Take a dip in the cool, clear water of Alexander Springs, or kayak down the wild and scenic spring run, and you’ll get a taste of why this swimming hole has been popular for at least 10,000 years.
The ancient Timucuan Indians enjoyed the springs for the same reason people go today: “It was a place where they would go swimming and recreate,” said ranger Jim Thorsen.
Archaeologists have discovered numerous artifacts near the springs, including pottery, bows, even an ancient stew. Its ingredients included fresh water snails, mussels, gar fish, catfish, speckled perch, largemouth bass, turtle, bird, white-tailed deer and palmetto berries.
Today the picnic area is on the site of a “shell mitten,” Thorsen said. “It’s a large mound of shells and crayfish. That was the diet of the Timucuan Indians.”
How Alexander Springs got its name is a mystery. “Nobody really knows the answer,” Thorsen said. “It was probably named after a person when the forest was created in 1908.”
The nearby Billies Bay Wilderness, however, “was named after a person who was half Seminole Indian and half caucasian,” Thorsen said. “He used to be a renegade who went in there to hide. His name was Billy Bowleg something.”
The large swimming area feels more natural than the developed site at Juniper Springs. There’s more water, too. Juniper Springs discharges only a fourth the amount of water as Alexander Springs. The 28-foot pool at the head of the spring is a favorite spot for scuba divers.
If You Go: Alexander Springs Recreation Area
From Astor Park in the Ocala National Forest, take Highway 445 south for five and a half miles. Open Daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The day use fee is $6. Canoes can be rented for use along Alexander Creek or for as little as two hours ($16) or $38 for the day.
The campground is open year-round. Campsites cost $24. For general information, call: 352-669-3522