More than 150 years ago, this forest along the marshes of the St. Johns River was cleared for farming, becoming the Padgett homestead on outskirts of busy Enterprise. It later operated as a cattle ranch for the Gray family, who built the dam and reservoir, the spring house and arched bridges. In 1994, the land became a 210-acre preserve protecting its namesake springs and archaeological sites. With its mix of gentle woodland paths and paved trails, playgrounds and picnic area, a paddling trail and a dog park, Gemini Springs Park is a popular local getaway for outdoor recreation just off Interstate 4
Length: 2.2 miles
Lat-Long: 28.864557, -81.309475
Fees / Permits: free
Bug factor: moderate to annoying
Restroom: flush toilets
Open sunrise to sunset. Canoe launch and canoe rentals available. No swimming in springs. Dogs are welcome; in fact, there is a dog park at one end of the park. Tent camping, a short walk from the parking area and restrooms, is available for a fee; call ahead to reserve. $10-20 night depending on time of year or special events on site. 386-736-5953
Trails are shared with off-road bicycles. The Spring-to-Spring Trail, a paved bicycle path, connects this park with Green Spring Park in Enterprise. The park also connects to the Gemini Addition, which has its own winding trails branching off of a paved bicycle trail ending near the St. Johns River.
From Interstate 4 exit 108, go west on Dirksen Drive for 1.6 miles to the park entrance. Turn left and enter the park road. Where the park road splits, keep left and make the first right to head down to the canoe launch area.
Walk down the path from the parking area past the restrooms and turn left. Wander down to the boardwalk deck at the canoe rental area, as it offers a sweeping view of DeBary Bayou, part of the St. Johns River. Just past the canoe launch, the concrete path yields to a natural surface trail into an oak hammock, where Spanish moss thickly drapes the ancient live oaks. Near a bench, interpretive signs talk about the habitat and the trees you’ll see in this shady hammock.
At the trail junction, turn right. A blue hiker marker confirms the route. There is a small clearing with a bench and information about the historic DeBary Estate, established in the 1870s by wine merchant Frederick deBary as a hunting estate. Turn right for a short walk out to the bayou’s edge. Returning to the bench, continue straight ahead down the grassy path beneath the oaks and palms. Passing another bench, a trail goes off to the left. Continue straight. You can hear the buzz of the interstate in the distance. On the left, the oak hammock yields to a floodplain forest with water oaks, red maples, and bald cypress along the bayou’s fringe.
At 0.6 mile there is a bench at a junction of trails adjoining mounds of grapevine beneath a large longleaf pine. Turn right. The trail becomes a grassy path under tall slash pines and fragrant elderberry. The forest to the right is thick with ferns, netted chain, cinnamon fern, and royal ferns among them. Reaching the next junction, continue straight ahead. A picnic table hides between the trees at this fork.
Reaching a T intersection, jog to the right to continue down this outer trail. Virginia willows appear through gaps in the forest, outlining the rim of the bayou. As the trail curves to the right, young cedars create a grove. At the next fork in the trail, turn left to begin back around the loop. Dirksen Road is not far through the woods, and you can hear a little traffic from it. The oaks are younger here, a second-growth forest with water oaks and sweetgum. The park boundary fence is nearby, with the Spring-to-Spring Trail obvious anytime a cyclist rides by.
Passing a primeval-looking patch of cinnamon ferns, you come to a T intersection. Keep right to stay on the outer loop, passing a cross trail that heads back towards the picnic bench. The trees are much shorter here, almost scrubby, but provide shade for the footpath. At the next junction, there are tall pines among the oaks. Turn left amid a tangle of blackberry bushes covered in grapevines.
At 1 mile, there is a bench with a trail off to the left. Continue straight. At the next T intersection, turn right, and right again. You pass the picnic table, returning along the trail closest to the bayou. When you reach the four-way intersection with the bench, go straight ahead.
Walking beneath the ancient live oaks again, you come up to the next junction with a bench. Look off to the left and you can see the open area near the bayou. Continue straight. The trail winds through the forest, dense with grapevines in the understory. A blocked-off trail to the right leads to the picnic area near the restrooms. Returning to the part of the forest where the citrus trees thrive under the tall canopy of oaks, the trail reaches a three-way junction. Continue straight, returning to the sidewalk again at 1.5 miles.Turn left to follow the concrete path across the dam for panoramic views of the palm-lined bayou shore, the bayou itself, and the spring pool behind the reservoir.
On the far side of the waterway, more paved paths lead through the forest. It’s a nice diversion to walk down to the right and to the edge of the bayou for more sweeping views. Return to the main path and circle the spring pool. Swimming is not allowed here, but waterfowl, especially egrets and herons, find the clear waters inviting.
The paved path reaches a small bridge at the north end of the reservoir, where a waterway flows in. Loop around to start walking down the other side, where you’ll find a small overlook over one of the springs, which pours nearly 6.5 million gallons of fresh water into the St. Johns River. Skirt around the spring house and cross another bridge before this path brings you back around to the start of the nature trail. Turn left to exit to the parking area, completing a 2.2-mile walk.
|0.1||observation deck / canoe launch|
|0.6||bench at junction|
|1.1||picnic table (again)|
|1.3||bench at junction (again)|
|1.5||observation deck / canoe launch|