Florida State Parks 75th Anniversary Logo
The main entrance to River Rise Preserve State Park, shown here, is off of Highway 27. River Rise Preserve borders O'Leno State Park and contains 18 distinct natural communities for park visitors to enjoy. Sweetwater Lake, a primitive camping area within the park, can be reached by hiking approximately three miles of trail  each way. The trail head and primitive camping area within the main entrance of River Rise Preserve State Park is enjoyed by many equestrians.
River Rise Preserve State Park
River Rise, where the Santa Fe River reemerges after flowing underground for a little more than three miles, is the namesake of the preserve.

History and Culture

From the 1500s through the 1700s a natural land bridge served as a crossroad between the Santa Fe River Sink and the River Rise. It is still in existence today, and visitors can observe where the Santa Fe River disappears within O'Leno State Park, goes underground and then reemerges several miles away at River Rise Preserve State Park. Its flow is expelled from the underground unto the surface to continue its flow to the Suwannee River. This natural bridge was traveled by Spanish explorers, Indians and settlers alike.

A section of the historic Bellamy Road runs through River Rise Preserve State Park, crossing the natural bridge.

Bellamy Road

When Florida was first being discovered, the natural land bridge between River Sink and River Rise was an important feature for the first explorers of the area. In the Spanish mission period of the 1600s, the Spanish used an Indian trail for their road running from St. Augustine, over the Santa Fe land bridge, to Tallahassee and Pensacola, calling it the El Camino Real. In 1824, the federal government contracted with John Bellamy, a plantation owner, to build the first federally-funded road running from St. Augustine to Tallahassee. This dirt road followed the El Camino Real, passing over the Santa Fe land bridge within River Rise Preserve, and is still known as Bellamy Road today.

Sinkholes, lakes and ponds are prevalent throughout the preserve.

Two Hole Sink

In 1974, approximately 4,500 acres were purchased by the Florida Park Service, creating River Rise Preserve State Park, which borders O'Leno State Park. Within the preserve and O'Leno there are 18 distinct natural communities and numerous topographic features characteristic of karst areas, including sinkholes, ponds, karst windows, springs, a disappearing and reemerging stream and a natural land bridge, making this a very popular spot for many permitted scientific studies by universities and other state agencies.

Horse barn and primitive camping facilities within River Rise Preserve State Park.

20 Stall Horse Barn

Beginning in 1989, the Friends of O'Leno State Park, volunteers and staff of O'Leno State Park have built a primitive camping area in River Rise Preserve. The camping area includes a 20-stall horse barn, restroom facilities, wash rack and picnic pavilion. Ninteen miles of multi-use trails were built throughout the preserve for hikers, bikers and horseback riders. River Rise Preserve has become a very popular spot for camping and horseback riding.

Horseback rider participating in a special event.

Trail Challenge

River Rise Preserve has been the location for many special events, including competitive trail rides, trail challenges and endurance rides, along with non-competitive events like Christmas for Horses.

More trails are added within the preserve, as seen on this trail map.

Trail Map

In 2007, 15 miles of new trails were built, making a total of 35 miles of multi-use trails within River Rise Preserve. A new trail head for equestrians was built on the east side of Highway 41/441 the same year, for the convenience of day riders.