Each spring break in high school, a large group from the Honor Society would load up cars with gear and head to Ocala National Forest and set up camp at Juniper Springs. We’d hike on the Florida Trail, play games around the campfires and on picnic benches, and when it was time to cool off, it was short walk down the trail to the springs.
As with much of the infrastructure we enjoy in our federal and state parks, most of the work here was constructed by the Civil Conservation Core in the 1930s. As you can see in the picture above, where the large pool drains into Juniper Creek, a millhouse and waterwheel was built. The campground and pool were far from any electric lines, so the CCC waterwheel produced electricity for the recreation area.
The creek flows on towards the St. John River. A beautiful stone bridge over the creek is closed, but is an exquisite ruin for now. Perhaps, it will be repaired one day. Perhaps, our country will again recognize the value of national service for our young people as a way of enriching our schools, parks, and infrastructure.
While the pool contains the large springs which is the main source of the creek, other spring-fed creeks feed in and at many places along the creek more cool, clear water bubbles up from more springs.
The highlight of our annual trip was the canoe run. We’d pack the aluminum crafts with lunch and drinks and head downstream. The beginning of the run is narrow and winding, but eventually widens and flows into the Juniper Prairie Wilderness. The cool water provides a certain place to escape the Florida heat.