Friday, September 16, 2011

Wakulla Springs

If you're lucky, you'll discover at least a couple of fine places in nature during your lifetime that speak to your soul.   Along with Arrow Park, that place for me is Wakulla Springs.  It’s a state park about 25 miles south of Tallahassee in the Florida panhandle, and it’s the largest, deepest fresh water spring in the US, putting out up to 210 million gallons of water a day at at constant 69 degrees.   They filmed “Tarzan” and “Creature From the Black Lagoon” here. 

Edward Ball, the millionaire owner of the St. Joe Paper Company, built the lodge there in the 1937.   
Edward Ball
What can you say about Mr. Ball?  That he bought his clothes off the hanger, his eyeglasses from the dimestore, his shoes from whatever store he happened to be passing when he needed a pair… and he carried his own suitcases.  He didn’t believe in indulging himself, saying that those who did “cross the creek” at an early age.  And that he spent a lifetime building the largest empire in Florida during the 20th Century and by his death at age 93, he was making donations to charities at the rate of $27,000 a day or nearly $10 million a year. “   (from the lodge restaurant menu, which also includes an historic reproduction of a dinner menu from 1940 that offers kraut juice and buttermilk for just 10 cents each!)

Contributing to the unhurried vibe there is the lack of technology.  There’s one screen in the lobby, but there are no televisions in the rooms, internet café’s or computer terminals.  Instead there is an old-time elevator, 
checkers tables,

a handpainted ceiling,
and a soda fountain counter (with one of the largest marble slabs in the country). 
Something about handling and using these old fixtures gives me comfort.   I feel honored.  It’s as if the lodge is saying “We saved this for you.” 

The lodge is available for corporate retreats and other events.  We just held my mother’s 70th birthday party there.   Here she is… the Mermaid Queen of Wakulla Springs….

My summer vacations as a child were usually spent on camping trips.  We visited places like Manatee Springs, Homassassa Springs, and Weeki Watchee Springs.  These places were our summer retreats, and Wakulla brings back memories of these excursions. 

The Swimming Hole
The big attraction at Wakulla Springs, aside from the crystal clear swimming hole, is the boat ride.  Birds of all kinds, perched on 500-year-old cypress trees, gators, turtles and jumping mullet may appear.

Tri-color Heron
Anahinga, drying his wings

Purple Gallinule

Florida Alligator
Manatees aren’t uncommon.  Here, a glimpse of a manatee tail!

Old Joe was thought to be the most photographed alligator in the world.  He live at Wakulla Springs in the 1950s and 60s.  “He never harmed or molested any woman, child or pets.” 
In 1966 he was found killed at the bottom of the Springs.  They offered a $5,000 reward, but the killer was never found.  He now lives under glass in the lobby.  I bet he could tell some stories.


Joanne said...

What a beautiful vacation spot, I love that soda fountain counter. Places that bring us back to easy times have such a magic to them. Looks like you had a great vacation, and happy birthday to your Mom!

tut-tut said...

JGH! WE LOVED Wakulla Springs when we were there lo, those many years ago. And for the same reasons. Did you have an Englishwoman on your tour boat saying, "I LOVE that American Southern acc'nt"? So many memories you've evoked. We stayed on St. George Island; pile drivers kept us alert, as a new McGetaway was being built while we were there

tina said...

I had a great time visiting Florida with you. Wow on the lodge. It sounds like a great place to celebrate a birthday. Happy Birthday to your mother!

Wendy McDonagh-Valentine said...

Great photos!! The swimming hole looks like a lot of fun and I love the shot of the manatee. I've never seen one in person but they've always fascinated me. Happy birthday to your mom!!! Hope your summer was a good one!! : )

~ Wendy

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

Mermaid birthday celebrity look so young for her age! I wish I can stay look young at that age too.Happy Birthday! That is a wonderful place to spend with your love ones!

Jocelyn said...

I really hope you were able to indulge in some kraut juice. (??) :)

Stacey said...

I want to be a Mermaid Queen. This will be my 50th birthday pilgrimage