110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Bill Flowers
The Volusia County section of the St. Johns River starts south of the State Road 46 bridge that crosses the river in the southernmost part of Volusia County, a wedge-shaped piece between Brevard and Seminole counties.
This is prairie country. During the rainy season, the river here could be 1 to 3 miles wide. During low water, it could be only 75 feet wide, and very shallow. The tree line could be as much as a mile from the riverbank.
Just south of the 46 bridge, the Little Econ River flows into the St. Johns. The Little Econ is designated as an outstanding water by the state. This area is noted for its bird life. It is also in the duck flyway. There is a boat launch on the west side of the S.R. 46 bridge.
Lake Harney is just south of the bridge. When the lake is in its bank, fishing is usually very good. During the cool winter months, largemouth bass and crappies offer lots of action for sportsmen. When the river is low, you may run over some shallow areas, especially heading north out of the lake.
As you go out of Harney on the east side of the river, Deep Creek flows in from the east. This drains from the Samsula area of the county. The creek is a must if you appreciate nature. Among other wonders, you will see cypress knees 6 or 7 feet tall. Just north of the creek on the left-hand side is the site of the Osceola Sawmill. The mill is gone, but there are a few pilings left in the river marking the spot where cypress logs were rafted to the bank. This area is noted for the presence of eagles.
There are a few spots going north that have holes. The deeper holes offer good crappie fishing in the winter. In this area, bass fishing is good when the river is in its bank. American white shad migrate from the ocean, usually in late January, February and March, and are readily caught in this part of the river.
Several miles north is Lemon Bluff, where there is a Volusia County launch ramp.
Just north of Lemon Bluff, on the left, is Mullet Lake Park. The public launch site here is accessible from S.R. 46. Just past the park, Lake Jessup flows in from the left. A first-timer going north from here to Lake Monroe may end up getting lost. The river channel is not marked, and some areas are wider and deeper than the river. You’ll need a map the first time.
If you find the S.R. 415 bridge, you’ve got it made to get into Lake Monroe. Lake Monroe has channel markers to guide you into the river. From Lake Monroe north, in my opinion, is the most beautiful part of the St. Johns. Trees line the banks. In the fall, all the swamp trees lose their leaves and, usually, we have a very beautiful showing of color. In the spring, the pink and red mallow bloom. Also, we have a lot of aster bushes blooming in the fall. Along the banks are many types of blooming plants, including two species of wild orchids.
At Marker 96, the Wekiva River enters from into the west side of the river. This is a very beautiful stream. Just north of Marker 92 is a Volusia County launch ramp accessible from West Highbanks Road in DeBary. Farther north, at Marker 87, there is a tributary on the east side that flows to Marker 81. At Marker 80, you’ll see a canal on the west bank that empties into the Hontoon Dead River. Still heading north, at Marker 71 is Blue Spring State Park, a refuge for manatees and a delight for humans who enjoy hiking, camping, swimming and picnicking.
Further north on the right is Lake Beresford, which is about 1 mile wide and 3 miles long. Hontoon Island State Park is just around the bend. Across from the park is the place where the only totem poles ever found east of the Mississippi River were discovered. There’s a replica on display at the park, along with an educational center, camping, a playground and ferry rides to the parking area.
Just past Hontoon Landing Marina, the Hontoon Dead River flows into the river.
At Marker 49, Botts Creek is on the left side. This creek travels past Shell Creek and back into the river at Marker 42. Shell Creek dead-ends in the swamp about two miles from Botts Creek. The two islands between Markers 41 and 42 were created by the last dredging of the St. Johns.
Next, you’ll come to the State Road 44 bridge. Just beyond, on the left, is another island created by dredging. On the right is the Highland Park Canal, which leads to the Zeigler and Norris dead rivers, and on to Lake Woodruff. It is about eight miles from the St. Johns to Woodruff.
At Marker 31, there are three islands on the left and one on the right, also created by dredging. On the right is Harry’s Creek, which leads to Tick Island Mud Lake, off Lake Woodruff. At Marker 26, St. Francis Dead River flows in from the left. The St. Francis settlement landing was here.
Just past Marker 24, Get Out Creek comes into the river. This is a branch of Alexander Spring Creek. It is a shallow, narrow, clear-water creek about 7 miles long. North of Marker 21, on the right, is Cross Creek. It connects to Epps Creek, which flows from Tick Island Mud Lake into Lake Dexter. Just north of Marker 18, Alexander Springs flows in from the left. This is a beautiful clear creek. With a small boat, you can travel many miles up this creek.
At Marker 15, you enter Lake Dexter. Head east here, and you will go through Tick Island Creek into Lake Woodruff. Head east along the north shore of Lake Woodruff and you’ll find Spring Garden Run, which leads to DeLeon Springs State Park. Head southeast to the Norris Dead River.
From Dexter north, you come to the towns at the State Road 40 bridge: Volusia on the right, and Astor on the left. You are not far from Lake George, now. Beyond the bridge, Blue Creek is on the left. Past this is another creek on the left going to Blue Creek. This creek flows back into the river close to the jetties in Lake George.
Lake George is a big lake, 9 miles wide and 13 miles long. Most of the east side of the lake is in Volusia County. On the west side, three springs flow into the lake. In the southwest corner is Juniper Springs, midway is Silver Glen Springs, and to the northwest is Salt Springs.
When the St. Johns flows north from Lake George, it flows out of Volusia County, and your county tour is over. Feel free to turn back south and view our beautiful river from the other direction. Stop a while and see us, too, on your way back down.
Bill Flowers was born and raised in Deland, writes On the River which is published in the weekend edition of The DeLand-Deltona Beacon.
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