Connecting paddlers and boaters with Lake Apopka and Lake Beauclair, McDonald Canal was restored as a part of the overall cleanup of the Lake Apopka North Shore.
McDonald Canal Boat Ramp is not just a ramp but encompasses a small county park along the canal, with amenities that visitors to the nearby North Shore Trailhead will appreciate.
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Location: Mount Dora
Address: 24600 CR 448-A, Mount Dora
Restrooms: Vault toilet
Land manager: Lake County Parks & Trails
Open daily. Hours are posted and do vary but run roughly dawn to dusk. Leashed dogs permitted.
Pole fishing allowed. However, boaters who head out into Lake Apopka for fishing are cautioned not to take any fish home to eat because of the accumulated toxins in this area.
Turn left, following CR 48. Where CR 48 makes a hard right, continue straight ahead on CR 448-A and follow it until it ends just past a one-lane bridge. The North Shore Trailhead is straight ahead. Make a right to take the road into the recreation area at McDonald Canal Boat Ramp.
A launch point for paddlers and boaters, the McDonald Canal Boat Ramp is the centerpiece of a small county recreation area along McDonald Canal.
It’s within sight of the North Shore Trailhead for the Lake Apopka Loop Trail, and offers amenities that the trailhead does not.
A large grassy area adjoins the canal, with picnic tables in both sunshine and the shade of a pavilion. A potable water fountain adjoins the vault toilets.
Of course, the boat ramp is the main reason visitors come here, along with the floating dock and kayak launch. All three are ADA-complaint.
Walk out to the dock for the best view of the canal. The far shore is usually home to wading birds and an alligator or two.
Paddlers can put in here for a 5-mile round-trip to Lake Apopka. As the waters flow north out of the lake, it’s an easier paddle on the return trip.
The importance of McDonald Canal is in its connections. It leads west to the north-south Apopka-Beauclair Canal, which is dredged north to Lake Beauclair.
Known locally as A-B Canal, the Apopka-Beauclair Canal provides the main access for boaters to reach the wild north shore of Lake Apopka.
Originally dredged in 1888, it replaced the natural flow of Lake Apopka’s waters northward through Double Run Swamp to Lake Harris.
When by 1941, the marshes along the north shore of Lake Apopka were drained to create vegetable farms, the subsequent pollution from farming and municipal sewage echoed north to Jacksonville.
That’s because the Harris Chain of Lakes, which Lake Apopka feeds, in turn creates the Ocklawaha River basin, which then empties into the St. Johns River south of Palatka.
Florida has a fragile hydrological web. Development – leading to septic tanks and sewage disposal needs – as well as farming have added too many nutrients to our waters.
The Apopka North Shore Restoration Area is a massive effort at undoing that 1940s damage, but it didn’t start until the late 1990s. Much work still needs to be done.
Lake Apopka North Shore
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
The northernmost access point to the Lake Apopka Loop Trail, the North Shore Trailhead sits between uplands and wetlands divided by the McDonald Canal
Discover the wild heart of Central Florida on a ride along the Lake Apopka Loop Trail, an arc spanning two counties along the lake’s north shore
Expect plenty of birds in the marshes where farms are being restored to wetlands along a segment of the Lake Apopka Loop Trail with its own series of cross trails