Swimming with Alligators is not Allowed at Juniper Springs

First of all, alligators are spread all over Florida as well as nine other US states - from Texas all the way up to North Carolina. Alligat...

First of all, alligators are spread all over Florida as well as nine other US states - from Texas all the way up to North Carolina. Alligators are pretty peaceful creatures and usually avoid people encounter, however before swimming in a river or a freshwater lake, it doesn't hurt to check surroundings to make sure there is no alligator nearby. Not only can it save your life, but help keep a poor fellow gator out of trouble. Although alligators naturally live at beautiful Juniper Springs Recreation Area in Central Florida, there has not been any problems with them in a pool where swimming is allowed.

Unexpectedly, Juniper Springs was one of the best experiences in our recent trip to Florida. We stayed at Ocala, FL with a plan to swim with manatees in Crystal River, but this changed in the last minute, so I had to google up an alternative plan. Luckily, Juniper Springs were only 30 minute drive from Ocala and the park was not crowded at all despite the fact that half of Canadians and quarter of Americans poor into Florida each year during winter holidays. 
The highlight of the park is its natural thermal springs that gush out year around with a constant water temperature of 72 F / 22 C.
13 million gallons / 50 million litres of water flow daily from Juniper and nearby Fern Hammock springs. That's enough water to fill up 20 Olympic-size pools! 
The white area is where the springs water is coming from.
Water is crystal clear, so it's perfect for snorkelling. Different species of fish also live there, so it's quite fun to explore the pool underwater.
The park is one of the oldest recreation areas in the whole US East Coast. It was established in 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) - a squad of workers created by the government to fight the Great Depression while making parks across the US more accessible for people. A beautiful vintage mill house that used to generate electricity is a reminder of that era.
The best way to explore the park is by kayak or canoe. I was told by a park ranger that a 7-mile run along the Juniper Springs Creek can be quite challenging and is not for novice kayakers / canoers. Unfortunately, we didn't try it this time as it takes 3 to 5 hours to complete the trip one-way (a shuttle will take you back to the parking lot and carry the equipment) and it was already too late to start it. But it's definitely in my do-to list for the next time. On the picture below - the kayak / canoe launch platform. You can't go there without a ranger as a mother-bear lives nearby and she can be very dangerous trying to protect her cubs.
Juniper Springs Recreation Area has a campground which makes it easier to explore the park. Each campsite has a food hanger.
Despite its small size, you can actually see a lot of wildlife and enjoy shady canopy of cypress, palm and oak trees.
There are dozens of smaller springs here and there.
If you're lucky, you can see turtles and even alligators at Fern Hammock Springs where a short hiking trail takes you. 
Alligator is hiding under a tree log. So this is where you aren't supposed to swim.
I loved this place as it's very secluded and picturesque. This is real Florida.

When to go
You can visit the park any time of the year. Air temperatures in winter are cooler, but probably more comfortable for hiking and kayaking / canoeing. Water temperature at Juniper Springs is constant year around - 72 F / 22 C.

Juniper Springs Recreation Area is located 27 miles / 44 km east of Ocala, FL on the Florida Route 40. If you visit Orlando, it's only about 1 hour 15 minutes drive north from there, so be sure to check it out while jumping between Disney World or Universal amusement parks.

GPS coordinates of the Visitor Center:
29.1826° N, 81.7110° W

Additional Information
For additional information visit the US Forest Service's official website.

My other posts from the road trip to Florida

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