Kelly Park, located in Orange County, Apopka, Florida, is one of the Orlando area’s (maybe not-so) hidden treasures. Late last year, I kayaked Rock Springs Run from Wekiva River State Park, but not all the way to the beggining of the river at the actual Rock Springs (located within Kelly Park). Crystal clear, 68 degree year round water was wonderful to swim in during the summer heat.
Rock springs gushes at a rapid speed out of a cleft in a rock outcropping (see photo below), creating a natural ‘lazy river’, which takes 20-30 minutes to float down on an inner-tube. The rock formations that continue, especially at the beginning, are quite striking and beautiful compared to scenery I’m used to seeing in the greater Orlando area.
The moving stream begins to slow down into a snaking meander. Below, large rocks create a small obstacle course in the beginning of the 3/4 mile stretch to the end.
Eventually, the stream arrives at the main swimming hole. Within Kelly Park’s access, the river finishes at a series of boardwalks exits. The ‘lazy river’ swimming area ends at a bridge that connects the trails. The stream can be seen continuing on from the small bridge at the end, with a large opening between the trees.
Kelly Park: No Respect
My trip to Kelly Park had mixed feelings. The clean and clear water, unique rock formations, and lush green foliage were a great experience, but the park was overcrowded, and I needed to wait at least 10 minutes for a mob of people to clear out to take each shot (on a weekday, no less). Concrete seawalls encase the swimming holes so that people don’t get there feet dirty, just like at Wekiva Springs. Concrete walls are one of my biggest pet peeves about Orlando swimming holes. There is nothing more sacrilegious you can do to a natural wonder (besides dumping and bouldozing).
Further, paved sidewalks followed in parallel to the river for easy entrance/exit, and dozens of acres of land were plowed over for building of outdoor pavilions. It all just seemed unnecessarily intrusive on such a pristine and special river. Do people really need all this construction to enjoy nature?
Scroll below to see some additional photos of Kelly Park.