PONCE DE LEON SPRINGS STATE PARK
This beautiful spring is named for Juan Ponce de Leon, who led the first Spanish expedition to Florida in 1513-as legend has it-in search of the "fountain of youth." Visitors might well regain their youth by taking a dip in the cool, clear waters of Ponce de Leon Springs where the water temperature remains a constant 68 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. The main spring is a convergence of two underground water flows, and produces 14 million gallons of water daily. Visitors can take a leisurely walk along two self-guided nature trails through a lush, hardwood forest and learn about the local ecology and wildlife. Rangers also conduct seasonal guided walks. Picnicking is a popular activity at the park; grills and pavilions are available. Anglers will enjoy fishing for catfish, largemouth bass, chain pickerel, and panfish. Located one-half mile south of U.S. 90 on County Road 181A.
The park property was acquired in 1970 to provide outdoor recreation and opportunities for relaxation and reflection for Florida?s residents and visitors. It had been used for social gatherings of all sorts since the mid 1920?s. The property was once owned by the Smithgall family who built a wooden retaining wall around the spring in 1926 to prevent erosion. It was replaced by a concrete wall in 1953 and eventually with the existing wall in 1983.
The terrain is mostly rolling hills, floodplain forest and swamp which follow the basic patterns of Sandy Creek, Mill Creek and Blue Creek. They connect with the spring run and then flow into the Choctawhatchee River and on into the Gulf of Mexico. Although Ponce De Leon himself may not have actually set foot in these waters nor became any younger, a refreshing feeling of youth will undoubtedly follow a dip into the spring.
Annual Entrance Passes can be purchased at all park ranger stations and museums. If you require immediate use of your pass, this is the best option. Passes can be purchased during regular business hours 365 days a year. Please call the park in advance to ensure availability. Those who are eligible for discounted or free passes may use this method to receive their pass. Annual Entrance Passes may be purchased online by visiting the FLORIDA STATE PARKS ANNUALENTRANCE PASSES
On those sweltering days of summer, regain your youth by taking a dip in the cool crystal clear waters of Ponce De Leon Springs where the water temperature remains a constant 68 degrees year round. You may not get any younger but the water is sure to invigorate. The park has a large bathroom facility complete with changing rooms for your convenience.
Fishing is permitted in areas not designated for swimming. Otherwise throw your pole in and watch your cork to see if your efforts are to be rewarded with catches of catfish, largemouth bass, chain pickerel and panfish. If watching closely you can actually see the fish come to the bait.
Ponce de Leon Springs State Park is located near Bonifay, Defuniak Springs
After you have worked up an appetite splashing around in the cool spring water and walking the nature trails, it is time for lunch. Approximately 20 acres have been enhanced with amenities for visitors. Four picnic shelters with grills are available for reservation, and numerous picnic tables are available on the grounds for anyone who wishes to stop in for a short picnic lunch, or spend the day swimming and relaxing in the park. Your grill is also welcome for that special cookout.
Take a stroll down the two trails of the park, Sandy Creek and Spring Run. Each trail will take you through a lush hardwood forest, which provides optimum vantage points for observing wildlife along the 350-foot spring run and Sandy Creek. As well as, a relaxing stroll among a variety of native plant and animal habitat, where you can listen to the relaxing sounds of the flowing stream or conversation of the birds. Rangers also conduct seasonal guided walks, but self-guided tours are also available.
The park offers birdwatching opportunities with a variety of species, including wading birds and songbirds. Visitors can enjoy the diverse habitats that attract different types of avian life. The spring run provides an excellent spot for spotting waterfowl and other aquatic birds.
Ponce de Leon Springs State Park Area is located one half mile south of U.S. 90 on C.R,181A.