Looking to get out, away from the crowds, and soak up some of Florida’s natural beauty? O’Leno State Park and the nearby River Rise Preserve offer hiking, biking, paddling, fishing, sinkholes, and even an underground river!
O’Leno State Park has the distinction of being one of Florida’s first state parks, developed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The park is located along the banks of the Santa Fe River, about 45 minutes west of our north Florida inn, Hampton Lake Bed and Breakfast.
Interestingly, the Santa Fe River disappears underground into the Bellamy Cave system as it passes through the park. The river flows through limestone passages, some 140 feet below ground, before reemerging three miles away in River Rise Preserve State Park.
The River Sink, where the Santa Fe disappears below ground, is located about a half mile downstream from O’Leno State Park’s main parking area. When river levels are low, the sink resembles a simple pond. When water levels are high, however, the sink swirls down and around in a counter clockwise direction.
Things To Do at O’Leno and River Rise
Whether you’re looking for a invigorating workout or pleasant relaxation, O’Leno State Park can provide.
Looking to hike or bike? The park offers more than 20 miles of shaded and well-maintained trails that connect to the River Rise Preserve.
The River Trail (1.5 mi/2.4 km) may be the most popular. It passes over the historic wooden suspension bridge built in the 1930s by the CCC and through a number of diverse habitats before leading to the fascinating River Sink.
Other trails in the park explore sinkhole ponds, an abandoned limerock quarry, and reveal both extensive wildlife and a variety of natural habitats. Deer, alligators, turtles, wading birds, and numerous endangered species, such as the gopher frog and sand skink, make their home here.
Prefer to do some fishing or paddling? The Santa Fe River is perfect for both. The river is home to Suwannee bass (Micropterus notius), which rarely exceed three pounds but are lots of fun to catch. Fishing is generally better downstream from the Sante Fe River Rise and during the cooler months.
For those who’d much rather just sit back and soak up the beautiful, Sante Fe River ambience, there are cozy pavilions here and there along the river’s edge.
O’Leno State Park & River Rise Preserve
O’Leno State Park is located at 410 SE O’Leno Park Road, High Springs FL 32643. Learn more at www.floridastateparks.org.
River Rise Preserve State Park can be found at 373 Southwest US Highway 27, Fort White FL 32643. This park can also be found online at www.floridastateparks.org.