Wednesday, May 15, 2024

River, Refuge, 3 Sisters and a Quarry

February and March 2024                                         Most Recent Posts:
Cedar Key RV Resort                              Paddling Off the Coast of Cedar Key
Sumner Florida                                                          Shell Mound                                    

One of my faithful readers sent an email asking if I was OK.  She pointed out that it had been over a month since my last post.  I am grateful to her for caring about me and I do want to continue to record my travels but am having a hard time with the motivation.  I am in awe of the fact that while David and I were traveling together for all those years, I posted every day or nearly every day.  Perhaps what we were doing was more interesting.  But I do know that posting in the immediate time is easier to do in the sense that it is all fresh and exciting in my mind rather than the old news it becomes.  Thank you Laurie for giving me the push I needed to at least get back to the old news.

My spot at Cedar Key RV Resort was a good place as a home base to visit things an hour or so away.  I am not going to talk about everything I did and everywhere I visited as I used to but I will show three of my trips.


Most people who full time want to visit all the National Parks.  But my  original motivation for buying an RV and hitting the road was that I wanted to visit all the National Wildlife Refuges in the country.  After some research I found that very very few of them had campgrounds so they became side trips for us.   I took this side trip in late February.

Established in 1983, the 179 acre Crystal River NWR is the only refuge created specifically for the protection of the threatened Florida manatee.  It includes several islands and 40 acres of winter manatee sanctuaries within the spring fed waters of Kings Bay. It preservers the Three Sisters Springs which they claim is the last unspoiled and undeveloped habitat in Kings Bay.  It doesn’t look that way from the springs themselves as you will see.  But the water has remained an amazing blue.


The King Spring is a loop shaped open swim area available for year round snorkeling and scuba diving.  On a previous visit David and I snorkeled here.  We also kayaked here.

The Wildlife Refuge is only accessible by boat.  There is no access to the springs from the refuge.  For that you have to go to the Three Sisters Springs Center where there is an admission charge and a shuttle though I chose to walk over.   All the pictures above and below were taken from the Three Sisters Springs land area.


Three Sisters Springs Center has several short trails which allow hiking access around Lake Crystal, adjacent wetlands and around the 3 Sisters Springs themselves.

I was visiting again to see the manatee of course and to determine if this was still a place I would like to kayak.  The answer was no.  There were far too many boats and too many people in the water though water access is not permitted through the refuge.  You can kayak there in restricted areas but you must launch further down the Crystal River or reserve an outfitter for scuba or snorkel access.

These people had just been dropped off by their outfitter to join those in the picture above who are already in the spring.  They were literally swimming in a line.


I didn’t take pictures of how totally clogged the Crystal River was with boats.   I should have taken at least one to show you and to remember why I did not return with my kayak.  But as you can see from this map provided by the Center, the refuge is an oasis in the middle of a metropolis.

Below you can see a “sanctuary” area which is roped off for the manatee to get away from the people and boats which are congregated just outside the barriers.  I’m a bit too far away, on the land for you to see the kayaks, canoes and swimmers as well as you can the pontoon and larger boats.




In early March I made a visit to Crystal River Archeological State Park, a Pre Columbian Ceremonial Mound Complex. 

The 3/4 mile paved interpretive trail through this ancient site, a National Historic Landmark, passes by six mounds.  It is one of the longest occupied pre-Columbian sites in Florida and has burial mounds, temple mounds, a large midden and a plaza.  The Archeological park is surrounded by the Crystal River Preserve State Park.  I hiked several of the trails there and was sorry that their eco-boat tours were not running.


As you can see from the map, the path went by each of the mounds but it was very difficult to get pictures of them other than of  the main Temple Mound A.    Luckily Florida is a very flat state so they are noticeable.


Mound A is the largest of the two Temple Mounds but much smaller now than it was originally.  It stood intact for over 1000 years until developers bulldozed 2/3rds of it for use as landfill in the 1950’s.   The map below shows its current shape with an outline of its original size.  It’s heartbreaking to think that it stood so long and no one protected it until nearly tooo late.  I guess we should be thankful that no one developed the entire site and destroyed them all.   The “ramp” is actually a staircase which it is believed was there at the time of its use


I’m speculating the ladies chose not to climb the stairs.


It’s actually taller than it looks in the picture.  Looking down gives a better idea.


The stairs to the top lead to a platform with wonderful views of the marsh to the right..


Directly behind the long steps the mound slopes down to  the Crystal River. 



The complex is protected from erosion by the river with a cement breakwater on its far side.

PXL_20240307_161858975A.MPAt one  point an outside exhibit which appears to be cut into a burial mound called “A Window on the Past” gave visitors a view of the Native American burials.
The structure was not removed and the graves reburied until the 1980’s.   I am always saddened at such disrespect so recently.

PXL_20240307_161746558.MPSome special objects buried with people in this central mound were made with meteoric iron, copper, quartz crystal, mica and other exotic materials that are not found in Florida.  Their style of design points to Native American cultures of present day Ohio.  The signage in the park along the walk is excellent and extremely educational.

I had chosen to explore the museum after taking the walk through the outside mound area and am glad I did.  Inside they had a diorama depicting what they think the site looked like in 1300.



One exhibit showed the sequence of cultures, how the site had changed, as well as how the pottery and projectile points were done differently over time.

I apologize for the reflections.  The overhead lights made photographs difficult.

Each period had a display case showing pottery vessels and shards, their method of construction, as well as arrowheads.  It was a great deal of information displayed extremely well in a small space.   The art work on these pieces was really beautiful.





I was amazed at the beauty of these articles of daily use.   It was clear coming here after the Wildlife Refuge and Springs did not leave me as much time as I would have liked to learn about this amazing civilization which left few traces of its time here.   Would that future generations could say the same about us.

I hope to make a return visit perhaps next year.


I was nearing the end of my stay in Cedar Key in late March when I took a trip to Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens.  This century old rock quarry has been turned into a 20 acre botanical garden.  It is located in Williston Florida about 40 minutes from where I am staying.

The Woods and Gardens were founded by Dr. Raymond Webber, an Endodontists, who bought the 100+ year old retired rock quarry in 1991 and opened it to the public in January of 2014.  In 1991 it was a polluted swamp and he intended to use the quarry as a giant fishing pond for his private use.  Ultimately over the intervening years, he created concrete walkways, separate pools, waterfalls, gazebos, pavilions and bridges. 

Before opening to the public in 2014 he created the non-profit Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens, Inc and donated the entire 20-acre botanical garden to the non-profit.  He then donated the entire 64-acre surrounding woodlands to Conservation Florida in order to keep them protected in the future.   I have great admiration for his conservation efforts.

The map will give you an idea of how much there is to see.  You start at the top and the paths take you down to the level of the water.  It’s quite easy to spend an entire day there.  Bring lunch.  There are numerous beautiful spots for a picnic - gazebos, tables and benches.

The quarry walls are lined with concrete and rock planters, filled with hundreds of species of plants and flowers. The surrounding trees and the topography of the quarry allow temperate and semitropical plants to flourish year-round.


There are many different kinds of paths, these are the very top with the quarry walls as their sides.    There are open views most of the way on all the paths




Little and big water falls surprised me as I walked.


The structures frequently had an oriental design or at least they gave me that feeling.   Perhaps it was the red paint.  Several arched bridges.

I’m not quite at water level but I can see the islands and bridges that continue the paths.



Dr Webber developed the quarry over a period of 23 years before he opened it and it has been open now for 10 years.  The size of the trees and other plants show their maturity.  Notice the colors of the railings.


I found the variety of path styles wonderful.


You can move from island to island with ease.



One of the pathways takes you right by the Doctor’s Home.  Don’t know if he was in residence but there were several employees working with plants there.


Tall waterfall from above.


On a small point that was roped off a pair of swans had built a nest and seemed quite used to the people walking by and taking pictures.


The colored railings, correspond to the colors on the map to make it easier for you to figure out where you are.  A great idea that other places might adopt.

This walkway allows you to go behind the waterfall as these folks did.


I took this picture from behind it but the light was difficult.


At the bottom, this fountain is the main attraction.

I wasn’t here at peak bloom season.  I had missed the azaleas and other early spring bushes and was too early for summer but there was still quite a bit of color.



From the other side of the fountain you can see the pavilion and another gazebo both of which have benches and picnic tables.


The pagoda atop the waterfall is also a spot for sitting.

Of course when you go down you must ultimately go back up.   They have a clear statement saying the gardens are not handicapped accessible and then a lengthy statement describing which sections one might be able to negotiate.  Along with warnings that paths are sometimes steep, winding, bumpy and narrow. 

But they are beautiful!


My admission fee of $12 was well spent for a lovely day here.   I’m glad I had an entire day to enjoy it.  This picture was taken from the Pagoda where the windchimes added wonderful music to this lovely spot.



  1. Nice Pics as always of places many have not been to. Blogs are a lot of work, but nice to have to relive trips and life. Glad you are doing well. We spent a month in Key West between trips to South America. Back in Alaska now as the trees budded two days ago and are covered with leaves. such a magical time as the Sun stays at work so long each day.

    1. So great to hear from you Tom. Wish you were still blogging. I'd love to know where you stayed in Key West and went in South America on what sounds like multiple trips.

  2. So many pics! Wow, this is quite the gorgeous spot. Definitely well worth the $12. I agree, I think it's the red color on the bridge, seems to make it even better. Thanks for such a wonderful grand tour Sherry, we definitely appreciate all of the effort you put into the blog...

    1. Thank you for your comment and I am very sorry that I have no idea who you are because Blogger and its infinite wisdom has chosen to make you anonymous.

  3. Glad to see you are still thriving! I understand the lack of blogging motivation. When I stopped blogging I felt guilty, but don't miss it. Our travels to Mexico are pretty much the same, so not much to say. Love the pictures you shared!

    1. Thank you Laurie you can consider yourself responsible for motivating me to do this post

  4. Beautiful pictures! The water clearness, waterfalls and flowers are gorgeous! Clear, green water like that - divine! Neat to see it.

    1. Thank you sweetheart I am sorry that Blogger made you anonymous. It seems everyone was more taken with the quarry then with the springs or the mounds.

  5. Hello Sherry!!! What a beautiful place and thank you for sharing you pictures and experience there. Would love to visit there next year as Gods willing everything will be ok. A place I would love to visit!! Hope all is well with you!! ❤️. Judy & Jim …

    1. Should be reasonably close when you are at Rainbow Judy. Thanks for your comment.

  6. So glad you posted again, please keep it up. Your writing and photos take your readers to places they otherwise may not be able to visit or even know about. Doris from Pa

    1. Doris your encouragement means a lot. Thank you for commenting to let me know you are reading.

  7. What an amazing job Dr Webber did with that quarry, taking a blight on the land and turning it into something amazing and beautiful. Thanks for giving me another must see bucket list item. :c)

    1. When will you be heading south again Paul??

    2. No chance anytime soon because of the problems with Marti's sister and having to take care of her.

  8. I was a bit worried about you as well, Sherry, and planned to write to you as soon as we returned from the beach. Lo and behold, a blog post. Wonderful! Mo and I have passed through Williston several times but never visited these amazing gardens. Not even sure if I ever heard of them. So lovely. We also have passed near Crystal River but chose to avoid it for all the reasons that you didn't return with your kayak. Too many beautiful spring runs that are only moderately populated to attempt to navigate the crowds at this one. Thanks for going there for us and taking such great photos. Don't wait a month for the next one if you can help it, although as you know, I do that as well.

    1. Thanks for your comment Sue. The Archeological State Park is well worth a visit should you ever come back to Florida.

  9. So glad to know that you're doing well, Sherry. You certainly did a lot during your winter in Cedar Key! I agree with you and Sue...Crystal River is way too crowded for us. We haven't been to Cedar Lakes Woods and's lovely! And your photos are wonderful. I feel like I've been there after your photo tour. :-)

    1. Thank you Laurel. If you come to Florida next winter I hope we can meet up at some point. Enjoy your summer in the cool North Carolina Mountains.

  10. Great to see you here Sherry and so glad you finished off your blog with the end of your seasonal travels! Great pics and accompanying narratives! Looking forward to your next adventure!

    1. Not quite the end Mary as you will see. Thanks for your comment. So glad we met up at Anastasia.

  11. Thank you Laurie!!! I had no idea there was so much we didn't see in that area. Of course we were only there a few days, and you were smarter and stayed much longer. Impossible to pick a favorite photo or even a favorite location!!

  12. Well I'm way behind also, both reading and writing. I like the idea of visiting NWR instead of the more crowded NPs. These are all beautiful places and I'm glad the Dr preserved this location.


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