The place: the Suwannee River. The year was 1863, and those pesky Federals were snooping all over Florida, seizing goods and burning plantations. A steamboat builder in Bradford Springs wrote to Governor Milton to let him know he’d scuttled his finest craft in the nearby springs to keep it out of enemy hands. More than a century later, you can dive into the depths of Troy Spring and see the steamboat’s remains–or you can simply stroll along the shoreline and to view the Suwannee River, a beauty at any time of year. The nature trail is only a half-mile, but it’s a good introduction to habitats along the bluffs of the Suwannee River.
Length: 0.5 mile
Lat-Long: 30.005522, -82.998071
Type: Loop with side spur to river
Fees / Permits: $5 per carload or $4 for individual
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Bug factor: low to moderate
Restroom: At the trailhead
Follow US 27 from High Springs northwest to Branford, and cross the Suwannee River. Continue 5 miles to CR 425 / Troy Springs Road. Turn right. Drive 0.8 mile and keep left at the fork. The park entrance is on your right.
When you emerge from your car at Troy Spring State Park, near the restrooms you’ll notice the odd-looking benches, used to hang air tanks and wetsuits. This park is centered around the depths of Troy Springs, which offers diving (no solo, open water only), snorkeling, and swimming within sight of the main flow of the Suwannee River.
The nature trail, a counterclockwise loop, starts at a hiker sign directly across the parking area from the diver prep area. The trail isn’t blazed, but the path is obvious from use.
This is a climax laurel oak forest, it understory thick with grapevine. As you begin your hike, look for shelf fungi on rotting logs and lizards on the bases of tall slash pines–and keep an eye out for poison ivy. Trees include pines and oaks, including water oak, live oak, and laurel oak, with a bit of sweetgum to add fall color.
After a quarter mile are two truly outstanding slash pines and the remains of others that once stood here, defying the logger’s saw. To the left, note how the trees are growing out of a mat of aquatic plants in a low floodplain, with roots and mounds all around. The trail soon reaches a T with a forest road and turns left.
When you emerge onto a sand road, turn let and walk between the cabins towards a bench overlooking the Suwannee River, begin sure to stop to read the interpretive signs. A path leads down the bluff to a boat ramp on the river.
Walk back up the bluff and keep to the right for a nice view from a jumble of rocks along the edge of the water. Watch your footing! You’ll need to return the way you came, back past the bench and up to the road, and turn right to exit. You emerge at the parking area. Don’t forget to walk down to the spring to savor the view – and take the plunge, if it’s a warm day.