(Editor’s Note: Grandparents are always looking for fun new ways to improve the lives of their grandchildren. We want to share experiences and expose them to nature and history. A trip to the Marorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park in Florida fills that need and more).
By Florida Department of Environmental Protection
We’re heading through another summer and perhaps feeling restless listening to the hum of the air conditioner and the chatter on television. Why not tackle a project with a uniquely Florida twist? Read a beloved novel set in Florida and then plan a camping trip around it.
In 1938, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings published her classic coming-of-age novel, “The Yearling.” The story of a boy and his pet fawn in the Florida backwoods won a Pulitzer Prize. Help celebrate the 75th anniversary of the novel’s publication by visiting the area that also inspired Rawlings’ other classic novel, “Cross Creek” (1942).
Visit the author’s homestead at Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park north of Ocala. Walk through the restored farmyard and the citrus grove that surrounds the cracker-style home. It’s easy to view the home’s interior from the outside, but guided tours inside the home are offered Thursdays through Sundays, October through July. The park is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
This literary landmark does not have camping facilities, but other state parks in the area do offer campsites that allow you time to explore the area where Rawlings found so much beauty and inspiration.
North of the Rawlings homestead is the 22,000-acre Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park with a rich array of habitats for wildlife and livestock including bison and wild horses. Eight trails are open for hiking, biking and horseback riding, and fishing is available on LakeWauberg. A boat ramp is provided for canoes and boats with electric motors. Paynes Prairie Preserve offers primitive and equestrian camping, as well as a full-facility campsite that accommodates tents, trailers and RVs.
Cool off with a canoe trip on the Santa FeRiver at O’Leno State Park northwest of Gainesville, which retains its 1930s charm as a Civilian Conservation Corps project. The CCC was formed by President Franklin Roosevelt to combat unemployment during the Great Depression. Canoes and bicycles are available for rent, and the park offers swimming, fishing and miles of hiking and biking trails. O’Leno State Park has primitive and full-facility campsites.
Mike Roess GoldHead BranchState Park, east of Gainesville, which also was developed by the CCC in the 1930s, is set on rolling sand hills where marshes, lakes and scrub provide habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. Sand hill cranes and bobwhite quail are common in the area. Visitors can enjoy fishing, swimming, canoeing and hiking. The park offers primitive and full-facility camping, as well as rustic and modern cabins.
East of Ocala is SilverRiverState Park, where you can canoe on the SilverRiver. You can hike or bike the miles of trails, or sign up for guided trail rides on rented horses. Swimming and fishing are prohibited on the river, but rental canoes are available. The river originates at Silver Springs, which has been a private attraction for more than 100 years but will merge with SilverRiverState Park this fall. The park offers full-facility camping as well as 10 heated and cooled cabins.
Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon began as a privately held tourist attraction in the 1930s. Canoes and kayaks can be rented at the headsprings where you also can swim, picnic and snorkel. Be sure to visit the historic gardens and the butterfly garden, and bring your binoculars for some outstanding birding. The park has a newly renovated full-facility campground on the RainbowRiver. Fishing and swimming are popular at the campground, and canoe rentals are available.
It’s easy to plan camping trips online by visiting www.FloridaStateParks.org. You can find extensive information about each park including amenities, maps and pet policies. Reservations for state park cabins and full-facility campgrounds can be made up to 11 months in advance by calling Reserve America at (800) 326-3521 or TDD (888) 433-0287 or online at http://FloridaStateParks.ReserveAmerica.com. Reservations for primitive and group facilities must be made directly with the individual park.
You also can plan your trip on your smartphone. Download the free Pocket Ranger® Florida State Parks app for on-the-go information. The mobile app is available on iTunes, Android Market and at http://www.PocketRanger.com.
Also keep in mind that senior citizens receive a discount of one-half off the base-rate camping fee. Visit the Florida State Parks website for details.
Scan this code with your phone to see a video about Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Cross Creek, or visit http://goo.gl/F5tDF.