For tourists in the 1880s, Florida was a tropical frontier still rich in mystery and romance. At the DeLeon Springs State Park, the legends of early explorers were still potent - a 1889 advertisement promised a fountain of youth :impregnated with a deliciously healthy combination of soda and sulfur."
Whatever the purported health benefits, the springs were indeed a natural wonder. The DeLeon Springs State Park still is a place for healthful outdoor recreation in a beautiful, natural setting.
Native Americans occupied the area periodically from as early as 8000 B.C. A 6,000-year-old dugout canoe, one of the oldest ever found in America, was discovered here.
In the early 1500's, Spanish forces, possibly led by Juan Ponce de Leon, may have passed through. Florida belonged to Spain until 1763, then was ceded to England. Seminole Indians began settling in the area. England gave this land to a company that traded European goods for the Indians' furs and deerskins.
In 1783 Spain returned to power and granted this land for plantations. A long line of planters cultivated cotton, corn and sugar cane on the plantation known as Spring Garden.
In 1821 Florida became U.S. territory. In 1832 the American artist John James Audubon visited Spring Garden, then owned by Col. Orlando Rees. Rees built a waterwheel that harnessed the spring flow to grind his sugar cane.
The plantation was sacked during the Second Seminole War (1835 - 42). Gen. Zachary Taylor, commander of the U.S. Army in Florida, retook the spring from the Seminoles in 1838.
During the Civil War, the spring-powered mill was used to provide grain and other stores for Confederate forces. Union troops eventually captured it and most of the facilities were destroyed. A winter resort lured Northern tourists during the late 19th century; and in 1982, the state of Florida acquired the area for use as a recreation area.
A unique experience is found at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill and Griddle House located in the park. The specialty, grill-your-own pancakes, are made from grain stone-ground on site with French buhr millstones.
We hope you enjoy the DeLeon Springs State Park