Today thankfully the weather people are wrong about it raining all day long and we are able to drive on dry two lane roads the 179 miles from St. George to O’Leno with an easy off stop for gas at Rocky’s in Perry where gas is $2.329.
O’Leno State Park is located on and around the banks of the Sante Fe River. The park is one of Florida’s first state parks created in the early 1930’s by the CCC for use as a summer forestry camp and training facility. They built the beautiful suspension bridge that crosses the Santa Fe just down stream from the swimming area.
Within the park, the Sante Fe River disappears and flows underground for more than 3 miles before surfacing again in the River Rise Preserve as the river flows on to the Suwannee. The two state parks, O’Leno and River Rise, together protect in excess of 6000 acres.
There are two campgrounds at O’Leno with a total of 60 sites split evenly between the two.
The campground roads and sites are sand with water and electric. There is one bathhouse in each and no laundry. There is single dump station for both.
The sites are mostly large and deep. Smaller sites are in the Dogwood campground while larger sites are in Magnolia. There is one 50’ site in Magnolia and perhaps 5 sites for 40-45’ rigs. Many sites in Magnolia will accept 35’ RVs like Winnona.
The view out our front window is of the playground but it’s really too chilly out for our crew to go on the swings or slides. By mid afternoon many of the children here for their spring breaks are out playing. Wish Celia were here so we could take her on the swings and down the slide.
On Monday I am feeling much better. I still have the cough, I still have some intestinal instability but my lungs don’t feel as closed and I can breathe more deeply. Best of all I am no longer so fatigued. HooRay…….but it rains ALL DAY LONG.
I can finally get out and do something so rain or not, I do. Actually I drive 5 miles to the Winn- Dixie grocery store in High Springs and return to the day use area. I wait until the rain lightens and take a walk around. We have been to O’Leno a few times before so I am taking a refresher course in its history. If you’d like to see many more details about this park or about St. George where we were previously, type either name in the search box at the top left of this post. The widget in the right column of the blog has stopped working for whatever blogger reason.
I walk by the remains of one of the town’s many mills and by the really wonderful little CCC museum and the CCC Boy statue. There’s too much rain to bring out my good camera so these pictures were taken by my Samsung Galaxy 5. I’m not all that impressed with the camera on the phone so I have fun taking selfies all around as my hair gets wetter and wetter.
In 1840 or 60, depending on your source, the town of Keno was founded up stream from where the river disappears. Perhaps named after a game of chance. The town grew, a general store, two grist mills, a sawmill, 6 cotton gins, a livery, a hotel and a doctor’s office were here by 1876 when Colonel Whetstone applied for a post office and was denied due to the town’s name and its relationship to gambling. I just have to laugh. The name was changed to Leno and the post office granted. The plaque about the town’s history says that “Ecclesiastical and Commerical pressure changed the name to Leno in 1876”. Leno was large enough to be the end of the line for the first telegraph to link Florida to the outside world. In 1894, railroad was diverted to pass through nearby Fort White instead. Bet that’s a story of political corruption. By 1896, the town of Leno had dried up and everyone moved away. I find that amazing that an entire town that was just fine before the railroad would have died without it. But I suppose whatever river traffic they had would have disappeared. Any boats would have had to turn around at Leno since they couldn’t go down the sink. Makes me wonder what happened to all those buildings. There is sure no sign of them now.
The area was still popular with locals and refered to as Old Leno and thus the park’s name.
Just after the above pictures the skies open up and I rush in to the beautiful large pole pavilion made of cypress beams that can be rented by groups. It’s popular with family reunions and weddings as are the numerous cabins behind it. This picture is from after the rain lightened up since there was no time before. My hair is a lot wetter.
I didn’t think the vagueries of the rain would allow for hiking a trail but I might come out here and read a while so I put a book and a box of contraband Milk Duds in a plastic bag and brought them along.
I’ve got a front row seat looking out at the river as the rain pours off the roof.
I get quite a bit read in an easy, light, humorous and touching book of memoir essays entitled Sister, Mother, Husband, Dog by Delia Ephron who was Norah Ephron’s younger sister with whom she collaborated on her films Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail among others. I’ve always enjoyed Norah and thought she was very funny. Picked the book up for a dollar at the Dollar Tree this morning in High Springs.
I have always loved the sound of rain on a tin roof. We had it at the farm and rain on Winnona’s roof sounds the same.
A long while later when the rain again lightens, I go over to the CCC Suspension Bridge which was totally restored again in 2013 after 25 years. It’s a really beautiful bridge with signs on both ends that say “NO JUMPING”. But I can testify from past visits and from what we see tomorrow that people ignore them. SIGH…………………
Looking up stream toward the roped off swimming area.
Looking downstream toward the River Sink.
I suspect if the weather is dry, tomorrow we’ll come out and walk the river trail which starts here by the old CCC Dining Hall which is also a beautiful building and can be rented for special occasions like weddings or family reunions.
It’s 5:00 and time to head back before serious rain starts again as it is threatening to do.
My phone pictures aren’t great but I spent a fun afternoon taking them and feeling much better.
After rain ALL NIGHT LONG, it finally stops mid morning. Since it is not raining, we walk from the campground to the River Trail to see if it is too wet for hiking. Looks good at the start. We decide we’ll just go until it’s too wet and then turn around. Apparently it was very dry here before the rain and with the sandy soil, we never have to turn back.
We walk by my yesterday rain hide out on our way.
This is the view of the river from the start of the hike by the CCC Dining hall.
The trail goes to the River Sink which looks very different today from the last time we were here. This time we can’t observe the slight swirling we saw previously that looked like water going down a drain.
No alligators this time either. Probably too cold. But the turtles are out trying to soak up some sun.
David’s cold hands aren’t appreciating the temperature.
We’re now walking on the land bridge that goes between the River Sink and the River Rise. From the wooden bridge looking back we can see two little ponds that are “behind” the River Sink.
The green farthest away is the back of the River Sink. We assume the green is duckweed.
On around the trail we come to the far end of Ogden Lake. Looks like a pond to me but I’ve never known how the terms are used. The sign identifying the lake tells us that long narrow lakes are common in the park. Each lake has a very slight current and their levels tend to increase and decrease in conjunction with the river. This indicates that the lakes are actually a part of the underground portion of the river into which the surface layers of the Earth have collapsed. So is this also the Santa Fe River??
There is a lovely fringe tree in bloom high on the bank near where we are standing.
We are lucky to be here when the wild azaleas are blooming. They are so delicate and fragile looking. Small bushes are throughout the woods.
The trail becomes very wide and open. Just beyond this spot to the left is the trail head for the Parener’s Branch Trail which is the first leg of a series of trails that will take you 10 miles to the River Rise. It’s unfortunate that we can’t walk straight along the river and the land bridge, we’d only have to walk between 3 and 4 miles to get there.
A spur trail takes us down by another long unnamed lake and into what we call the valley of the knees. There are a few very large Live Oaks here but mostly very big cypress and so many cypress knees the trail weaves in and out through them. It’s an absolutely gorgeous spot.
Trail through the knees.
The tree behind me is a huge Live Oak, the one beside me a cypress.
It’s difficult for a camera to really show the size of these cypress. The second picture is one with David’s shadow. From that distance he cannot get the entire base of the tree in the picture.
I wasn’t sure which of these would best show the size of the cypress, the shadow or me standing next to it so I’ve included them both. Which do you think is best?
We have come up on the other side of the river where the tree roots are exposed and holding tight to the ground. The bark of the roots is as thick as that on the trunk.
There is a really big (well deep) bench beside the river. We can’t figure out why they would use such a wonderful wide beautiful board for a bench. The seat is not two boards next to each other, it is one board. Notice David sitting on it and then me. You have to have a pretty wide beam to need a bench like this.
All along the path back to the suspension bridge are flowering azaleas overlooking the water.
The suspension bridge really is wonderful and a reason in its own to visit O’Leno.
We took some better pictures than yesterday’s rainy ones down stream toward what is left of one of the old mill dams and beyond to the River sink.
This is a picture taken from the side of the remains of the dam.
A better view of the swimming platform and roped off area up stream. No doubt a very popular spot during hot summers.
It was a lovely though chilly day for a hike but we kept warm in a sweatshirt for me and a heavy coat for David. Temperatures are scheduled to drop even further for the next two days including being in the 20’s tomorrow night. 20’s in Florida? I sure hope they are wrong.