Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Three Campsites

Carole and I love Florida parks. Everywhere we stay the facilities are generally excellent and most often superlative. There are few state parks or National Forest campgrounds anywhere we've stayed that even come close to the parks and forest campgrounds in Florida.

On this trip, we used three different campgrounds. Our first two nights were spent at the Salt Spring Recreation Area Campground which is a National Forest site. The US government bought it from private concerns in the 1970s and ever since it has been a Federal area. Because it was originally in private hands and was a commercial campground, it has one thing at every site that few other Forest Service campgrounds can boast: sewer hookups for travel trailers. This was the only public campground where we've stayed that had this option. It was nice to not have to pull up to a dump station and wait in line to dump the gray and black water tanks.

Our campsite at Salt Springs.

After the second night we moved on down to our primary destination, the Fort DeSoto Park in Pinellas County in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area. We'd found this park by accident on a joy-ride while visiting central Florida several years before. Back then we were floored by the park and thought that it was one of the most beautiful beach state parks we'd ever seen. It was (and remains) one of the most beautiful oceanfront public parks we've ever visited, but we were wrong about one thing:

It isn't a state park. It's a county park! Pinellas County has, in Fort DeSoto Park, one of the greatest county parks I've ever heard of. The place is pretty big (over 3K acres) and it's hard to believe that you're so close to such a huge urban area. The beach and forest areas are pristine, packed with wildlife, and there is so much to do that the idea of leaving the island seems to constantly be a bad one. At the risk of making the place more popular than it should be, I have to say that it's one of the finest parks we've ever visited. I can't say enough good things about it.

Campsite at Fort DeSoto Park, front view.

Casita and stuff as we were unpacking. (The accordion contraption is a clothesline for drying clothes.)

Rear view of the campsite at Fort DeSoto. The sites are really big to accommodate the enormous rigs rich folk have.

This was the view we had from our site, looking out into the bay.

One of the many, many, many bird visitors we had at our campsite at Fort DeSoto. They would generally arrive in larger numbers at low tide, as this ibis did.

After our five-night stay at Fort DeSoto we pulled up stakes and headed for O'Leno State Park. We chose this one not because of the park environs, but because it's so near Ichetucknee Springs State Park which was our main destination for the last two days of our vacation. Once more, we were rewarded by fine facilities in Florida State Parks. The site was spacious, shady, and had water/electric hookups. And we had only a nine-mile drive to the Ichetucknee Springs and River complex where we wanted to spend most of our time.

That said, O'Leno is a good destination in and of itself. The park is beautiful, has a lot to offer in the way of swimming, canoeing, fishing, hiking, photography, and history.

Just after our arrival at O'Leno State Park.

After a day of swimming at Ichetucknee Springs.

Brief video of part of our fantastic kayak ride down the deserted Ichetucknee River.


John said...

Enjoy while you can. There is a serious effort afoot to build golf courses in some of the state parks.


HemlockMan said...

Someone should kick the Golden Bear squarely in the nuts.

HemlockMan said...

Time to kick the Golden Bear in his gonads.