Last week, I spent a few hours exploring several well-off-the-beaten-path state parks along the Suwannee River. First stop: Troy Springs State Park, between Branford and Mayo off US 27. Since my last visit two years ago, they’ve added a 1/2 mile nature trail and a dock along the river, as well as picnic tables with special benches on which divers can set their tanks and hang their gear. While the focus of this park has always been diving, it’s nice to see cabins and a campground are in the works. Even on a Monday, visitors were splashing around in the spring, snorkeling in the cool water, chasing turtles. The dogwoods in full bloom framed a lovely scene of the Suwannee River.
From Mayo, I crossed the river for a fresh look at Peacock Springs State Park. I’d read they were working on a new interpretive trail that traced the underwater passages with hiking trails aboveground, but beyond the fabulous trailhead kiosk details, I couldn’t find much of a trail. Lots of small footpaths connect the sinks, and the water is unusually low between Peacock Springs and its outflow, so I could hop from rock to rock to check out some of the largest cypress knees I’ve encountered yet. One was up to my nose, and I’m 5′6″ !
Finally, I took the road less traveled to discover Lafayette Blue Springs State Park northwest of Mayo. It’s a gorgeous little park with primitive campground, picnicking and swimming, and a series of intensely deep and jagged sinkholes where the spring run sinks and rises on its way to the Suwannee. A beaten path, not quite a marked trail, circles around the most precipitous of the sinks.
The rangers tipped me off to the adjoining Allen Pond Tract, which will soon become part of the state park, and will have a connecting hiking trail between. At the old mill pond, the remains of the pioneer-era mill are strewn among rocks and rapids, and the cypress knees beneath the ancient trees form forests of their own. I look forward to returning to find the spring, which was described to me as “like stepping into the Amazon.”