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

Henry David Thoreau

Seeing the River Rise

Sunday March 31, 2013
Site 28, O’Leno State Park
High Springs, Florida


Remember the river sink with all the green duckweed?


*if you missed it, click HERE to read that post

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I want to hike over to River Rise today and meet back up with all the water that sank.  A sort of pilgrimage. But I can’t get any solid information about how far it is.   The written information says that the river rises 3 miles away from the sink.  No problem.   The ranger on duty says it is a 6 mile hike one way.  We probably aren’t up for that.  How can it be double the distance?  We can’t find any printed information about the length of any of the trails at O’Leno.  One of the problems at this park is lack of information and lack of friendly helpful rangers.  This is the first park I’ve come to where it’s like they don’t want you to do anything or bother them.


So we go up to the ranger check in and bother them again asking how else we can see River Rise.  We can drive we are told but we’ll need the gate code because it is kept locked.   There is no ranger presence there at all.  OK.  We get the gate code.  But are then told that unless we have a truck or a 4 wheel drive, we should walk in 2 miles down the road.  OK.


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We are not organized religion or church going people but we are spiritual people and on this Easter Sunday we drive down the road, pull up to the gate, unlock it and drive a little way down what seems like a fine sandy road.  We leave Ruby at the “horse trailer” parking lot. 



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 Santa Fe River Basin

This map of the Santa Fe River shows its source lake in the lower right and if you follow the river you can see it end and then start up again within O’Leno/River rise Park as it flows in its way to the Suwannee.


We set out on foot over a sandy road that Ruby could definitely have driven.  But that’s OK too since we originally wanted to hike here anyway.   There are no other cars parked in the lot.  It’s possible we are the only ones here.  Cool!!

The birds are singing.  It’s a beautiful morning and we don’t see another soul except this beautiful coral snake who scurries away before I can get more than this little shot of him.  Hope you can spy him.  He was beautiful.  I’m so sorry I frightened him.

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We arrive at a horse tie up spot at the end of the road and then at River Rise which is just exquisite.   I’ve been in other beautiful natural places but few so pristine, so ancient feeling.


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We spend a lot of time just sitting and being at River Rise.  You can see the spring like movement of the water coming up and then flowing gently and broadly down to the Suwannee 35 miles away.


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We take a path that goes off to the right along the bank.  All the banks including the shore where you could walk into the water are all totally natural.  The only evidence of human activity here is the water height measuring stick which says 3.2 feet.


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The path dies and rather than walk through the grass we return to the shore of the rise and walk down the other side of the river.  

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Here we find the BIG TREES.   Amazingly big trees.   This area has been under some mighty fine caretaking for a long time.  How wonderful!

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This is the biggest shagbark hickory either of us has ever seen.

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  No wonder this red bellied woodpecker likes it.

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It is wonderful being here all alone with such beauty and serenity.  This area is a Cathedral for me.



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NO CAMPING signs are everywhere.   I could spend hours here.  Would that be camping?   Next time I’ll bring my backpack chair and stay all day.  But for today,  it’s time to start back.  

As we reach the beginning of the path out, the first other person of the day appears.  I think we definitely surprise each other.  We are all being very quiet in honor of the holiness of this place, he entering and we leaving.


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As we walk through the horse hitching area, off to the right, I see yet another answer to the question of “how far is it to hike from O’Leno to River Rise”? 




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If this one is the truth then next time, I’m walking all the way in.  It will be more like a pilgrimage to walk 9 miles through the forest with River Rise as the goal in the middle.





Part way back the sandy road we come upon more folks visiting River Rise.  They look like they are enjoying themselves on this beautiful Easter Sunday.  But I’m glad we were here early and before they arrived.  It is a very powerful experience having this place all to ourselves.   The quiet added a great deal to the majesty.


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To complete the circle of the day, the coral snake as we came and this little rough green snake hooks our attention as we leave.  He wouldn’t show his face but he sure is cute.   It has been a magnificent day at River Rise.

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  1. Lovely photos of a beautiful day in God's country..What a wonderful way to spend your Easter!

  2. I am in love with the name River Rise, that alone seems sacred to me. You did a great job of capturing the spiritual quality of this place. Glad to see you had such a special Easter.

  3. yes, me too .... my church ~ cathedral is nature. my favorites are woods/forest/water. this makes me want to go back and read my Muir Woods post. I got there before anyone arrived ~ even the gate attendants! rain forests are the same way. the sun filtering through the trees... hearing that water rolling over rocks.. man oh man ... waterfalls

    this perked me right up, Sherry... been grumpy all day ... going to go look at those posts. and take me back to that glorious serenity ... ;)

  4. Looks like you had a beautiful day. The pictures of David in comparison with those trees certainly accentuate their massive size!

  5. River Rise looks like a special and unique place that I'd like to visit. You did a beautiful job capturing it - sounds gorgeous and ethereal. So glad you got to enjoy that on such a lovely day. I also liked the pictures of the little snakes - what cute little guys :)

  6. This looks much nicer than the O'Leno end. Glad you went to report back.

  7. Oleno is one of my least favorite Florida state parks but River Rise makes it worth while. It is one of the most peaceful places I have ever been to.

  8. Beautiful! I always forget Florida has deep, dark woods.

  9. Amazing! And so fortunate to have this magic to yourself for a while. How odd to see a river rise up from underground like this. Those trees, are to hug for. Too bad about the lack of helpful staff. When do we hike back?

  10. What a gogeous way to spend Easter. you know, it would be wonderful to take all your pictures and blog this year and make them into a wonderful book. My blogger friend Donna http://therapytravels.blogspot.com/ Does this a couple times a year. I have seen them and they were awesome.

  11. What a nice way to spend a morning. One reason I like to winter camp is that many times in the middle of the week at some of the more isolated parks in Georgia, I have the place to myself. The quiet is wonderful and Jack enjoys the trails off leash. I was at General Coffee one year and I saw the ranger and he asked if I was going to stay here all by myself. I told him I had my pups, Jack and Lizzie with me and asked him if it would be okay since there were no other people and I always clean up after them whether I could drop the leashes on the trails. He said, "Consider this your back yard." He said he lived about 6 miles down the road and would check on me every so often but I told him it wasn't necessary--just let me have his phone number, then he wouldn't have to leave his family. A tornado hit in the middle of the night. I'll just call it exciting. We spent the night in the bath house. He came by in the morning to see if we were okay. Nice young man.

  12. great looking spot that will require a future visit form us as some point...

  13. What a wonderful, serene place. I always feel as if I am the first person to ever set eyes on a place like that. It is wonderful experience. I love the smells, and sounds or lack of sounds that greet my senses. Yes, it sounds like you had a soul renewing experience. How perfect for Easter Sunday.

  14. Quiet ... beautiful ... a great hike ... I wish there were no snakes, but I guess I just have to accept that I am going to see more of them than I want.

  15. What a wonderful day you had at River Rise. I would sure love to have taken that trip on horseback. I believe we've been there, but I'm thinking we drove to the River Rise park site....if there is one??? It's been a long time and before blogging, so I'm not sure. It sure was beautiful though.

    There aren't too many places you can walk to the other side of the river without having to get your feet wet, are there?

  16. What a wonderful way to spend an Easter morning, in tune with nature's beauty. How nice that you had it almost completely to yourselves to enjoy. :c)

  17. With your and David's love for trees, you should visit the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest in western North Carolina (http://main.nc.us/graham/hiking/joycekil.html). We camped in this area last year and there are some amazing trees in this park. Some of the large trees in the lower trail loop lost their tops in a wind storm, but the upper loop has some extremely large yellow poplars that are over 100' tall and 15-20 feet in circumference. Some very impressive trees. Also, Lake Santeetlah next to the Joyce Kilmer forest is once of the nicest kayaking lakes we've ever come across.


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