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Latest update: Jan. 2017

Dora Canal...

Scenic Florida Paddling through Old Cypress

The Dora Canal links Lake Eustis and Lake Dora, bordered by the towns of Eustis, Tavares and Mount Dora. Although short and often marred by heavy boat traffic ("No Wake Zone"), the majestic cypress and abundant wildlife make this a worthwhile scenic paddling trip in East-Central Florida. A couple of connecting canals and two lakes allow for added distance. The lakes are part of the Harris Chain of Lakes, nine lakes connected by streams and canals that extend north to the Ocklawaha River. Quaint old downtowns nearby have restaurants and shops. (Detailed map and photos below.)

paddle Dora Canal

Dora Canal Paddling Map


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Distance: 1.25 miles (plus other canals and lake shore)
Location: Lake County (Tavares)
Difficulty: Easy
Tidal: No
Launch points: Summerall Park (Tavares), Wooten Park (Tavares) (See map)
Nearby points of interest: Mt. Dora, Eustis, Tavares, Renninger's Antique Center

Rentals/Outfitters/Tours:

Adventure Outdoor Paddle (rentals, tours)

Central Florida Nature Adventures (tours)

Dora Canal... Comments and Photos

A downside to all the beauty of the canal is the boat traffic. This is the main connector between Lake Eustis and Lake Dora, and the quiet and serene surroundings are often interrupted by passing boats - it's best to keep close to the shoreline. This is a popular tourist destination, and several tours - large pontoon boats - run frequently on the canal.


Launching from Summerall Park

We like launching at Summerall Park in Tavares, which puts you right onto the canal vs. paddling on one of the lakes first. Note that the road to the boat launch is difficult to see. It is not at the main entrance into Summerall Park. Rather, it is a dirt road off Wells Ave. about 150 feet west of the main Park entrance, immediately next to Rose Avenue.


Lake Dora to SR 19 Bridge

The section between Lake Dora and the SR 19 bridge has many houses and motor homes lining the shore.


SR 19 Bridge to Lake Eustis

Past the SR 19 bridge toward Lake Eustis is a natural area, scenic and good for birdwatching.


Side Canals

A few side canals offer additional paddling and a respite from the boat traffic. We especially enjoyed the canal at the Lake County Blueways #4 marker. We paddled up a little over a half mile before it ends at a small residential community.We passed only one motorboat, heading home perhaps.


Lake Eustis

On Lake Eustis, we paddled a short distance to the public boat ramp on US Hwy 441. We would not recommend this ramp for paddlers - many motor boats launch here for fishing.


Launch on Lake Dora at Wooten Park in Tavares

Wooten Park is a good choice to launch if your preference is to return to a point closer to restaurants and downtown shops (this is Tavares, Mt. Dora is about 6 miles east). The grassy beach area is an easy hand launch. This is next to a seaplane base.


Wildlife

Many water birds along the shores, plus alligators, turtles, and otter, are great photography subjects.

About the Surrounding Area:

Lake Eustis is known for bass fishing and boating. Lake Dora is a pretty, shallow lake popular with boaters. Scenic tours are available. Dora Canal trivia: it's said that the canal was used to film some re-takes of river scenes originally filmed in Africa for the 1951 classic film African Queen.

Mount Dora is popular for its quaint Victorian atmosphere, restaurants, and antique shops; the historic Lakeside Inn (1883) is one of several lodging options. The town hosts many events, with the annual Mount Dora Art Festival ranked among the best in the country. At an elevation of 184 feet above sea level - a Central Florida highpoint - the "I climbed Mt. Dora" bumper stickers have become a popular inside joke.

Nearby Eustis ("America's Hometown") and Tavares ("America's Seaplane City") also sport a hometown-Florida atmosphere with quaint downtowns and a variety of activities scheduled throughout the year.

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