On this trip to beautiful Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, which lies approximately 16 miles south of Tallahassee, heavy rains had been in the area for much of the morning before abating shortly after noon. Upon arriving at the park, it was apparent that the rain had had an effect on the spring as the water was not as clear as usual, but that didn’t slow down the swimmers diving from the two-story platform near the main spring.
Fortunately, the river boat cruises, the main reason for this trip, were running. After paying the $8 fee for a boat ticket there was still a few minutes til launch so we spent some time exploring the historic Wakulla Lodge a short distance away.
The Wakulla Lodge was completed in 1937 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It consists of a combination of a slate and steel roof, “heart” cypress, marble and walnut interior and is maintained in its original state. Guests of the lodge won’t find the modern conveniences of a television in their room in order to preserve the peaceful atmosphere that the builder, Edward Ball, so cherished.
As time for the river boat cruise approached we headed back to the dock and boarded the “Alligator,” one of the park’s two electric boats and piloted by Captain Rich Robenhorst. He explained that the park eventually plans to upgrade all of its fleet to electric motors. Once everyone was onboard, the boat glided silently away from the dock and out onto the headwaters of the Wakulla River for a three mile cruise.
There is no shortage of interesting wildlife on the Wakulla River. The captain pointed out Ibis, Grebes, Snowy egrets, herons, Common moorhens as well as numerous alligators, manatees and turtles on the forty minute cruise. Whenever our group happened upon a a particularly interesting sight, the captain would carefully maneuver the boat so that visitors on both sides of the boat had an opportunity to view it.
As the cruise continued Captain Robenhorst told everyone about the history of the area and named off several movies that were filmed there including “The Creature From the Black Lagoon,” “Tarzan,” and “Airport 77.” He also answered questions about the different animals and identified several bird calls for the group.
Sadly the cruise came to an end, but there were still other activities to be had in the park ranging from swimming, picnicking or hiking on the 6 miles of multi-purpose trails. Due to the heat of the day we opted to head back to the air-conditioned lodge and read the albums of old newspaper clippings chronicling the park’s rich history and to take photos of the intricate art on the ceilings of the main room.
It should be noted that kayaking and canoeing on the upper Wakulla is prohibited, therefore the river boat cruise is the only option available at the park. Paddlers wishing to kayak on the lower Wakulla should visit nearby St. Marks for paddling alternatives.
Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park is located at 550 Wakulla Park Drive. For more information please visit the Florida State Parks website. While in the area be sure to check out nearby Leon Sinks Geological Area and Ochlockonee State Park.