De Leon Springs state recreation area – just off Highway 17 north of Deland, Florida – is the perfect place for a lazy paddle through native Florida. We recently spent a pleasant day enjoying the sights and sounds along the creek. Although we brought our own kayaks, the park offers kayak, canoe and paddleboat rentals on site. You can rent by the hour, half-day or day.
Before you begin your adventure, stop by the Old Spanish Sugar Mill restaurant for a meal of pancakes made with stone ground flour that you cook on the griddle built into each table. If you go on a weekend, you may want to get there early (weekend hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) so you aren’t delayed waiting for a table.
Launch your kayak from the boat ramp across the creek from the restaurant. Just outside the main spring area you will pass a small fish camp which is the last structure you’ll see until you return. The creek runs through the Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge from the spring to the lake. Initially you’ll enjoy broad marshes full of birds which later changes to hammocks of oak and cypress. We enjoyed watching several osprey hunting the creek – with little concern about our presence. There were all kinds of birds – great white egrets, blue herons, Louisiana herons, coots, mallards and anhingas. I heard, but didn’t see, at least one kingfisher.
We had not looked at the park map before heading out on this paddle so we weren’t aware that we were one bend short of Lake Woodruff when we decided to turn around. The weather influenced our decision – a seabreeze front was trying to form on top of us and there is no cover except back at the park. We chose to head back before the storm.
Our day on the creek was a relaxing paddle and a delightful trip into Florida’s natural beauty. I highly recommend the trip, but suggest choosing a week day. Weekends are very busy at these popular parks.