlefish, and other salt water species can be seen in the clear waters of the spring. The marine life was established at the springs thousands of years ago when this portion of Florida was part of a shallow sea. When the land rose upward, the marine creatures remained there because of the salty flow from the spring.

Salt Springs Recreation Area is one the jewels of the Ocala National Forest. The recreation area is located in the lush, semi-tropical setting of central Florida.  The presence of potassium, magnesium and sodium salts give the waters in the spring a slight salinity.

Silver Springs

was the original tourist destination of the Ocala area dating back into the mid 1800s. It became so popular that “Florida’s first tourist attraction” became commercialized and became the hub of Silver Springs Nature Theme Park. Silver Springs is the site of one of the world’s largest artesian spring formations and produces 550 million gallons of water a day. The Springs forms the Silver River.

Silver Springs is actually a collection of seven springs. The largest of these and the focal point of Silver Springs is Mammoth Springs, which forms the pool and starting point of the famous Glass Bottom Boats. The setting here has been utilized for countless iconic films and television shows, including the Tarzan and Creature from the Black Lagoon films and the popular 60s TV show Sea Hunt.

Video

Silver Glen Spring

is a first magnitude springs with a discharge that averages 113 cubic feet per second. The springs supply Silver Glen Run, a 200 foot wide run that travels approximately a half mile before emptying into Lake George. It was in these tranquil green-blue waters that Jody made his flutter-mill in Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ Pulizer prize-winning novel,  The Yearling. Nicknamed the “Natural Well”, this spring hosts swirling schools of mullet and striped bass, blue crab and sting rays, seagoing fish that have taken up permanent residence in this warm, brackish outflow that merges with the St. Johns River, a “river of lakes” meandering through the region.

Sweetwater Spring 

is also located on Juniper Creek, about four miles northeast of Juniper and Fern Hammock Springs. This is not a public access area, but it is available for rent from the National Forest Service. Its remote location makes it accessible primarily via a dirt road. The Spring discharge averages 12.9 cubic feet per second, which ranks Sweetwater springs as magnitude two.

Built in 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the rustic cabin sleeps 12. The cabin was used during the filming of movie “The Yearling” in 1945.

Rivers

There are four stand-out rivers that crisscross the Byway providing the area with distinct ecological and ecotourism destinations.

The St. Johns River is Florida’s longest river and has been a primary thoroughfare for centuries for Native Americans, explorers, settlers, residents, boaters, sportsmen, tourists, loggers, and merchants.  The Ocklawaha River at one time was a favorite route for early tourists in Florida as they made their way to Silver Springs and other points south.  Today it is an ecotourism wonderland.  The Silver River is a crystal clear river fed by Silver Springs and is a popular canoeing and kayaking destination. And the Tomoka River on the east side flows into Florida’s inland waterway system on its way to the Atlantic Ocean.  Whatever your blue water interest is, you’ll find a river destination to satisfy for needs.

Ocklawaha River

was at one time a major tourist river in the 1800s. During the heyday of the Steamboat Era, tourists traveled up and down the Ocklawaha from Palatka to Silver Springs and from Palatka along the St. Johns River, through Lake George and continued on the St. Johns to Astor and Deland.

Today the Ocklawaha River is one of the great ecotourism rivers of the area, providing sportsmen, sightseers, bird and nature watchers a unique habitat and beautiful setting.

Florida Barge Canal and the Cross Florida Greenway

The original plan was to build a canal across the state of Florida from Jacksonville to the Gulf of Mexico. Portions of the St. Johns River and Ocklawaha River would be part of the Florida Barge Canal. The project was stopped by environmentalists, but not before a portion of the canal was built. Today it’s a calm stretch of “river” that is used by boaters, fishermen and ecotourists and is part of the Cross Florida Greenway. The canal can be seen from the Rodman Campgrounds west of SR 19.

St. Johns River

is one of 14 American Heritage Rivers and Florida’s longest river. The St. Johns River has a long and storied history dating back to the early Native American tribal people who lived and harvested food from the river, to the Spanish Explorers who traveled its currents, and the steamboats and logging barges that used the river to build the local economies. Today the river is a great source of recreational activity. People come to the St. Johns to vacation on houseboats, to fish, to sail, to sight, or to just get away for an afternoon on the water. This river has the distinction of being the one only a few rivers that flows north in the United States. In 2008 the St Johns River was listed as one of America’s Ten Most Endangered Rivers. Much of the water from the river is supplied by Florida’s aquifers. The river is managed by the St. Johns River Water Management District.

Silver River

is formed by the numerous springs that make up Silver Springs. The river is on the west side of the byway in the town named for the springs on SR 40. The Silver River is a primary ecotourism area which draws canoeists, kayakers, and boaters to its rich and diverse underwater life and its dense forest areas. This area has revealed prehistoric life and yielded the bones of saber-tooth tigers and woolly mammoths. These can be seen the Silver River State Park’s Museum, accessible from SR 35 in Silver Springs.

Tomoka River

crosses under the Byway near its eastern end on SR 40. The river is designated as a Manatee Sanctuary. The Tomoka River empties into the Halifax River, which is part of Florida’s inland waterway that leads out to the Atlantic Ocean. It is a favorite river for ecotourism and can be accessed through the Tomoka State Park in Ormond Beach.

Lakes

There are literally over a hundred lakes accessible from the Byway.  Lake George, Florida’s second largest lake, dominates the region.  Lake George is a part of the St. Johns River and today provides boaters and sportsmen plenty of open water.  Extending from Lake George is Little Lake George to the north, which you can cross via the Fort Gates Ferry.  Two popular lakes for swimming and boating are Wildcat Lake (SR 40 east of SR 19) and Mill Dam Lake (SR 40 west of Juniper Springs).  Both of these lakes have sandy beaches and boat ramps.  Other popular lakes are:  Beakman Lake and Grasshopper Lake (south SR 19), Halfmoon Lake and Lake Bryant (west SR 40), Lake Dexter and Lake Woodruff (east SR 40), and Lake Kerr and Lake Delancy (north SR 19).

Lake George

is Florida’s second largest lake, second only to Lake Okeechobee in south Florida. It is a shallow brackish lake on the St. Johns River. The lake forms part of the eastern boundary of the Ocala National Forest and is located east of SR 19, north of SR 40. The lake has a rich history because of its connection to the St. Johns River. Originally known as Lake Welaka (“Welaka” meaning “chain of lakes”),which was the name for the St. Johns River among the Timucua Indians who lived in the area before the Europeans. Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, who settled St. Augustine and was the Spanish governor of Florida in the 1500’s, was the first European to discover and explore the St. Johns River. Today the river is a haven for boaters, vacationers, and fishermen.

Mill Dam Lake

is accessible through Mill Dam Recreation Area on SR 40 just west of Juniper Springs. This lake has a large sandy beach with a roped off swimming area. There are picnic tables and grills shaded under a canopy of ancient trees. There is also a boat ramp for lake access.

Rodman Reservoir

large mouth bass anglers will have success fishing the river channel with deep crank baits and Carolina-rigged worms. Early morning and evening top water action should also be good along the flats adjacent to the river channel from Orange Springs to Eureka.

Wildcat lake

is one of the prettiest and most untouched lakes in the area. The lake sits on the south side of SR 40 just east of the intersection of SR 19. There is a swimming area, picnic tables, a boat ramp, and two parking lots.

Gateway Cities
Umatilla Southern Gateway

Gateway to the Ocala National Forest and Gateway to the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway, is located in northern Lake County on SR 19. Umatilla is known as a “Sportsman’s Town” and offers many outdoor activities such as boating, fishing, camping and hiking. There are forty fish-rich lakes within two miles of the city limits and several hundred more within a half hour’s drive.

One of the nicest natural springs along the byway is at nearby Alexander Springs Recreation Area. Canoe rentals are available at the Springs for cruising along Alexander River. Umatilla also has close access to the Florida Trail.

Palatka Northern Gateway

sits on the shores of St Johns River as it narrows and converges into Lake George and meets with the Ocklawaha River. Its strategic location along the St. Johns has shaped its history. Notably in the 1850s the Steamboat Era brought tourists to Palatka as they made their way on the Ocklawaha River to Silver Springs, Eustis and Leesburg or took the St. Johns River down to Welaka, Astor, Sanford and points south. The Steamboat Era boomed after the Civil War, and new hotels were built in Palatka, including the Putnam House, built by Hubbard L. Hart, and the Larkin House, which had accommodations for 250 guests.

Silver Springs/Ocala Western Gateway

The Gateway cites of Silver Springs and Ocala have long been a part of Florida’s tourist areas. Even before the famous glass-bottom boats were invented, steamboats brought tourists such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ulysses S. Grant, Thomas A. Edison and Mary Todd Lincoln from Palatka to Silver Springs in the 1870s.

Ormond Beach Eastern Gateway

The Gateway City of Ormond Beach bridges the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway and the Atlantic Ocean. Situated just north of Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach is known as “the Birthplace of Speed.”
Henry Flagler bought the stately Hotel Ormond in 1890 and also purchased the railroad, which had been brought into Ormond Beach. A bridge was erected across the Halifax River so that Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway could discharge passengers at the entrance of his Hotel.

Early in the 1900s, a visitor at the Hotel Ormond found out that the new motor cars could drive on the sands of the beach. The first race took place on the beach in 1903. For the next eight years, Ormond Beach was the world’s center for racing. Inventors such as Winton, Ford, Chevrolet, Stanley and Packard came to test their machines on the only reliable flat track in the United States – the beach.

The Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway starts on the west side of Ormond Beach as SR 40 crosses under Interstate 95

Visitors Centers
Pittman Visitors Center

is Operated by the USDA Forest Service, and located in a historic Civilian Conservation Corps-era cabin on the south SR 19 Spur, north of the rural community of Pittman.

Salt Springs Visitor Center

is operated by the USDA Forest Service and is located in a small shopping center in front of the Encore RV Resort in the community of Salt Springs along North SR 19.

Operating hours vary by season. Call 352.685.3070 to verify.

Ocklawaha Visitors Center

and Trailhead was built and donated by Silver Run Properties, Inc. in 1999. The center is maintained and operated by the Florida DEP Office of Greenways and Trails and the USDA Forest Service.

The center is located near the western terminus of the byway at the intersection of CR 315 and the Scenic Byway.

At the center, look for a trailhead for the Silver River Trail within the Cross Florida Greenway, a linear interpretive nature trail leading through pine flatwoods and a cabbage palm bottomland and ending at the Ray Wayside Park along the Silver River, a 3.5-mile round trip.

Springs
Natural springs

are Florida’s lifeblood, pouring fresh water out into the landscape drawn from deep within the aquifer. There are three first-magnitude springs (Silver Springs, Silver Glen, and Alexander) and four second-magnitude springs (Juniper, Salt, Fern Hammock, Sweetwater) along the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway corridor, including one of the world’s largest springs, Silver Springs.

Video

Alexander Springs

has the greatest flow of any natural spring on U.S. Government land. It is a magnitude one spring with a discharge rate of 107 cubic feet per minute. The spring is located within the Alexander Springs Recreation Area of the Ocala National Forest. Here you’ll find a sandy beach at the water’s edge and a gentle slope off into the sandy bottom. This is a great spring area for families with children because of the easy access to the water.

Juniper Springs Recreation Area

in the Ocala National Forest is one of the oldest and well-known national forest recreation areas in the eastern states. Here you’ll find two spectacular groups of springs: Juniper Springs and Fern Hammock Springs. Juniper Springs, with a discharge of 11 cubic feet of water per second, is home to the American eel, which swims up the St. Johns River from the sea to the springs as part of its life cycle. Juniper Springs was one of showcase projects developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s. The CCC built the picturesque Millhouse and watermill adjacent to Juniper Springs and added the cement walkway and access to the Springs pool area. Originally, the watermill generated electricity to power the adjacent campground. No longer used to generate power, the millhouse now contains interpretive displays.

Video

Salt Springs

high salt content of the springs provides a unique habitat for Florida aquatic life normally found on the coast, nearly 40 miles away. The unusually high salt content is the result of the water rising to the surface through ancient salt deposits. Blue crab, needlefish, and other salt water species can be seen in the clear waters of the spring. The marine life was established at the springs thousands of years ago when this portion of Florida was part of a shallow sea. When the land rose upward, the marine creatures remained there because of the salty flow from the spring.

Salt Springs Recreation Area is one the jewels of the Ocala National Forest. The recreation area is located in the lush, semi-tropical setting of central Florida.  The presence of potassium, magnesium and sodium salts give the waters in the spring a slight salinity.

Silver Springs

was the original tourist destination of the Ocala area dating back into the mid 1800s. It became so popular that “Florida’s first tourist attraction” became commercialized and became the hub of Silver Springs Nature Theme Park. Silver Springs is the site of one of the world’s largest artesian spring formations and produces 550 million gallons of water a day. The Springs forms the Silver River.

Silver Springs is actually a collection of seven springs. The largest of these and the focal point of Silver Springs is Mammoth Springs, which forms the pool and starting point of the famous Glass Bottom Boats. The setting here has been utilized for countless iconic films and television shows, including the Tarzan and Creature from the Black Lagoon films and the popular 60s TV show Sea Hunt.

Video

Silver Glen Spring

is a first magnitude springs with a discharge that averages 113 cubic feet per second. The springs supply Silver Glen Run, a 200 foot wide run that travels approximately a half mile before emptying into Lake George. It was in these tranquil green-blue waters that Jody made his flutter-mill in Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ Pulizer prize-winning novel,  The Yearling. Nicknamed the “Natural Well”, this spring hosts swirling schools of mullet and striped bass, blue crab and sting rays, seagoing fish that have taken up permanent residence in this warm, brackish outflow that merges with the St. Johns River, a “river of lakes” meandering through the region.

Sweetwater Spring 

is also located on Juniper Creek, about four miles northeast of Juniper and Fern Hammock Springs. This is not a public access area, but it is available for rent from the National Forest Service. Its remote location makes it accessible primarily via a dirt road. The Spring discharge averages 12.9 cubic feet per second, which ranks Sweetwater springs as magnitude two.

Built in 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the rustic cabin sleeps 12. The cabin was used during the filming of movie “The Yearling” in 1945.

Rivers
Rivers

There are four stand-out rivers that crisscross the Byway providing the area with distinct ecological and ecotourism destinations.

The St. Johns River is Florida’s longest river and has been a primary thoroughfare for centuries for Native Americans, explorers, settlers, residents, boaters, sportsmen, tourists, loggers, and merchants.  The Ocklawaha River at one time was a favorite route for early tourists in Florida as they made their way to Silver Springs and other points south.  Today it is an ecotourism wonderland.  The Silver River is a crystal clear river fed by Silver Springs and is a popular canoeing and kayaking destination. And the Tomoka River on the east side flows into Florida’s inland waterway system on its way to the Atlantic Ocean.  Whatever your blue water interest is, you’ll find a river destination to satisfy for needs.

Ocklawaha River

was at one time a major tourist river in the 1800s. During the heyday of the Steamboat Era, tourists traveled up and down the Ocklawaha from Palatka to Silver Springs and from Palatka along the St. Johns River, through Lake George and continued on the St. Johns to Astor and Deland.

Today the Ocklawaha River is one of the great ecotourism rivers of the area, providing sportsmen, sightseers, bird and nature watchers a unique habitat and beautiful setting.

Florida Barge Canal and the Cross Florida Greenway

The original plan was to build a canal across the state of Florida from Jacksonville to the Gulf of Mexico. Portions of the St. Johns River and Ocklawaha River would be part of the Florida Barge Canal. The project was stopped by environmentalists, but not before a portion of the canal was built. Today it’s a calm stretch of “river” that is used by boaters, fishermen and ecotourists and is part of the Cross Florida Greenway. The canal can be seen from the Rodman Campgrounds west of SR 19.

St. Johns River

is one of 14 American Heritage Rivers and Florida’s longest river. The St. Johns River has a long and storied history dating back to the early Native American tribal people who lived and harvested food from the river, to the Spanish Explorers who traveled its currents, and the steamboats and logging barges that used the river to build the local economies. Today the river is a great source of recreational activity. People come to the St. Johns to vacation on houseboats, to fish, to sail, to sight, or to just get away for an afternoon on the water. This river has the distinction of being the one only a few rivers that flows north in the United States. In 2008 the St Johns River was listed as one of America’s Ten Most Endangered Rivers. Much of the water from the river is supplied by Florida’s aquifers. The river is managed by the St. Johns River Water Management District.

Silver River

is formed by the numerous springs that make up Silver Springs. The river is on the west side of the byway in the town named for the springs on SR 40. The Silver River is a primary ecotourism area which draws canoeists, kayakers, and boaters to its rich and diverse underwater life and its dense forest areas. This area has revealed prehistoric life and yielded the bones of saber-tooth tigers and woolly mammoths. These can be seen the Silver River State Park’s Museum, accessible from SR 35 in Silver Springs.

Tomoka River

crosses under the Byway near its eastern end on SR 40. The river is designated as a Manatee Sanctuary. The Tomoka River empties into the Halifax River, which is part of Florida’s inland waterway that leads out to the Atlantic Ocean. It is a favorite river for ecotourism and can be accessed through the Tomoka State Park in Ormond Beach.

Lakes
Lakes

There are literally over a hundred lakes accessible from the Byway.  Lake George, Florida’s second largest lake, dominates the region.  Lake George is a part of the St. Johns River and today provides boaters and sportsmen plenty of open water.  Extending from Lake George is Little Lake George to the north, which you can cross via the Fort Gates Ferry.  Two popular lakes for swimming and boating are Wildcat Lake (SR 40 east of SR 19) and Mill Dam Lake (SR 40 west of Juniper Springs).  Both of these lakes have sandy beaches and boat ramps.  Other popular lakes are:  Beakman Lake and Grasshopper Lake (south SR 19), Halfmoon Lake and Lake Bryant (west SR 40), Lake Dexter and Lake Woodruff (east SR 40), and Lake Kerr and Lake Delancy (north SR 19).

Lake George

is Florida’s second largest lake, second only to Lake Okeechobee in south Florida. It is a shallow brackish lake on the St. Johns River. The lake forms part of the eastern boundary of the Ocala National Forest and is located east of SR 19, north of SR 40. The lake has a rich history because of its connection to the St. Johns River. Originally known as Lake Welaka (“Welaka” meaning “chain of lakes”),which was the name for the St. Johns River among the Timucua Indians who lived in the area before the Europeans. Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, who settled St. Augustine and was the Spanish governor of Florida in the 1500’s, was the first European to discover and explore the St. Johns River. Today the river is a haven for boaters, vacationers, and fishermen.

Mill Dam Lake

is accessible through Mill Dam Recreation Area on SR 40 just west of Juniper Springs. This lake has a large sandy beach with a roped off swimming area. There are picnic tables and grills shaded under a canopy of ancient trees. There is also a boat ramp for lake access.

Rodman Reservoir

large mouth bass anglers will have success fishing the river channel with deep crank baits and Carolina-rigged worms. Early morning and evening top water action should also be good along the flats adjacent to the river channel from Orange Springs to Eureka.

Wildcat lake

is one of the prettiest and most untouched lakes in the area. The lake sits on the south side of SR 40 just east of the intersection of SR 19. There is a swimming area, picnic tables, a boat ramp, and two parking lots.