For many years, it was touch-and-go whether this land would become developed into subdivisions like some of its surroundings are.
Fortunately, the state understood its importance to keeping at least some of the recharge zone for Silver Springs protected.
Rainfall that falls on these sandhills replenishes the part of the Floridan aquifer that feeds Silver Springs.
Surface waters connect here too. When Indian Lake overflows, its waters make their way downstream to flow into the Silver River.
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Location: Silver Springs
Address: 6675 NE 40th Avenue Road Silver Springs, FL 34479
Land manager: Florida State Forests
Leashed dogs permitted. Open for day use only unless you’ve reserved a campsite in advance. The pavilion by the lake may be reserved by groups and for special events.
From the intersection of SR 40 and Baseline Rd (CR 35) in Silver Springs, follow CR 35 north for 1.8 miles to the traffic light at SR 326, where the forest headquarters is located.
Turn to stay on CR 35. All forest access points are along the next 3 miles of highway.
Access to Indian Lake State Forest is through several different entry points off CR 35, north of where the forest headquarters is located.
Day users may visit the lake and enjoy the swings and picnic area at the Indian Lake State Forest Recreation Area, off the northernmost entrance along CR 35.
Indian Lake itself is a karst window, a sinkhole that directly connects to the Floridan aquifer. As such, it is very deep, up to 85 feet deep in the middle.
A natural beach sometimes appears as lake waters fall in unison with the water table. When the waters rise, they flow through the cypress swamp on the east side of the lake.
The 1.6-mile Bear-N-Oak Trail is part of the Florida State Forests Trailwalker Program. This loop hike leads through significant stands of live oaks.
It provides a variety of perspectives along Indian Lake, crossing the lake’s outflow through a cypress swamp.
The Equestrian Trail traverses the sandhills, the high, dry uplands on the west side of the forest.
It is an 11.6-mile loop which can be broken into two pieces thanks to the Cutoff Trail that bisects it. The trailhead is the only entrance on the west side of CR 33.
On the east side of CR 33 between the two trailheads above is an equestrian trailhead that bicyclists and hikers are also welcome to use.
It provides access to adjoining Silver Springs Forest Conservation Area, which is managed by St. Johns River Water Management District.
Trails within that preserve are on old roads through a former ranch and the forests that surround it.
For a long time, the lake was part of a privately owned campground. Some of the prior facilities were still there when we lasted visited.
They’ve since been cleaned up, so now the pavilion is for rent and there are five primitive campsites to enjoy under the oak canopy north of the lake.
While this small campground has drive-in access and a vault toilet, there are no other amenities. Bring your own water for your stay.
Campsite reservations are taken through Reserve America, which charges an additional fee on top of the camping fee. See the link below.
See our photos from Indian Lake State Forest
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Silver Springs – one of the world’s largest and deepest springs – pours out more than 550 million gallons every day. Silver Springs State Park protects not just the spring but the river’s six mile floodplain as well.
Forest Map (PDF) Reserve Campsite Official Website