Last updated on September 17th, 2019 at 12:02 pm
This huge private campground is a jewel, especially for kids. It’s also a great launch point for paddling your kayak on the beautiful Wekiva River, one of only two rivers in Florida designated “wild and scenic” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
I’ve camped here twice in the past six months. At first, it seemed a little too “resort-ish” for my wild woods tastes, but I quickly adapted to its offerings, especially the neighboring forests and wildlife preserves.
Wekiva Falls is actually a sulphur spring that is capped, channelling the water up through a conduit that “falls” into a manicured lagoon for swimming. It even has a sandy beach on one end, and the water runs out the lagoon on a sandy-bottomed stream to the nearby Wekiva River.
The lagoon is wrapped by a man-made apron where guests spread blankets, pitch canopies and plop down on beach chairs. There’s a really neat water slide in the spring pool for the kids.
Along the ridge atop the spring pool are shady pavilions with picnic tables and benches, well used by day visitors, especially during the hot summer months.
Paddle the Wekiva River
In my view, the best attraction at Wekiva Falls is easy access to the Wekiva River, one of Florida’s best-protected waterways. The river is fed by multiple springs, flowing downstream to the north-flowing St. John’s River.
Wekiva Falls has a grassy launch area for kayaks and canoes about 200 yards from the river.
There is very little development on the river, and the flow is slow enough to allow you to paddle upstream (turn right) for miles into the beautiful, sub-tropical Wekiva River Aquatic Preserve, then float back.
Downstream is equally scenic (and shady), but the return paddle against the currents can be tiring, so you might consider arranging for a shuttle if you plan to go far.
Either way, you are in for a glorious day on the water, as these images from our upstream paddle suggest.
As I mentioned, this is a huge campground with nearly 800 sites, including more than 20 shaded tent sites on the banks of the spring run, where kids can play in the crystal clear, shallow, sand-bottomed stream.
Popular in winter with snowbirds and in summer with day visitors and weekend campers, this former KOA campground is under new ownership, and they are making improvements. While we were there, workers were tearing up cracked slabs and pouring new slabs in their place.
The RV sites are a decent size with enough space between them to be comfortable with your neighbor. Many sites are deep, and all sites have hookups for electric, cable, water and sewer.
The price is right: RV sites range rom $39 to $49 per night, depending on size and season, and tent sites are $35-$40. Weekly and monthly rates are available with discounts.
Wi-Fi reception was excellent throughout the park, although you pay extra — $10 for one day or $20 for three days. Sign up online.
I found cellphone service throughout the campground was acceptable, though spotty, so I passed on the Wi-Fi on my second visit.
There is a general store with limited groceries and essential RV supplies, and a large community center with a freshwater swimming pool.
At the marina, there is a tiki bar abreast of the spring run that is open on weekends and holidays.
Nearby Natural Areas
One of the beauties of Wekiva Falls is its proximity to Seminole State Forest, Rock Springs Run State Reserve and the Lower Wekiva River State Park, all of which have miles and miles of hiking and biking trails.
All three sprawling preserves are accessible from State Road 46 within a mile of Wekiva River Road, where the Wekiva Falls campground is located.
For a special kayak outing, make arrangements to access the launch area for Blackwater Creek within Seminole State Forest. A forest-use permit is required, so you will need to plan ahead. (See details below.)
Rock Springs Run State Reserve
Rocks Springs Run State Reserve has 17 miles of multi-use trails through sand pine scrub, pine flatwoods, bayheads, oak hammocks and swamps that are loaded with diverse wildlife. Be forewarned, these trails are open to hikers, bicyclists and equestrians.
Aside from stables and camping for equestrians, guided trail rides are offered three times daily in the reserve by Cactus Jack’s Trail Rides for $50 for an hour, $70 for two hours.
The reserve’s boundaries are marked by State Road 46, the Wekiva River and Rock Spring Run, but there is no water access for kayaks, and horses are not allowed in either waterway, although some off-road trails do approach the water.
The network of roads are bicycle-friendly, but you can also drive through the reserve. More than three dozen designated parking areas allow you to get out and explore on foot or bicycle.
For information about primitive camping in the reserve, contact Wekiwa Springs State Park at 407-884-2009.
Seminole State Forest
The southern entrance to Seminole State Forest is directly across State Road 46 from Wekiva River Road. This is known as the Bear Pond Trailhead and Day Use Area. The trailhead provides access to a section of the Florida National Scenic Trail, which runs the length of the 27,000-acre forest from State Road 46 north to the Cassia Trailhead on State Road 44.
Motor vehicle access to the forest beyond the trailheads requires a permit, including access to the Blackwater Creek Day Use Area, where you can launch a kayak or canoe and paddle upstream 4.5 miles to Seminole Creek or downstream 5 miles to the Wekiva River.
Fishing and picnicking are also popular activities at the Blackwater Creek Day Use Area.
To obtain a forest-use permit for day use or primitive camping, you must call the forest service office in Leesburg at (352) 360-6675. Call ahead of your visit! The permit will be e-mailed along with a combination to the lock at the gate.
Otherwise, just park the car and ride your bike or your horse around the gates at the trailhead. There are 23 miles of horse trails and 25 miles of named roads and bike trails at your disposal without needing a permit.
The Wekiva River marks the forest’s eastern boundary, although the only boat launch in the forest is at Blackwater Creek.
Primitive camping is allowed in the forest, and there are several sites along the Florida Trail for backpackers. But here again, you will need a forest-use permit. (See details above.)
Here’s a link to a downloadable map of Seminole State Forest.
Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park
The southern entrance to Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park is about a mile east of Wekiva River Road on State Road 46.
This vast state park occupies four miles of Wekiva River frontage opposite Seminole State Forest and includes a boat launch park known as Katie’s Landing on Wekiva Park Drive, accessible from State Road 46.
Katie’s Landing is a popular take-out point for paddlers who embark on overnight trips from Kings Landing near the source of Rock Springs Run near Apopka or from Wekiva Springs State Park, where the Wekiwa Spring Run meets Rock Springs Run to form the Wekiva River.
A 2.5-mile nature trail is accessible at the southern entrance to the preserve on State Road 46, and off-road bicycles are permitted on the trail.
A more robust network of trails, including equestrian trails, are available at the north entrance to the park off State Road 44.
Rest rooms are available in the picnic area at Katie’s Landing.
You may also be interested in nearby Ocala National Forest:
Mount Dora and Sanford
While we were staying at the Wekiva Falls RV Resort, it was hard to resist a side trip to historic Mount Dora, 16 miles east on State Road 46, where the girls enjoyed shopping in the trinket shops and the boys crawled the pubs.
The highlight of the visit was lunch at Pisces Rising, which has an outdoor dining patio and bar overlooking the lake.
Here’s a link to a Florida Rambler story on Mount Dora, including its schedule of popular festivals.
For grocery shopping, a mall and chain restaurants, go east about 6 miles on State Road 46 to the outskirts of Sanford at Interstate 4.
We found that the IHOP on the east side of I-4 was the best stop for breakfast, but even more important is Dick’s Sporting Goods fora wide selection of kayak, canoe and camping gear.
For bikers — and this is an excellent area for cruising — there is also a Harley-Davidson dealership nearby.
We found the campground quite popular with motorcycle enthusiasts, which includes our own group.
Access to Disney World and other Orlando attractions
One of the new highways serving the Lower Wekiva Basin is the State Road 429 toll road, which was recently extended to State Road 46, just a few miles west of Wekiva Falls.
SR 429 goes straight south through Apopka to Kissimmee, providing access to Disney World, I-4 and Florida’s Turnpike.
Drive time is 50 minutes from Wekiva Falls to Disney World; 53 minutes to Universal Studios
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Bob Rountree is a beach bum, angler and camper who has explored Florida for decades. No adventure is complete without a scenic paddle trail or unpaved road to nowhere. Bob co-founded FloridaRambler.com with fellow journalist Bonnie Gross 12 years ago.