Heritage River Tour on the St. John and the Oklawaha rivers.
"The illuminated Ocklawaha forest, a weirdly beautiful radiance." (on Hiawatha post card. To see this postcard and the Welaka tour album click here)
Your excursion will take you to the boil at Welaka Spring on the St. John's River and into the mouth of the Ocklawaha following a winding course that has changed very little from the days when early tourists explored the area on ruggedly crafted steam boats. We will depart from the small historic town of Welaka on the St. John's river, home to the Welaka Maritime Museum, one of the largest collections of hand built and restored boats in Florida. Discover the flora and fauna and learn about the fossils that are found in the rivers, the native inhabitants, and the early pioneers. You will enjoy this adventure whether you are a history buff, birdwatcher, nature lover, photographer, ecologist or just plain looking for a wonderful trip into the nautical past on a classic cruiser.
Tour Schedule: Call or email to schedule a private tour this summer!
for information and reservations.
Welaka is home to some of the best large-mouth bass fishing in the world, with several natural springs in the area feeding the calm waters of the St. Johns River. Amatuer and professional fishermen alike enjoy the black bass fishing from Lake George to Dunn`s Creek, and Welaka has the most accessible public boat launching facility with a floating dock. Other species of fish include speckled perch and panfish of all descriptions that can be caught year round.
Welaka is also home to the Welaka National Fish Hatchery & Aquarium and the Welaka State Forest. The Aquarium contains exhibits of native and exotic fish and provides information on local wildlife. The hatchery provides walking trails and an observation tower for viewing sandhill cranes, southern bald eagles, herons, ibis, egrets, osprey and hawks common to the area. The Welaka State Forest contains walking and equestrian trails for the nature enthusiast.
The Ocala National Forest is on the opposite shore of the St Johns River from Welaka, and contains thousands of acres of undeveloped wilderness. Welaka offers the perfect place to discover the Florida of our ancestors, and to relax in quiet solitude.
Directions to Welaka: It's an interesting place. Plan on staying the day or spending the night.
Welaka is just 17 miles south of Palatka. Average travel time from Gainesville is 1 hour and 20 minutes. Car pool with your group to save gas (and the environment).
Map from Gainesville to Welaka
Map link showing food etc
Eating, Drinking and Relaxing
There are several places to stay in and around Welaka with a variety of choices for everyone's budget. Fresh seafood as well as "land lover fare" can be had at several local restaurants. Fresh crab, shrimp and other seafood can be purchased at the local seafood market.
• Shrimp R US More - 765 3rd Ave, Welaka, FL 32193 US (386) 467-7111
• Palms Cafe Bleuu - 10% for all tour participants email: firstname.lastname@example.org Palmetto St, Welaka, FL 32193 Cafe Bleuu on Facebook (386) 467-8999
• Anderson's of Welaka Restaurant - 10 Boston St, Welaka, FL 32193 (386) 467-9707
• Grill Depot -1140 County Road 309, Crescent City, FL 32112 (386) 467-3265
The word WELAKA meant `river of lakes` to the Native Americans of northeastern Florida and was their name for the river European settlers called the St. Johns. The town was formed from the 500-acre tract known as Mt. Tucker purchased by the town`s founder James William Bryant on July 6, 1852. .By the mid-1880s, Welaka had become a resort town attracting visitors seeking medicinal cures from the many springs that provided mineral water. By 1907,
Welaka was famous for its "healing waters". The Welaka Mineral Water Company was incorporated on November 15, 1907
The St. Johns River, running 310 miles, is the longest river in Florida. It is one of the few major rivers in the nation that flows north, from its start in marshes southwest of Cape Canaveral to Jacksonville and the Atlantic Ocean. In between, it evolves into a series of lakes and emerges into a river averaging two miles wide for its final 100 miles.
In early 1596, Don Pedro Menendez explored the St. Johns River and found it, "a likeable spot, full of goodly fish, and the forest inhabited with all kinds of birds and beasts." Royal naturalist John Bartram and his son visited the river in 1765 to study its vast plant and wildlife habitats and called it "a true garden of eden."
Today, the St. Johns River provides the backdrop for all of Northeast Florida; it is a vital and critical part of the economy and quality of life. In December 1997, a "River Summit" was held to assess the current state of the river and plan for improvements. This led to the river’s appointment as an "American Heritage River" on July 30, 1998, recognizing its ecological, historic, economic and cultural significance.