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Oasis on the Forgotten Coast - Wakulla Springs, Florida

The spring is at the headwater of the Wakulla River.
The spring is at the headwater of the Wakulla River.
Jimmy Jacobs

Travelers looking for a taste of Old Florida can definitely find it at Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park. The park is located 5 miles east of Crawfordville in Wakulla County and offers glimpses of pristine nature, vestiges of ancient times and more recent history. Toss in some recreational options and the park becomes a must see destination, but without the usual Sunshine State crowds.

The first human use of the 6,000-acre tract around the spring that spews out 200 to 300 million gallons of water daily was in the Paleo-Indian period. Animals were visiting the springs even earlier, as evidenced by mastodon fossils recovered from the site in the 1850s. Other mastodon fossils still lie at the bottom of the spring sinkhole.

In 1937 financier Edward Ball purchased the springs and built the Wakulla Springs Lodge on its shores. The Mediterranean Rival structure was the center piece of Ball’s tourist attraction and still functions as a hotel in the state park. Visiting it is like stepping back into the 1930s, but with modern conveniences discreetly added.

The clear waters of the spring quickly drew movie production crews to the area as well. In 1941 one of the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies was filmed here, as was the classic 1954 monster flick, Creature from the Black Lagoon. Then in 1976 the air disaster movie, Airport 77 was added to Wakulla Springs’ film credits.

Today’s visitors can ride glass bottom boats for tours of the spring. A picnic area and swimming beach, including a high dive platform above the spring, are available as well. Or you can take a leisurely stroll on the Nature Walk to see a variety of birds, along with turtles and alligators in the water.