The Florida Panhandle is home to a state park and historic lodge which has ties to the Ice Age as well as the Golden Age of Hollywood. Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park is named for the industrialist who, in 1931, purchased 6,000 acres surrounding a pristine spring with the intention of preserving the area and creating a serene and peaceful retreat. The Lodge at Wakulla Springs, a historic 27-room hotel, features marble throughout, including the Soda Fountain’s marble bar, which at more than 70 feet is believed to be the world’s longest.
Visitors seeking to commune with nature may book passage on the Jungle Cruise, a guided boat ride offering a nature tour over the springs and up the river. The waters here have always had a mysterious reputation, one which goes way back. Mastodon fossils found in the area confirm that the springs—among the country’s largest—date back to the Ice Age. The lush surroundings have proven irresistible to filmmakers; both Tarzan and the Creature from the Black Lagoon had adventures filmed here.
The area abounds in bird life, reptiles and butterflies—the nearby St. Marks Wildlife Refuge is a favorite stopover during the Monarch butterflies’ autumn migration. More than 180 types of birds have been spotted in the 6000 acres of parkland surrounding the springs, and chimney swifts nest in the Lodge during the summer. The large and lovable Florida manatee, absent for years, has returned to the area following habitat restoration work. Some remain year-round, favoring the area under the park’s Diving Tower.
Activities in the area include hiking around the springs and swimming year-round; the water remains a constant 68 degrees. Wakulla Springs used to be famous for its crystal-clear water. The clarity has diminished, but at certain times of year the water mysteriously regains its old transparency, allowing visitors to gaze into the nearly 200-foot depths of the springs.
The Lodge at Wakulla Springs is located at 550 Wakulla Springs Drive in Wakulla Springs, about fifteen miles from Apalachicola, Florida.
For more information check the website at www.thelodgeatwakullasprings.com
Photos courtesy Guest Services Inc., Management of The Lodge at Wakulla Springs; and Florida State Parks