Spring Flowers and the Suwannee River

It’s been two years since our last visit to Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Springs. During that stay we did a lot of exploring around the park, the town of White Springs, and nearby Big Shoals State Park. I posted about those adventures at  Way Down upon the Suwannee River.

We returned to the park this February. The carillon tower is a focal point in the park and one of my favorite things about being there is hearing the the bells from the carillon chime on the quarter hour and hearing Stephen Foster’s music throughout the day.  Unfortunately, the carillon wasn’t working this year.

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The carillon at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center

We didn’t visit the museum on this trip but there are interesting exhibits about Stephen Foster and his many songs.

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Stephen Foster Museum

Even though it was only February there were some beautiful spring blooms. Gotta love Florida!

One day we took a drive to Suwanee River State Park near Live Oak to check it out. High on the banks above the Suwanee River, we enjoyed a walk on an easy trail to the confluence of the Suwanee and Withlacoochee Rivers. Beside the trail were relics from riverboats that once traveled up and down the river.

We enjoyed wonderful views from an overlook at the confluence of the two rivers.

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Confluence of Suwanee and Withlacoochee Rivers
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Bridges over the Suwanee River
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Withlacoochee River

After our walk we sat on a wooden swing overlooking the Suwanee River enjoying a picnic lunch. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Historic Silver Springs

Tourists have been traveling to Silver Springs to see the crystal clear water since the early 1800’s. One of Florida’s first tourist attractions, the first glass bottom boat tours began in the late 1870’s. During the 1900’s the attraction grew to include a jungle cruise and animal exhibits.

Silver Springs was a popular filming location for Hollywood during the 1900’s. Some of the films shot there include several Tarzan movies with Johnny Weissmuller, the 1954 version of Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Moonraker (a James Bond movie). It was also a location for the TV series Sea Hunt. Some of the sets still exist around the property.

In 1971, Silver Springs was named a National Natural Landmark. Today, Silver Springs State Park is owned and operated by the state of Florida. The state operates the famous glass bottom boats now but there are no more jungle cruises. Visitors can walk beside the springs or sit in one of the rocking chairs to enjoy the view. There are boardwalks and trails as well as a boat launch area with canoe and kayak rentals.

This is one of our favorite Florida state parks and we wanted to spend a few days there to unwind after the excitement of the Daytona 500. We were able to reserve our favorite campsite and I was glad to see it hadn’t change much. There was gopher tortoise hole right next to the campsite just like I remembered and the resident tortoise paid us a visit our first night.

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Gopher Tortoise by our campsite at Silver Springs State Park

One day we drove over to the main entrance of the park for a ride on one of the famous glass bottom boats. Captain Oscar has been working at Silver Springs since the early 1960’s and had lots of interesting stories about the park.

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Entering Florida’s Silver Springs park
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Glass bottom boat at Silver Springs
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Captain Oscar has been working at Silver Springs since the early 1960’s

After the boat tour we wandered around the path next to the springs before taking a walk on the boardwalk trail.

Another day we rented a kayak for a beautiful paddle on the Silver River.

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Kayaking the Silver River at Silver Springs
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Although there are no more jungle cruises, this fort built for the attraction is still standing
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Quiet and peaceful along the Silver River

I felt like I was in one of the old Tarzan movies as I walked along the river trail near the campground.

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Back in the 1930s during the day of the Jungle Cruise boat ride, the operator of the ride brought in a group of wild rhesus monkeys to use as part of the attraction. Not knowing they could swim, he left them on one of the islands beside the Silver River. When he later returned to the island he was surprised to see they were gone. The monkeys are still living in the area and are often seen by visitors.

Although we didn’t see any of the monkeys on this visit, we saw many of them when we kayaked down the Silver River in 2009.

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Wild Rhesus Monkey along the Silver River in 2009
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We spotted this baby Rhesus Monkey beside the river in 2009. He must be all grown up now.

The monkeys can be very aggressive at times. All around the park are signs warning about the danger of feeding the monkeys. Now where else in the United States would you see a sign like this?

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Monkeys in Florida?

 

The Land of Trembling Earth

Okefenokee – “the Land of Trembling Earth”

What better way to begin our winter southern adventure than a stop in one of our favorite state parks, Stephen C. Foster State Park in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

Much of the swamp is covered with thick peat deposits. The early Native Americans named the area Okefenokee which means “land of trembling earth” because  they felt the movement of the peat beneath their feet as they walked.

There were deer in the campground every day. One day we took a walk on the boardwalk nature trail near the marina and watched an egret searching for food.

The Okefenokee Swamp is one of North America’s most unspoiled natural wilderness areas. According to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge web page, “the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge has 353,981 acres of National Wilderness Area within the refuge boundaries.

We always enjoy going out in a boat to explore the swamp. On our last visit we enjoyed our ranger guided boat tour so much we decided to go on another tour. While waiting for the tour to begin we wandered around the boat ramp and discovered Mama gator Sophie lounging by the ramp with some of her babies hanging out nearby.

As we rode through the man made canal into the swamp we spied more young gators on the bank enjoying the warm day.

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Young alligators on the bank

A large gator checked us out as we exited the canal into the swamp.

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Alligator in the Okefenokee

After a few days of cloudy skies and chilly days the sun was starting to warm things up. The warmer weather brought out plenty of  wildlife.

The water winds through ancient cypress trees and water lilies.

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Beautiful day in the Okefenokee
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Cypress Trees in the Okefenokee

 

 

Going Down into Tallulah Gorge

We were warned!

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We were warned!

We went anyway.

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Going down was the easy part

But only as far as the suspension bridge 80 feet above Hurricane Falls.

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Suspension Bridge over Tallulah Gorge Hurricane Falls
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Henry crossed to the other side of the gorge

With my fear of heights I could only go a few feet on the bridge. I did manage to see the top of Hurricane Falls.

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View of Tallulah Gorge from the suspension bridge
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Looking down on Hurricane Falls from the suspension bridge

I handed Henry the camera for some better pictures.

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Looking down on Hurricane Falls from the suspension bridge
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Looking down on Hurricane Falls from the suspension bridge

I took a picture of the falls from the stairs.

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A view of the top of Hurricane Falls from the stairs

And one of Henry looking down from the bridge.

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Henry on the suspension bridge above Hurricane Falls

We posed for a selfie before starting back up to the top.

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We were smiling before we started back up the stairs to the top
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It’s time to go back up the 310 stairs

We made it back to the top after stopping at a few landings and resting on every bench.

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I was finally able to capture some fall colors on top of the trail

Younger, braver, and more fit people can cross the bridge to the other side and go down 221 more stairs for a view of Hurricane Falls from the bottom. There is also access to the south rim trail on the other side of the bridge. For us, we are glad we made down and back all in one piece!

Hiking and Waterfalls at Tallulah Gorge

The almost 1,000 foot deep Tallulah Gorge is a spectacular place in the Georgia mountains for hiking and seeing waterfalls.  The hiking trails range from easily accessible rim trails with overlooks of the gorge to a strenuous hike to the gorge floor requiring a permit. After entering the state park we went straight to the Visitor’s Center for a trail map before beginning our trek on the North Rim trail. We stopped at two overlooks with views of the gorge.

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Looking down at the suspension bridge above Hurricane Falls
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An overlook on the south rim trail on the other side of Tallulah Gorge

On July 18, 1970, tightrope walker Karl Wallenda walked across the gorge from this overlook on the north rim to the south rim.

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Tightrope walker Karl Wallenda walked a tightrope across the gorge
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Wallenda Tower used by Karl Wallenda in his tightrope walk across the gorge in 1970
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The Tallulah river at the bottom of Tallulah Gorge
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View from one of the North Rim overlooks at Tallulah Gorge State Park

Inspiration Point is the highest point in the park and the trail to get there was was a quarter mile uphill hike. When we got to the top we were happy we decided to do the trail.

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On the trail to Inspiration Point
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One of the waterfalls as seen from Inspiration Point
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View from Inspiration Point
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View from Inspiration Point

The good news was it was downhill to return to the North Rim Trail from Inspiration Point. With more waterfalls to see we continued along the north rim to two more overlooks.

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L’Eau d’Or Falls in Tallulah Gorge
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L’Eau d’Or Falls in Tallulah Gorge

It was way past lunchtime by then so our last adventure at Tallulah Gorge would have to wait until the next morning. It was time to head back to Dillard for some delicious southern cooking at the Dillard House.

After our late lunch we were done for the day.  Stay tuned for our final adventure at Tallulah Gorge.