Ocala, Florida State Park Camping

Ocala, Florida State Park Camping
The Ocala National Forest's eastward extension has made the central Florida city of Ocala an expedition launch point for campers. Ocala's outdoor allure is further enhanced by three nearby state parks protecting the forests, prairies, springs and rivers of the region. The parks preserve the Florida recorded in the novels of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and provide visitors a base camp from which to explore.

Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

The Alachua Savannah is north of Ocala, stretching to the edge of Gainesville. Thick forests surround this vast prairie where wild Spanish horses and American bison roam. The diversity of ecosystems in Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park delights birders and wildlife enthusiasts seeking to spot the more than 400 vertebrate species that dwell and transit through the park. Extensive hiking trails traverse the park and cyclists will find the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail across the park's northern section. Campgrounds in the park are in a wooded section near a boat ramp onto Lake Wauberg. Deer frequently roam through the campsites suitable for RV or tent use, and each accompanied by electric and water hookups. Additional campsite amenities include restrooms, showers, picnic tables, grill and fire ring.

Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park
100 Savannah Blvd.
Micanopy, FL 32667
(352) 466-3397

Rainbow Springs State Park

A 20-minute drive southwest of Ocala leads visitors to the crystal clear waters of the Rainbow River. The cool, flowing waters of this six-mile tributary of the Withlacoochee River offers freshwater fishing and kayaking, but tubing is the most popular method of enjoying the river, especially during hot, humid Florida summers. The springs are closed to inflatable pursuits but swimmers and snorkelers are free to splash in the 72-degree water issuing from the cracks in the limestone aquifer. Canoe and tube rentals are available. Campsites featuring full hookups provide a refuge for RV and tent campers downstream of the springs. Accompanying the sites are showers, restrooms, pool, playground and laundry.

Rainbow Springs State Park
19158 SW 81st Place Road
Dunnellon, FL 34432
(352) 465-8555

Silver River State Park

Just east of Ocala is the Silver River, where the headsprings are surrounded by the Silver River Nature Park. Beyond the nature park, the Silver River enters Silver River State Park, which preserves the ecosystems nourished by the waters of the river as it flows to its confluence with the Ocklawaha River. While swimming in the river is prohibited in the park, kayakers can explore the river to the headsprings or down to the confluence at their leisure. Fifteen miles of trails give hikers and off-road cyclists ample opportunity to spot the deer, wild turkeys, armadillos and gopher tortoises that inhabit the 5,000 acres conserved by the park. Visitors may chance across the bobcats and Florida black bear residing in the park and the adjacent Ocala National Forest. Overnight stays are available at the campsites and rental cabins within the park. Campsites are equipped with a grill, fire ring, picnic table, water and electric hookup. Campground facilities include restrooms, showers and a playground.

Silver River State Park
1425 NE 58th Ave.
Ocala, FL 34470
(352) 236-7148

Article Written By David Chandler

David Chandler has been a freelance writer since 2006 whose work has appeared in various print and online publications. A former reconnaissance Marine, he is an active hiker, diver, kayaker, sailor and angler. He has traveled extensively and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida where he was educated in international studies and microbiology.

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