The first property was purchased in March 1983 for habitat preservation, watershed protection and to provide recreational opportunities in the Central Florida area. Additional purchases in 1991 and 1995 have formed a vast natural area in Orange and Lake counties. The Wekiva River Basin includes Wekiwa Springs Run, Rock Springs Run, the Wekiva River, Blackwater Creek and Seminole Creek. These waterways comprise the first congressionally-designated National Wild and Scenic River basin in Florida.
Ethel Cemetery, located in Rock Springs Run State Reserve, is the oldest known cemetery in Lake County, built in 1880. The cemetery was located in the town of Ethel, which was a railroad stop town formerly known as Moody. Citizen Support Organization (CSO) volunteers constructed a new entrance and fence for the cemetery, which still contains four intact grave markers.
Prescribed fire is an essential resource management tool used by land managers to meet specific objectives. Aerial ignition from a helicopter is one method of applying prescribed fire to Florida's ecosystems. The helicopter is equipped with a machine that drops 'ping pong' balls that ignite as they hit the ground. This technique can cover a lot of acreage in a short time. Florida has been shaped by fire for thousands of years and the use of prescribed fire is beneficial for the ecosystems that depend on fire for their survival. Low intensity prescribed fire reduces the buildup of forest fuels that can promote violent wildfires.
Rock Springs Run is an eight-mile river that forms the boundary between Wekiwa Springs State Park and Rock Springs Run State Reserve. Rock Springs Run eventually flows into the Wekiva River, which then runs 15 miles and empties into the St. Johns River. This photo was taken in the 1920s during the height of the logging era in this area. Most of the old growth cypress was logged out of the river on elevated tram roads located throughout the park. Some of those tram roads are still used by the park today to access different areas of the reserve.
This butterfly has perched itself on the shell of a dead gopher tortoise. Gopher tortoises are known as a keystone species because so many other animals depend on their burrows for survival. As many as 300 different animal species have been found in gopher tortoise burrows. Unfortunately, in 2002, Rock Springs Run State Reserve had an outbreak of an upper respiratory tract infection that can be fatal to gopher tortoises. Many tortoises died, possibly as a result of someone illegally releasing an infected tortoise in the reserve. This is why it is important that no one release any wildlife, even native wildlife, into state parks.
This is a wildlife corridor commonly referred to as the bear underpass. It is located on State Road 46 between Rock Springs Run State Reserve and Seminole State Forest. An elevated road is built to allow safe passage for wildlife beneath the busy highway. These corridors are located in strategic areas, such as high mortality road kill areas. Florida black bears were commonly hit and killed along this stretch of State Road 46, so there are now two bear underpass wildlife corridors that border the Rock Springs Run State Reserve. Other wildlife documented using the corridors include white-tailed deer, bobcats, turkeys and coyotes.