Columbia County has more than just water sports to offer nature lovers. Columbia County includes about half of Osceola National Forest, a sprawling 200,000-acre preserve of cypress swamp and pineland. Portions of the 1,300 mile Florida National Scenic Trail traverse along the historic Suwannee River and through beautiful woodlands throughout the region. Throughout the rest of the county and surrounding area, nine different state parks dot the land at sites of natural and historical significance.
Alligator Lake Park
Alligator Lake Park has been voted one of the best parks in Columbia County! These historic wetlands feature an abundant amount of recreational opportunities, highlighted through the parks extensive amount of hiking trails.
Big Shoals State Park
This 400 acre park is known for a number of things, including a towering bat house and its 28 miles of wooded trails that accommodate hikers and people on horseback. When the water level is just right (between 59-61 feet above sea level) the Big Shoals rapids flow at a Class III whitewater classification, the largest whitewater rapids in Florida! Click here to learn more about Big Shoals.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park
The crystalline Ichetucknee River flows six miles through shaded hammocks and wetlands before it merges with the Santa Fe River. Tubes and equipment can also be rented from private vendors located outside the park entrance. Shuttles for launch and pickup points on the Ichetucknee River are also available through Paddling Adventures. Click here to learn more about Ichetucknee Springs State Park.
Osceola National Forest
These forested woodlands and swamps provide many opportunities for visitors such as camping, hiking, bicycling, swimming, fishing, hunting, riding horse trails, wildlife viewing and more. Affordable camping rates are available at Ocean Pond, a natural 1,760-acre lake, or enjoy a day of recreational activities at Olustee Beach for only $3 per vehicle. Click here to learn more about the Osceola National Forest.
O’Leno State Park
One of Florida’s first state parks, O’Leno State Park is located along the banks of the scenic Santa Fe River, a tributary of the Suwannee River, and features sinkholes, hardwood hammocks, river swamps and sandhills. Popular Visitor activities include hiking or biking on the park’s scenic miles of trails. Click here to learn more about O’Leno State Park.
River Rise Preserve State Park
Towering oak trees, sprawling woodlands, and the sound of native wildlife, make this park a perfect location for a relaxing afternoon of fishing, or biking. Equestrian lovers will find this park ideal, as it features a 20-stall barn and primitive equestrian camp sight. 35 miles of trails for horseback riding, hiking, and biking are available. Click here to learn more about River Rise Preserve State Park.
Rum Island Spring and Park
Rum Island Park provides you with free access to the Santa Fe River and the beautiful, clear, freshwater Rum Island spring, one of many springs located on the river. It’s your gateway to canoeing, boating, swimming, snorkeling, fishing, sunning and more. The park recently underwent construction to add permanent restroom facilities and to shore up bank areas around the spring head. Rum Island Spring and Park is located off County Road 138 south of the Town of Fort White.
Suwannee River State Park
Suwannee River State Park showcases the history of this river with interpretive exhibits, original Civil War earthworks, and one of Florida’s oldest cemeteries. Situated where the Withlacoochee River converges with the Suwannee, this park includes miles and miles of trails, including the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail and the Florida Birding Trail. Surrounding embankments and hills provide panoramic views of the river. Click here to learn more about Suwannee River State Park.
Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park
This park boasts one of the largest underwater cave systems in the country. Cave divers from all over the world come here to explore the nearly 33,000 feet of gorgeous caverns and passages. You must be a certified diver to explore the cave system, but the park features a 1.2 mile trail that follows the course of the caves. Click here to learn more about Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park.