European settlers and the Indians before them used Ponce de Leon Springs as a source of drinking water and recreation. The harvesting of timber and turpentine were the major industries in and around the area. The majestic longleaf pines were ideal for building homes, businesses and the railroad that traversed the panhandle of Florida. The spring was owned by the Smithgall family in the mid-1920s. They added many amenities to the property, including a restroom with showers, eatery and a skating rink. The Smithgalls also added a wooden retaining wall around the spring to prevent erosion.
Although not literally the 'fountain of youth,' Juan Ponce de Leon hoped to find when he landed in Florida in 1513, the spring bearing his name has been a refreshing detour for many visitors over the years. The Smithgall family, who owned the spring during the mid-1920s, helped create the recreational destination Ponce de Leon Springs is today. They installed a bath house, eatery and skating rink and surrounded the spring with a retaining wall to prevent erosion. The skating rink and eatery are gone, and bathing fashions have definitely changed, but a relaxing dip in the spring remains the same.
The harvesting of timber and turpentine were the main industries for this area of Florida in the early 20th century. Wood from the majestic longleaf pine was ideal for building homes, businesses and the railroad that cut across the Florida panhandle. Turpentining is a process by which deep grooves are cut into the bark of the pine tree causing it to weep resin. This image shows the 'catface' appearance of the tree after extraction of the resin. The resin was used for the making of paint, ink, glue, medicines and numerous other items.
Don swimsuit and get ready for a day of fun. As visitors pass through the central corridor of the bathhouse, the beauty of the park opens up. Past the hardwood trees that shade several pavilions, the blue waters of the spring beckon.
If fun on dry land is preferred, check out the two nature trails, Sandy Creek and Spring Run. As visitors stroll down the paths, watch for the many varieties of flora and fauna native to this area.
Ponce de Leon Spring State Park offers a multitude of recreational activities. The second magnitude spring pumps out 14 million gallons of 68-degree water to refresh and invigorate the senses. Designated areas are available for snorkeling and underwater sightseeing. Young children and those who prefer shallow water can splash in the spring run while anglers can try their hand with a rod and reel.