Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

That Fountain of Youth Stuff

Thursday March 14, 2013
Site 20, Blue Spring State Park
Orange City, Florida


Are you sick of springs yet?  I hope not. 

After such a good time at Wekiwa yesterday we head north 16 miles to De Leon Springs State Park located at 601 Ponce Deleon Blvd in De Leon, Florida.  Hmmm are you getting the picture here. 


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They of course have claimed the Fountain of Youth as did nearly every other place poor Ponce stopped or was said to have visited.  Sort of like George Washington slept here.  I have read that this myth has no real connection to Ponce de Leon at all in historical fact and was one of the first Florida tourist attraction ad campaigns in reality.

This spring was purchased by the state after it had been both a Sugar Mill Plantation and a 1950’s Road Attraction a la’ Silver Springs in Ocala. 

The roadside attraction industry started in the 1930’s after the Great Depression as cars replaced trains as the main mode of transportation.
After WWII, millions of visitors started making Florida their annual vacation.  My family was one of them.  Everyone wanted to see paradise.  Between 1929 and 1971, 130 attractions were established.   But the era ended with the opening of Disney World in 1971.  The Ponce de Leon attraction became a private tourist park and the state bought it in 1982.


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Yes the 50’s sign still preserved is cheeky.  But I think it’s a riot and I’m so glad they kept it.  I should have come back later in the day so the Conquistador didn’t have quite so much shadow as the 50’s swimsuit clad maiden gazes adoringly.



They serve Breakfast at this spring.


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We are here early in order to have breakfast at the The Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant where you cook your own pancakes at your table.  David laughs at the idea of paying for batter and then being your own cook.  But it was fun and their multi-grain batter was excellent.



I love that too they have not changed the very 50’s, very Spanish grand entrance.  It’s just too marvelous, so authentic.  Makes me smile and laugh.  Well done Florida.

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But we are not the only ones with the breakfast idea.

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As we pull into the parking lot this is what we see.  I think I have neglected to mention that the area is teeming with motorcycles.  When I booked our two weeks to be at the end of “winter” it was so I could possibly see the manatee AND swim in the spring (I know, have it all greedy).  My pay back and what I didn’t know was that those weeks were also Daytona Beach bike week.    This is important since the town of De Leon also celebrates bike week and this entire area has been crawling with bikers including at the Blue Springs campground and in the camp site next door to us.  Today apparently a Honda Gold Trike Wing club has come to the restaurant just ahead of us.  They must be at least our age though to be up and at breakfast this early.  :-)   And decorated trikes no less.


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At the restaurant they tell us the wait will be 45 minutes but it’s really only about half that or less.   It’s not a large place.  Two rooms the small on in the back has a fireplace. Some of the gear works are inside the restaurant, you can see them in the  picture below against the far wall.   But the wheel isn’t turning. 




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This morning is chilly so the fire is lit in the back room and that’s where we are seated.  In a short time, we took off our jackets.  They bring us two pitchers of batter an unbleached white flour and a stone ground mixture of 5 different flours including wheat, buckwheat, corn and I forget the other two.  This is $4.95 a person.  We go 100% for the stone ground and it is great.  You can also order for an extra $1.85 each blueberries, bananas, peanut butter, pecans, chocolate chips, apples or apple sauce to create whatever sort of pancakes you choose.  We’re 100% chocolate chippers today.   The syrups provided are maple, honey and molasses.


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Manatee T-shirts, Manatee sweat shirts, Manatee cups.  How about Manatee socks? And there aren’t even any manatee here. 

After that filling breakfast we look through the store.  They carry all things manatee although I don’t think there are any manatee here.  Guess it’s a big seller in the area.  I consider buying a bag of their multi grain pancake mix.  But instead I buy a pair on manatee sox.  Not sure that was the best decision and later when we are leaving and the restaurant is closed I regret that I can’t go back and get some pancake mix.  Those pancakes were  really good.  I’d like to see the list of ingredients.  But I love my sox with their sea grass toes, so the mix will be another one of those things for ‘next time’.

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As we are leaving the restaurant, more bikers are coming in.  These two won’t have any trouble being seen that’s for sure.

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Outside the restaurant, just beyond the Mill House wheel, is the springs. 

The water of course is 72 degrees and crystal clear.  Like Wikewa, and unlike Blue Spring, it has a swimming pool look and feel.


Taken from the museum looking toward the Mill House Restaurant.DeLeon State Park 158

Taken from the Restaurant looking at the museum. DeLeon State Park 095


There is no visitor’s center at the park but on the other side of the spring opposite the restaurant is the museum.

It is another small but extremely well done information center on the history of the park and it is a long, detailed and interesting one.  From the use of this land  by Native Americans for over 8000 years leaving a large midden and a canoe dated at over 6000 years in the bottom of the spring to its passage from the Spanish to the English to the Spanish to 1823 when just after the US acquired Florida from Spain and Joseph Woodruff brought his wife, their children and several slaves to build a plantation house and raise cotton and corn.  In 1831 Col Orlando Rees bought the property, planted sugar cane and built a sugar mill powered by a water wheel.  Most of the facilities, other than the water wheel and building, were destroyed by union troops in the Civil War.  In the 1880’s local business owners changed the name of the plantation from Spring Garden to Ponce de Leon Springs to attract tourists.  It was advertised in the northern states as a ‘winter resort with its own Fountain of Youth pouring out millions of gallons of “deliciously healthy water”. 

The museum has artifacts of Native American pottery pieces and tools,  mammoth teeth and other natural history objects all  found on the property. 

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There are many fun photographs of the spring in its earlier incarnations including its private club and road side attraction days. A lovely historical mural circles the room at ceiling level.






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Time to go back outside into this gorgeous weather and look around the grounds.


As at Wekiwa Springs, there is a bridge at the foot of the spring pool.  Here it is a cement bridge with a water fall on the far side through which the spring waters reach the spring run.


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Although we are not going paddling today, we walk around to get a look at the put in since we would definitely like to come back and kayak the spring run to Lake Woodruff in the National Wildlife Refuge which is a connecting property to the State Park.  There are several possible paddles from 2.5 miles to 10 miles beginning here at the boat ramp.  This is an easy put in.  You can drive your car right down without needing to use a kayak cart.   Love it!



We spend the rest of our afternoon walking park trails.

The azaleas are blooming in the picnic grounds.  Their blossoms are always so intricate and delicate.  I can’t help but smile when I see them.

On our way to the start of the Persimmon Trail we take a spur that goes down to Old Methuselah a simply magnificent ancient cypress.  FIVE HUNDRED YEARS OLD-they say.   There is no way to capture the size of this tree in a picture.  Sadly, the boardwalk out to view it will not permit hugs.  The tree stands in the swamp.  We blow it a kiss and wish it an even longer life.


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After the hike, I add another spring to my “I swam here” list. 

This time I am prepared and have my suit.  David gets a close up picture of the only other one swimming in the spring with me.   Who is it??


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We’ve managed to spend yet another great day at another fabulous Florida Spring!


The End

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  1. I loved the funky old florida feel of De Leon Springs. Bel and I went there a few years ago but I didn't manage the swim, I just waded. Nice to see you swimming there.

  2. That is so cool, cooking your own pancakes at the table, very unique. I was at the Ponce de Leon park when I was a little girl. Wow that has been many many years ago. You brought back some memories. So envious you are swimming. After Sunday we will be sledding....6-9" predicted.

  3. I drank from the Fountain of Youth back in the 1980's, and I shudder to think what I would look like if I hadn't - probably like old Mrs. Methuselah.

  4. Great post Sherry!! Really glad to see that Florida has made the decision to purchase these older tourist spots and bring them into the park system. Loved the "make your own" pancake idea...what fun!!

  5. I'll never get tired of seeing your posts on the Florida springs. They are probably the most beautiful things in Florida, and each one is different than the other. Have you seen Ginnie Springs yet? It's a nice paddle down the Santa Fe River (I think it's the Santa Fe) You come across quite a few beautiful blue springs on the paddle. One of our favorite paddles.

    Love your socks.

  6. All these springs are fabulous. I like the old 50s kitsch.

  7. just going to Florida makes us both feel younger...

  8. Love your manatee socks, they are really cleverly done. :c)

    Too bad you couldn't get close enough to give the cypress a hug, it sure missed out.

    That is quite a smile David has while cooking those pancakes. With chocolate chips, no less. No wonder he's smiling!

  9. Another great walk and another great Florida Treasure.

  10. I enjoy anything retro -- signs, structures, decor, etc. So much more unique and interesting.

    I've heard of restaurants where you grill your own steak, but never cook your own pancakes. That's a fun twist.

  11. You two should invest in one of those trikes. It might fit on your car dolly better than Ruby does now.

    It is amazing how many older folks, as here in The Villages, Florida, ride around on those behemoths. Next to the golf car, the trike - whether two wheels in front or two wheels in rear - is one of the more popular modes of transportation. And you should see the great tent/camper trailers they have for motorcycles, too!

    Sometimes I'm tempted to abandon my dream of hitting the road in an RV and just Free-Wheel it instead. Don't you think it would be much cheaper.....? Hmmmm.... Where to put the kayak..........?

  12. Mui had the same reaction as David when I told him about the cook-you-own pancakes, but I'm going to pin it anyway since it would be fun to do. He might take up the "swim in every spring" challenge when we get down that way in a year or two.

  13. Is that a turtle sticking his head out of the spring? I love the pancake idea - YUM! Great history there with the mill and the old tree!! Lovely - Florida is really a more interesting state than I ever realized before reading these blogs! Great manatee socks!! :) PS - almost looks like Pops could use a haircut, could it be?? ;)


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