Palatlakaha River Park protects 23 acres of wetland and scrub habitat between Lake Louisa and Lake Susan.
These bodies of water are considered the headwaters of the Ocklawaha River, an important refuge for numerous species along its 74-mile span to the St. Johns River.
The park offers a launch for paddlers to access the scenic river, and a short hiking trail through Florida scrub jay habitat.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 2.5-mile paddle, 0.7-mile hiking loop
Trailhead: 28.504005, -81.749266
Address: 12325 Hull Rd, Clermont, FL 34711
Restrooms: Yes, at the launch.
Land manager: Lake County
Open sunrise to sunset.
From the interchange of SR 50 and US 27 in Clermont, head south on SR 27 for a half mile, and turn right onto Brogden Dr. In 0.3 mile, turn left onto S Lakeshore Dr. Continue for a mile and a half, then turn right onto Lakeshore Dr. In 1.4 miles, make a left onto Hull Rd, and the parking area will be on the left in one mile.
The 0.7 mile hiking loop is accessible from the parking lot adjacent to the boat ramp. Head southward into the woods and cross the road in 100 feet.
A large kiosk stands next to the trail, full of information about native plants and pollinators found in the area.
Circumnavigating a scrub jay habitat, the sandy trail runs alongside a wire strung between posts to mark the interior, which is restricted to official personnel.
A variety of native vegetation lines the pathway, with multiple signs that display pictures along with common and scientific names.
Crossing the road again in a half mile, the habitat rapidly transitions to a dense oak hammock. Large live oaks arch overhead, shading a leafy pathway through a sea of palmettos.
In a quarter mile, the trail emerges from the woods, completing the loop at the parking area.
At the boat ramp, a large sign displays rules and information about the park. After launching at the ramp, continue down the canal for 100 feet.
Turn left onto the river. It is best to float with the current downstream to Lake Susan first.
The waterway is extraordinarily scenic, bordered on both sides by stately cypress trees adorned with Spanish moss.
Dark tannic waters originating from the Green Swamp move slowly northward, surrounded by grassy banks.
In a quarter mile, the river bends to the right, passing submerged cypresses to the left, and the launch for Crooked River Preserve to the right.
Columns of cypress continue to border the western edge, and cattle may be seen browsing in a small field through the trees.
Shortly after passing the small pasture, the river snakes around two islands. These tree covered specks of land are small enough that going left or right around them does not matter.
The river opens to Lake Susan in 0.2 mile, after skirting the second island.
Turning around at Lake Susan, head back upstream towards Lake Louisa.
The glassy waters move slowly between the larger bodies of water, though a bit more paddling effort is needed compared to the downstream float.
Teeming with aquatic life, the water ripples as gar and other freshwater fish stir the surface.
Turtles perch on submerged logs and alligators float near shoreline vegetation, the tops of their prehistoric heads bobbing on the surface.
In 1.2 miles, a sign for Lake Louisa protrudes from the water next to a small cypress. This expanse of water is frequently turbulent due to the large size of the lake.
Turning back towards the river, a leisurely float downstream brings the craft back to the ramp in a half mile.
A virtual journey through Palatlakaha River Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
On a 1.7-mile loop, Crooked River Preserve showcases a wide variety of habitats in a short hike on the northernmost extent of the Lake Wales Ridge in Clermont
As longleaf pine reaches for the sky, the rolling hills of Lake Louisa State Park near Clermont return to their forested roots
On Lake Apopka’s western shore, Ferndale Preserve offers amazing panoramas of Florida’s fourth largest lake, along with serious elevation changes on its four miles of multi-use trails