Our Vacation Ends at Manatee Springs

ManateeSpringsSP04292914a (7) (Copy)Our vacation ends at Manatee Springs State Park and we have arrived at our new assignment. Due the flooding down the Suwannee River the Manager for the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail River Camps has placed us at the Woods Ferry River Camp instead of Adams Tract. It seems the road leading into Adams Tract is flooded and he has all of the river camps closed for campers until the river goes down. From what we are told the camp host at Holton Creek is flooded in but has been utilizing this time improving his canoeing skills. We will also use this quiet time to get the campground cleaned and ready for new visitors. They haven’t had a campground host here for a month and between the manager, park ranger and our fellow host at Holton they have tried to keep it tidy. But we intend on giving it a thorough cleaning during this downtime.

Information for Campers

Wekiwa Springs State Park

Wekiwa Springs State Park has just recently gone through some renovations in the campground area. They were only available for walk-in camping for over a year but are now back on the online reservation system with 37 of the 60 campsites now having on-site sewers. We stayed there during the Easter weekend so the place was packed even though the weather was on-and-off gloomy. Some of our family members visited us for the day on Easter Sunday but it was too cool to jump into the springs. We did see quite a few brave souls in the water, canoeing, kayaking and lounging on the grass and picnic areas. The campgrounds are shady with not much privacy. The spaces are fairly decent with water and electric but we ended up on a site with no sewer connection. We just love the bathhouse. The place was clean, spacious and had plenty of hot water with great water pressure. Just the thing to warm you up after a day dipping into the cool springs. Sadly, we couldn’t get any TV reception but we did get between 4 and 5 bars on our cellphone. No laundry facilities.

The park is pretty large with the campground area, the swimming, picnic and playground area and a separate area to sit by a lake with trails all around. They even have a separate parking area for equestrian use. We tried to go see the group camping/primitive camping area but it has a locked gate and can only be accessed by those using it. To get to the swimming area you will have to walk up and down hills but they have nice sidewalks and boardwalks. The spring is surrounded by a cement retaining wall. It was very blue water with lots of brave souls swimming around. They have a concession house where you can get snacks and supplies.

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Lake Griffin State Park

Lake Griffin State Park was extremely nice as well. Be careful when approaching the park though as it is located on a major highway that has been under construction for over a year. The entrance is on a hilltop and you come right on it before you know it. They could use a bigger sign in the front. This is a smallish park with just a campground, playground, picnic area and canal with a boat launch that leads into Lake Griffin. You cannot see the lake itself from day-use area or even the campground which was a little disappointing but the canal area has a wide sidewalk with benches to sit and fish from. This park offers tours of the lake area on a pontoon boat. Of course, there are trails in and around the park that are well maintained and clearly marked.

The camping area winds around in circles and has two or three levels. There is only one bathhouse located in the center. It has lots of hot water with great water pressure. This park offers three washers and dryers for only $1.25 per load. The dryers take a quarter for each 8 minutes of drying time. We thought that was pretty nice considering that most of them only have a flat rate to start and then you can add additional quarters for more drying time. Sadly, this park only has a couple of sites with sewers on-site. The sites do have foliage and trees between them so you get a sense of some privacy. We didn’t get any TV reception but some people did. The cellphone reception was excellent though mostly three to four bars.

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Rainbow Springs State Park

Rainbow Springs State Park is a very popular place to stay all year round. The campground has sewers on every site as well as the electric and water. The sites are mostly mixture of crushed rock with a clothes line, fire pit and picnic table and are quite spacious with foliage in between each one. There are three bathhouses and three separate loops of camping included a section just for tent campers. The campground Ranger station is open from 10:00am to 5:00pm only with a little store inside that sells drinks, snacks, camping supplies and such. There is a pool located behind this building but it has not been cleaned and filled yet. The campers have their own area to access the springs with picnic area and you can get in the water to canoe, kayak, tube and swim as well as fish. They have one washer and dryer at each bathhouse for $1.50 per load. The bathhouse is very nice with three shower stalls, lots of hot water and terrific water pressure. We could not get TV reception ourselves but the cellphone reception fluctuated between two to four bars. Not bad at all.

This park is huge and spaced out. There are three separate areas and entrances. The main head springs entrance is located on Highway 41 with a large parking area and separate fees to enter at $2.00 per person. We did not have time to explore this area. They have another entrance for those who want to tube down the river and that is generally opened only on the weekends most of the year. That is located off 81st Place Road between Highway 484 and Highway 40. The campground is located a mile down the road from there. They also have a tram service on weekends that takes you between the campground and the tubing entrance area and back again. Of course, there is a fee for that as well. To get into the tubing entrance you have to pay $5 per car and then $10.60 per person to tube. We spent four nights in the park but two of those days we were at the Boom Town Festival working so we didn’t have a lot of time to explore.

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Manatee Springs State Park – Update

Our second visit to Manatee Springs State Park was pretty nice. After the hectic weekend at Rainbow Springs we just wanted to lay back and enjoy the peace and quiet. Sadly, the whole springs area was flooded out while we were there. Indeed much of the trails and close to the camping area was flooded as well. We stayed in the Magnolia Loop this time. The bathhouse is lot better than on the Hickory Loop as it is the newest with lots of hot water but the water pressure wasn’t what it should be. There were only two showers stalls and they are small and you have to hang up your clothes and towels or they would get wet. The sites are fairly deep with the usual fire pit and picnic table as well as a lantern pole. They only have electric and water at these sites. The first 40 sites have been closed for renovation for the next 12 months or so. According to the Park Ranger we spoke to they will have paved roads and sites with a new ADA accessible bathhouse and hopefully sewers on site. We hope they get the funds for that because it would be really nice not to have to go and dump every two to three days.

As before we saw lots of deer roaming around and even a small newborn with her mom. They are not shy with campers and that is a bad thing. But don’t feed them as there is plenty of green stuff for them to munch on. We didn’t see that many squirrels but we did see an enormous raccoon and lots of flitting squires everywhere. This time we got a look at the primitive camping area. Not bad if you go for the outdoor shower thing.

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Information for Campground Hosts

Wekiwa Springs State Park

Wekiwa Springs State Park has two different camping areas and they each get a sewer on site as well as electric and water. When we were there on camp host was in a tent. They also need maintenance volunteers who stay in the shop area. Generally, they do not have any problems getting volunteers during the late Fall through early Spring but could use the extra help during the summer months. The park is extremely popular with the locals and almost every weekend has full campgrounds. The weekdays, until school lets out, is not bad at all. The ranger station cells wood and ice. Not only to they need campground hosts and park hosts at this park but at the Lower Wekiva and Rock Springs Run areas as well. This park and the surround area has a very active Friends Group called the Friends of Wekiva River. Check out their website: http://www.friendsofwekiva.org/index.html

If you would like to volunteer at this great park should go online at: Volunteer at Florida State Parks

If you have questions or would like more information you can contact the park directly:

Wekiwa Springs State Park
Scott Mowry
Park Services Specialist-Volunteer Coordinator
(407) 884-2006

Lake Griffin State Park

As with most state parks Lake Griffin needs help during the late spring through early fall. Their Volunteer Coordinator transferred to another park and the Park Manager is taking over those duties for a while. They have two campground host positions and a couple of Park Host/Maintenance positions that include a campsite with water, sewer and electric. The campground hosts also help out in the ranger station when needed. Since this park is surrounded by towns and located off a main highway you will probably get a lot of local visitors as well especially during the weekends. There are not that many campsites and with the hills you will be walking a lot of up and down. They volunteers do have access to a golf cart while they are working so that should help.

Sadly Lake Griffin does not have a “Friends Of” and really could use one. So if you, your friends and family live in the area why don’t you start one. We can help with a website if you like!

If you would like to volunteer at this park you can go and fill out an application online: Volunteer at Florida State Parks

If you have questions you can contact the park directly:

Lake Griffin State Park
Doug Watson
Park Manager/Volunteer Coordinator
(352) 360-6760

Rainbow Springs State Park

We spoke to a couple of Park Rangers in the Campground Ranger station as the Volunteer Coordinator was in another part of the park. But they do need help this summer and have quite a few places set aside for them in the campground as well as the shop area with sewer, electric and water. They have a small ice machine in this area for the rangers and volunteers to use. Of course, volunteers in the campground are asked to clean the sites and bathhouses while the other park hosts will assist the rangers in the different park areas. Handymen and women are always needed in most of the parks as well. With the summer months coming they will need assistance keeping the head springs area clean. They have an outside service that provides the canoes and kayak rentals as well as running the tram.

Rainbow Springs has a very active “Friends Of” group with a great website. Check it out!

If you would like to volunteer at this park you can go and fill out an application online: Volunteer at Florida State Parks

If you have questions or just want more information you can contact this park directly:

Rainbow Springs State Park
Monay Markey
Volunteer Coordinator
(352) 465-8520

Manatee Springs State Park

Manatee Springs State Park is always looking for enthusiastic volunteers willing to do a little hard work in exchange for a campsite. Since the campgrounds do not have sewers on site then the campground hosts will need to have a “Blue Boy” or dump every couple of days. The cellphone service in the park pretty much sucks but near the ranger station it picks up nicely. There will be a lot of construction going on in the area where sites 1 to 40 are located over the next 12 months are so but according to the park ranger that is being contracted out. We have noticed that there have been some brand new barrier fences put up in and around the campsites and some new picnic tables. You will need to keep the campsites cleaned and the bathhouse as well.

Manatee Springs is supposed to have a “Friends Of” Group but they do not have a website, which is a shame, so if you are a member or leader of this group get in touch with us and we will see about getting you one!

If you would like to volunteer at this park you can go and fill out an application online: Volunteer at Florida State Parks

If you have questions or just want to find out more you can contact the park directly:

Manatee Springs State Park
Teri Graves
Park Service Specialist/Volunteer Coordinator
(352) 493-6072

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