October 14, 2015 – O’Leno State Park, High Springs, Florida

There are several things of interest about O’Leno State Park.

The town of Keno was on this site in the mid 1800s.  There were several mills along the river.  It was called Keno, after the gambling game popular here.  They changed the name to Leno to be more respectable.  The railroad bypassed Leno in the 1890s and the town died.  The state bought the property in 1935 and it became one the first Florida state parks.

The Civilian Conservation Corps built a lot of the infrastructure here in the 1930s, including this fabulous pavilion and the suspension bridge.

ba CCC Pavilion

The Santa Fe River drops underground here, into a sink hole.  It re-emerges three miles downstream at River Rise. This morning, we walked the path along the river, then crossed the three-mile-wide land bridge and came back up the far side.

This set of steps led down to the riverbank so I went down to that cypress tree at the bottom and took a picture back up the river.

b Steps Down to River

b Looking Upstream to Bridge

In another spot we saw this tree growing horizontally out of the bank and hanging over the river. My picture does not quite capture it.

b Horizontal Tree Over River

This fine crop of mushrooms was growing on a stump in the path.

b Mushrooms on Stump

At one point along the trail, there is an observation deck where you can clearly see the end of the river. It doesn’t look so impressive; it looks like a pond.  But, as we watched, we realized that the green algae and the debris in it was slowly spinning counterclockwise around that clear spot. Just like water going down the bathtub drain, but slower. On second though, it only looks slower.  The sign says that 900 million gallons of water flow down the Santa Fe Sink every day. That’s a lot of water!

b Santa Fe River Sink




Zooming in with my camera, I could see dozens of large turtles riding in lazy circles on the logs.

b Logs and Turtles Spinning Around

b Turtles on Log

There was also a tire with a plant growing in it and a number of beer cans drifting around too.

b Plant Growing in Floating Tire

The front clear spot was the center of the circulation and, I suppose is right over the “drain”.

b Clear Water Over River Sink

When we were here in 2012, the water level must have been different and maybe there was no algae or debris, because we do not recall seeing the rotation in the water.  Actually, Andy doesn’t recall much about it at all.  But, I was not on morphine and oxycodone and I don’t remember seeing it.

Past the end of the river, we saw two more sink holes.  The end of the river is in the far background in this picture.  The next two green ponds are in the foreground.  They are all connected.  The ponds in the park all follow the water level of the river.

b Sink Holes Beyond River Sink

I walked under this Golden Orb Weaver’s web, narrowly missing it with my head.  I was a little creeped-out when Andy told me to turn around and look.  She is a big one.

b Golden Orb Weaver

We approached the Civilian Conservation Corps suspension bridge from the far side of the river.

b Approaching Suspension Bridge

And started across, when the drama of the day unfolded.

b a Suspension Bridge from Far Shore

There was a skink on the bridge railing with something in its mouth. Look at that brilliant blue tail!

b Blue Skink Tail

It hurried on ahead of us for a while and then stopped for me to take some pictures. That was a big ole hairy spider in its mouth,.

b Skink Holding Spider by Legs

It sat there for a while after each time it swallowed a bit more spider.

b Skink with Spider

When the spider was all the way in, the skink just sat there on its belly. I can’t decide if that is an expression of satisfaction or an “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing” expression.

b Skink with Full Belly

I made a chicken pot pie for lunch.  It was delicious, but the not the best choice under the circumstances.  It was a hot day, so I turned on the air conditioning.  When I turned on the oven, the air conditioning would cut off. Then it occurred to us that we only have 30 amps in this campsite, not enough to run the air conditioner and the oven at the same time.

I bought an oven thermometer a few days back and have discovered why my cakes and cookies haven’t been turning out well the past few months. I had to set the oven to 450 degrees to get to 350 degrees.  I’ll have to follow up with GE about that.

After lunch we drove down the highway to the River Rise Park to see where the Santa Fe River comes back out of the ground.  Helga, the bitch, GPS led us astray and we went down a private drive with a No Trespassing sign.  When we got to the right place, there was no sign telling us where to find the river or how far away it was. We could not make heads or tails out of this sign.

b Trail Sign

We started walking down the  one-lane dirt road since it was the only thing that looked like a trail.  After about a mile, Andy said he was worried about our car being left alone. After two or three comments, I said we cold turn around whenever he was ready.  He was ready.

When we got back to O’Leno, I asked the park employee at the entrance gate about it.  He said we were in the right place, but we should have come there to get permission first.  I saw from the picture above that it does say that in the lower right hand corner.  Then he said it was a long way and the mosquitoes would eat us alive.  I asked what it looked like he said, not much, just a pond.  Worth the walk? No. Well, we got two more miles in today anyway. That made 4.8 miles on the pedometer for the day.

One thought on “October 14, 2015 – O’Leno State Park, High Springs, Florida

  1. Neil Jordan October 15, 2015 / 5:11 am

    The end of the river would approximate a submerged morning glory spillway. Think of a circular weir. See PDF P. 32

    Click to access 100-c.pdf

    A quick read noted one of the references was dated 1888. That is pretty new. Most of the domestic weir work was done by Francis in 1852, published in 1883.


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