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Trip report: October 2013

DeLeon Springs...

Kayaking at Historic Attraction, now Florida State Park

DeLeon Spring, pouring out 19 million gallons of water per day, forms the headwaters for Spring Garden Lake and Spring Garden Creek, which flows 10 miles to the St. Johns River. Launch at Ponce DeLeon Springs State Park and paddle the four-mile trail (one-way) along Spring Garden Creek to Lake Woodruff and Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge with its 18,000+ acres of lakes, creeks, and marshes. Or, simply do as most visitors do and casually paddle the shoreline areas near the Spring. (Detailed map and photos below.)

paddle deleon springs

Distance: Varies, 4 miles to Lake Woodruff, 10 miles to the St. Johns River
Location: Volusia County (DeLeon Springs)
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Tidal: No
Launch points: DeLeon Springs State Park (See map)
Nearby points of interest: New Smyrna Beach, Daytona Beach


DeLeon Springs State Park (rentals, at park concession)

Support and Advocacy:

Friends of DeLeon Springs State Park

DeLeon Springs... Comments and Photos

The water is clear coming from the spring but soon darkens with much vegetation. Some shade along the shoreline, but this is a sunny ride with very few places to pull off to stretch or snack. During low water, may be necessary to navigate around shallow sections in Spring Garden Creek. Wildlife include alligators, manatee (in season), otters, deer, eagles and over 125 species of birds.

Launch and Paddling at DeLeon Springs Basin

We launched at the park, easy on and off but we had to push through water lilies to the basin. The eco-tour boat leaves from here as well. We paddled around the basin, then out to the top of Spring Garden Lake.

Paddling on Spring Garden Lake and Creek

We paddled around Spring Garden Lake and up the Creek toward Lake Woodruff, the total is around 4 miles. Not much wildlife on this trip, some birds but no gators. We saw a few pontoon boats and the tour boat. The south shore borders Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge.

Paddling on Spring Garden Lake

Paddling on Spring Garden Creek

DeLeon Springs State Park

The 72 degree DeLeon Springs swimming area is next to the Visitor Center. The spring depth ranges from 3 to 30 feet, there are no lifeguards. Admission fee. The Park has restrooms, parking and facilities, a nature trail, picnicking, playground, fishing. At The Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant, guests make their own pancakes at their table. Canoe, kayak and paddleboat rentals are available for paddling at the spring and spring run, and an Eco/History Boat Tour runs up Spring Garden Creek. Snorkeling is allowed in the swimming area, no diving except for instructional diving with a certified instructor. Legend also tells of a "swamp ape" in the park, a sculpture welcomes visitors.


The spring was known to Native Americans as long as 6,000 years ago, then in the early 1800s sugar and cotton plantations were built. Later, the springs became a winter resort -- the park was renamed from Spring Garden to Ponce DeLeon promoting the "Fountain of Youth." This was one of the major roadside attractions in 1930's Florida featuring waterskiing, trapeze artists and a jungle cruise among other oddities.

Paddle DeLeon Springs


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