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Latest update: Jan. 2017

Dora Canal... Scenic Paddling in Old Cypress

The Dora Canal links Lake Eustis and Lake Dora, bordered by the towns of Eustis, Tavares and Mount Dora. Although short and marred by heavy boat traffic, the majestic cypress and abundant wildlife west of SR 19 make this a worthwhile scenic paddling trip in East-Central Florida. 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.)

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Dora Canal Paddling Map


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Distance: 1.25 miles
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 - including 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 canal

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 residential community. We turned around and back to Dora Canal, passing just a few residents boating home.


Lake Eustis

On Lake Eustis we paddled to the public boat ramp, along US441. This is not recommended for paddlers - many big boats launch at the ramp for fishing.


Launching on Lake Dora at Wooten Park (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 beach area is best for launching. This is also the 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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