The very helpful lady at the Ranger station who gave Pete his pass also gave us some suggestions. We took her advice and drove to nearby Juniper Springs Recreation Area. It's one of the oldest recreation areas around, built in the 1930s by the CCC. We've been to areas built by them before: Balmorhea State Park in Texas. The CCC did some mighty good work. At this location they also built a small water mill house. The water still turns the old wheel, although it doesn't generate electricity anymore.
The pool area was pretty, and pretty deep. And cold (to me). As steady 72 degrees may be wonderful on a sultry day, but I wasn't tempted to get in today.
We walked around the pool area and behind the wheelhouse, to find a fast flowing stream where the rental canoes are launched. The water level is really low now, but some canoes were heading out anyway. Nearby was the remains of an old bridge from the CCC days. Unlike the wheelhouse, this hasn't held up, so it's off limits now. I sure would love to have those old, weathered stones at my house!
Also on the grounds were a couple of big stone cook areas. One was a chimney pillar with four cooking grates near the ground.
And right next to it was a big single cooking area, big enough to cook a hog in.The nearby pavilion is closed to guests, though. I think it probably hasn't recovered from last fall's hurricane weather. What caught my eye, though, was the tree. Apparently they wanted to extend the pavilion but didn't want to cut down the tree. So they build around it!
There wasn't much else here today, so we got back in the car and drove a short distance to Fern Hammock Springs, where we parked the car and walked to the water. There are signs here warning about alligators, and sure enough, we saw one almost immediately, sitting at the mouth of a dark, dank path that led into the forest.
He was surprisingly undisturbed by us, as we stood on a bridge talking about him and taking pictures. This must happen a lot here! The bottom of the springs is the usual accumulation of mud and leaves, except where the spring water flows in. There the bottom has a deposit of white sand, which constantly bubbles as the cold water seeps upwards.
Besides alligators, there are a lot of turtles here. A big, bulky snapping turtle was sharing the water near the alligator. He was almost half the size if the gator, so he wasn't worried about becoming dinner.
The other turtles kept to an area a little further away. These common painted turtles were sunning themselves, and like the alligator, they ignored us.
That was fine with us; we were busy taking pictures of everything! Donna may have caught the camera bug; she was assuming the position of a dedicated photographer.And for a good cause - a lovely scene with an old bridge, white sand vents, and lush Florida jungle.