Florida State Parks 75th Anniversary Logo
The CCC museum was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps as an office and fire training tower for the forestry camp that opened in 1938. The Cypress pavilion was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936 and is located in the picnic area next to the Santa Fe River. The River Sink is where the Santa Fe River disappears underground, flowing three miles before resurfacing at River Rise. Wildlife sightings of all kinds are common within O'Leno State Park.  Deer, like the buck and doe seen here, might even wander into the campground.
O'Leno State Park
Suspension bridge crossing the Santa Fe River, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935.

History and Culture

In the mid 1800s, the town of Leno was founded along the banks of the Santa Fe River. The first telegraph linking Florida to the outside world passed through Leno. In 1896, the railroad bypassed the tiny town, causing Leno¿s inevitable decline. Acquired in the early 1930s by the Florida Board of Forestry, the park was developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Authority primarily for use as a summer forestry camp. Several of the original structures are still in use today. O¿Leno State Park is located on the banks of the scenic Santa Fe River, a tributary of the Suwannee River. The distinctive geological feature of the park is the River Sink where the Santa Fe River disappears underground to re-emerge three miles south at River Rise Preserve State Park.

Colonel and Mrs. Whetstone, the main proprietors of the town of Leno.

The Whetstone Family

Before the Florida Forest Service owned the land where O'Leno State park is located, the town of Leno prospered. The town, founded in 1840 on the banks of the Santa Fe River, was originally called Keno after a popular gambling game at that time. In 1876 Colonel Whetstone applied for a post office for the town of Keno and was denied due to the name and its relationship with gambling. The Colonel then had the name changed to Leno and was granted the post office, which he ran until 1890 when he moved to Mikesville, three miles north of Leno. Leno was an industrious town with two grist mills, a saw mill and six cotton gins. The town also had a general store, hotel, livery stable and doctor's office. The demise of the town took place in 1894 when the S, F & W Railroad was diverted to pass through Fort White instead of Leno. By 1896 everyone had moved away, leaving Leno a ghost town.

Historic photo of a community picnic at the Leno town site.

After Leno

Although the town of Leno met its demise in the late 1800s, it was still a beautiful and popular place for the people of nearby towns and farms to meet for picnics and swimming. Referred to as 'Old Leno, it eventually became O'Leno , the name that it still has today.

Construction of the O'Leno forestry camp.

Camp Construction

After the demise of the town of Leno, the Florida Forest Service (by 1935, a division of the Board of Forestry and Parks) purchased the property where the town had been located. The site of O'Leno State Park was initially chosen as the location of a Florida Forest Service camp to provide forestry training and education. Development of the camp started as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project using unemployed labor from the High Springs area. In July 1935, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) installed workers from Company 418, Camp P-67, to assist WPA workers at O'Leno. Development of the site progressed rapidly and between 1935 and 1936 the CCC cleared land, built roads and trails and constructed the dining hall, pavilion, museum/tower building and suspension bridge. In late 1936, the CCC enrollees were withdrawn as the project neared completion and WPA labor became unavailable.

Florida Board of Forestry training takes place at Camp O'Leno.

Camp Lecture

Camp O'Leno opened in 1938 as a Florida Forest Service training camp. The purpose of the training camp was to train employees and youth groups interested in forestry. The Forestry Service ran the training camp for two summers before turning the camp over to another division within the Board of Forestry and Parks, the Florida Park Service, making it one of Florida's first state parks.

O'Leno State Park map shows the campground and hiking trail development of the 1970s.

1970 Guide Map

Over the years, O'Leno State Park developed two family camping circles, two primitive camping areas for youth groups and many miles of hiking and biking trails. A swimming area is located in the Santa Fe River, and canoeing, kayaking and fishing are allowed.