A little history on Mr. Edward Ball....
Favorite thing: Wakulla Springs exists in its pristine state today quite possibly due to the stewardship and care of Mr. Ed Ball. Before bequeathing the Springs area to the state of Florida upon his death, Wakulla Springs was part of Mr. Ball's private north Florida real estate holdings...
A little history on this extraordinary guy, the recipient of a coveted "Great Floridian" designation during his lifetime.
Edward Ball was born in 1888 inNorthumberland County, Virginia, and came to Florida in the 1920s after being asked by his brother-in-law, Alfred I. duPont, to assist with his Florida business interests. Ball tripled duPont’s holdings, investing in real estate and banking. When the State of Florida was having revenue difficulty, Ball prepaid the taxes on the duPont estate in order to assist the state. After duPont’s death in 1935, Ball acquired more than a million acres of Florida land, as well as a major interest in the Florida National Bank, which he used as basis for the Florida National Group, one of the most successful banking ventures in the state.
Ball also established the Ed Ball Wildlife Foundation, a perpetual trust with sanctuaries in seven locations across Florida. He bequeathed much of his estate to the Nemours Foundation established by Alfred duPont, which operates the Nemours Children’s Clinic in Jacksonville. The Wakulla Springs Lodge and wildlife sanctuary area was turned over to the state of Florida upon Mr. Ball's death in 1981.
Fondest memory: During his lifetime, Mr. Ball had many legal run-ins with local environment activists who objected to his closing of the Wakulla River area to the general public. My only comment is this.... there are parts of the state of Florida that were open to the general public, and there are also parts that were closed, such as Wakulla Springs. To this day, Wakulla Springs remains pristine and natural, a true natural treasure. That's my comment. :)
When you visit Wakulla Springs, remember you have this extraordinary "Great Floridian", Mr. Ed Ball, to thank for its preservation.
Favorite thing: Be sure to bring your polarizers...both for the camera and your sunglasses. On a bright and sunny day, the crystal-clear springs waters look so much nicer when you remove the glare via polarization.
Get a good look and a good picture. POLARIZE.
Take a hike
Favorite thing: There are many hiking trails in and around Wakulla Springs. All are enjoyable and most will lead to an opportunity to share in the Springs' plethora of animal and plant life. In some cases, you might want to keep your eyes open at water's edge.... remember that photograph of the huge alligators.
Here is a photo of my wife and daughter walking the Sally Ward Trail. It is named so because it leads to the smaller Sally Ward Springs headwater....always a good place to find an alligator.
Learn to play checkers
Favorite thing: Wakulla Springs harkens back to a simpler time, an age with no TV, video games and such.
Back in those days, it wasn't unusual for visitors to the lodge to engage in a friendly game of checkers in the hotel lobby, while waiting for the chicken to be fried in the dining hall.
Doesn't it sound restful? And in some ways, it's in perfect step with what we all do here on VT. We get to know fellow travellers. Can you imagine a better way to meet someone than to play checkers for half an hour? Me neither. : )
Look who might be swimming with you...
Favorite thing: This is actually a warning tip, but it's more apt to be enjoyed and read here, at least in my opinion...
If you've read my critters travelogue, you know that there are plenty of alligators in and around Wakulla Springs. Here's great photographic evidence.
In the photo accompanying this tip, we see some huge alligators, joined for dining by their friends the vultures. Hopefully, they were hanging around waiting for a deer or wild pig feast, and not a fresh swimmer.
Just for the record, the "swim area" at Wakulla is about 250 meters away from where this picture was taken. Just something to think about.
Although it sounds scary, to my knowledge, NOBODY has EVER been attacked by a gator when they remained in the roped-off "swim area". Outside this area, however....swimmers have been attacked and killed. About ten years ago, some idiot decided to swim at a point about 800 meters away from the "civilized" part of the springs. He was attacked by an alligator of some 13 feet in length. His body was recovered minus his head.
....better stay in the swim area.
Historic and pleasing UP and DOWNs at the Lodge
Favorite thing: As mentioned in the previous tip, the Wakulla Springs Lodge still has its historic two-floor elevator, originally installed in the late 1930s. I remember this kind of old elevator, the ones that had the sliding cage doors. (Yes, like the one in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show")
The old lift at Wakulla is well maintained and is now self-service. (Remember the days when "elevator operator" was a job?) But, the historic look and charm remains.
Check out some of the history at the Lodge
Favorite thing: The Wakulla Springs Lodge is a step back into time. And although much of the abode has been updated, there are many gentle reminders of a time long past but not yet forgotten.
In the accompanying photo, my wife and daughter are riding the old-fashioned elevator at the lodge. Note the lovely inlaid wood within the elevator itself.
As is said, they don't make them like that anymore.
The Creature from the Black Lagoon
Favorite thing: As mentioned in another tip, Wakulla Springs has played host to Hollywood on numerous occasions. The crystal-clear spring waters are excellent for underwater scenes, and the thick and swampy terrain around the springs make a great faux jungle.
One movie that was made at Wakulla Springs is the campy classic "The Creature from the Black Lagoon". The actual "creature" was played by a local resident, a chap who was a very good swimmer. He eventually worked as a ranger at Wakulla Springs and later worked for the state park service in several capacities.
Cool Dips at Wakulla Springs..2 different kinds!
Favorite thing: Although the 68 degree year-round water temperature can, at times, seem a little cool, Wakulla Springs is a great place to cool off during the hot Florida summer. The swimming area is clearly delineated, and you'd best stay within bounds. There ARE alligators out there. There aren't actually any lifeguards on duty, but the park rangers jokingly say "lifeguards are on duty to insure that swimmers remain in their proper location. Most of them are 6-12 feet long".
Fondest memory: OK, I DID say there were two kinds of cool dip in this tip, so read on....
Memory one....on our last Wakulla Springs visit, we did (as usual) the jungle cruise. As we motored past the dive tower, the kids lined up to dive began putting on a show for the tourists.
And the other cold dip?? Up at the lodge, there is a gift shop where they serve up old fashioned ice cream cones. Nothing beats a scoop of creamy vanilla for cooling off after an afternoon stroll along the waterfront.
- National/State Park
Wakulla Springs is definitely for the birds
Favorite thing: One of our favorite things about Wakulla Springs is the diversity of birdlife in the general area. It's truly a sanctuary for both birds and bird-watchers.
Fondest memory: On a simple walk just to the outer edges of the parking area, we logged over 40 species of birds. This occured in a little less than one hour's time.
In addition to numerous resident and native birds, there are always migratory visitors passing through. Much like for humans, Florida figures into many avian travel plans.
- National/State Park
Go rent a Tarzan movie before you visit Wakulla
Favorite thing: ....and specifically, you should rent either "Tarzan's Secret Treasure " (1940) or "Tarzan's New York Adventure" (1941) Both star Johnny Weismuller as the king of the apes.
And, both feature jungle scenes filmed at Wakulla Springs, FL.
If you're into movie memorabilia, another famous flick shot at Wakulla Springs was Airport '77, starring Jack Lemmon. Remember the airplane fuselage underwater scenes? They lowered the fuselage of a Boeing 747 into Wakulla Springs to do the shoot.
Fondest memory: This category doesn't really apply to my tip. But, it's neat to realize that Hollywood chose to create "deepest darkest Africa" on the silver screen at a little north Florida spring called Wakulla.
In the picture accompanying this tip, I've shown the "Tarzan Tree". This is the tree that they had Johnny Weismuller stand on when he did his Tarzan yell. So, grab Jane and the kids and head over to Tarzan's jungle in north Florida. Be part of the action. : )
- Adventure Travel
- National/State Park