Reg Garner Photography St Johns River

The St. Johns River; from Lake Harney to the White-Haired Bridge

While visiting Historic Downtown Sanford, there’s so much to see and do along the St. Johns River.

At 310 miles long, the beautiful St. Johns River is the longest river in the State of Florida and winds through twelve counties. The St. Johns River is one of the very few rivers in North America that actually flows north, emptying into the Atlantic Ocean at Jacksonville, Florida.

Growing up in Sanford, Florida I learned to hunt, fish, and camp along this mighty river. As a young boy I remember catching fish with my grandfather at some of his “secret” fishing holes. When someone would ask my grandfather where he caught the “mess of fish” he would simply reply, “between Lake Harney and the White-Haired Bridge”. Most would just nod, as if they knew the exact spot. The two landmarks are 60 miles apart and my grandfather was not about to reveal his favorite fishing holes.

There are many wonderful and scenic places on the St. Johns near Sanford, many are even accessible by car. Blue Spring State Park is one of my favorites. During the winter months as many as 200 manatees are in the spring run because the spring fed waters at 72 degrees is warmer than the St. Johns. Seeing these gentle giants congregate in the crystal-clear spring water is truly a sight to behold. If you’re hungry afterwards, stop by the Swamp House Grill in Debary. The restaurant is on the second floor with a beautiful view of the St. Johns.

Photography by Reg Garner Photography

Not far from Blue Spring is the mouth of the Wekiva River. I have spent many hours here with my grandfather fishing in a small john boat. A great place for monster largemouth bass. The Wekiva is a popular place to canoe or kayak, from the St. Johns it runs 16 miles to the headwaters at Wekiva Springs State Park in Apopka where you can rent kayaks. With its canopied forest and dense jungle shoreline, it is not uncommon to see very large gators along the shore. You can also rent kayaks at Wekiva Island or launch your own at Katie’s Wekiva Landing just North of Hwy 46.

Photography by Reg Garner Photography

A couple of tributaries off of the Wekiva is Rock Springs Run and the Blackwater Creek. Both are a little more remote but with their pristine water and lush forests, very much worth the effort to explore.

Going East from Sanford are many other great places along the St. Johns River. Gator Landing is a local favorite for a burger and beer and sits right on the banks. There is usually live music too. Just down the river from Gator’s Landing is Mullet Lake Park. There is a boat ramp, picnic tables, and even a small campground. Perfect for a picnic lunch.

If you have a boat, go east from Mullet Lake Park to Deep Creek. Deep Creek is another local secret. The majestic cypress trees along this creek will set you in awe. A little further is Lake Harney where I commonly see flocks of White Pelicans. And, just beyond Lake Harney is another great lunch spot, the Jolly Gator.

Make Historic Downtown Sanford your homebase for this little adventure and you can’t go wrong! It will be a day you won’t soon forget.

And, along the way you’ve passed a few of my grandfather’s favorite fishing holes, but for now, those will remain secret.

 

Reg Garner

Reg Garner lives in Sanford, Florida where he was born. He spends a great of his time making landscape photographs along the lakes and rivers of Seminole County from his kayak, and promoting his hometown. You can see many of his images at Instagram.com/reg.garner

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