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CENTRAL FLORIDA SITES:
LAKE COUNTY SITES:
ALEXANDER SPRINGS -- (N29° 04.851 W81° 34.671), is visited by millions each year. It is located off Hwy. 445 in the sprawling Ocala Forrest, off Hwy. 19, which bisects the forest north and south. Hwy. 445 can also be reached in Astor, off of Hwy. 40, which bisects the forest east and west. The spring is first magnitude (78 million gals. /day), and is a common dive destination. The State Park Rangers upon check-in require air cards. In addition to the spring, there is a beach for non-divers to enjoy, and camping is allowed. Gold jewelry and many coins have been found in the spring and beach area over the years, as tourists renew the supply constantly. The spring area itself boasts 200-ft. wide pool and 30 ft. depths. Many spearpoints have been found in the area, but the most numerous finds are in the spring run, where Hwy. 445 crosses the run points below to the confluence with the St. Johns River. There are archeological sites on the South side of the run, near its junction with the St. Johns, which explain the large amounts of pottery, points, and European relics found in the clear water. To search the run, launch a canoe at the junction of 445 and the run on the S. side, or go to the Hwy. 52B juncture with the run and work up current.
JAYCEE BEACH - (N28° 33.676 W81° 45.635) on Lake Minneola in Clermont, is a good shallow place to practice scuba metal detecting and pick up coins. The 1890's - 1940's beach was at the foot of Eighth Street downtown, to the left of the fishing pier and immediately in front of the huge oak tree. There once was a pier here with diving platforms to the E., W., and on the N. ends! Many 1920's coins are found here, the height of its popularity. The pier extended about half the length of the modern fishing pier. An excellent dive is Crystal Lake, at the foot of 2nd street. It has many deep holes to explore, especially on the SW end. The lake can be reached by taking East Avenue north off Hwy. 50 to Osceola Street go west on Osceola to the first left (2nd street), and straight to the small public beach and canoe ramp.
WEST BEACH - (N28° 33.582 W81° 46.484) off 12th street, on the W. shoreline of Lake Minneola, behind a roofing contractor building is the abandoned beach. When I was a child, hundreds of people came to this small beach every day. For the most part, it is now deserted, with water reeds growing in the S. part (right of the pier) of the swimming area, where most activity was centered.
LAKE LOUISE STATE PARK -- (N28° 27.83 W81° 45.05) is a tourist draw for thousands every summer. The only time to hunt it unmolested by rangers or alligators is in the winter. Especially after rains, many articles can be found in plain sight, as the park is deserted in wintertime.
LAKE LOUISE - (N28° 30.086 W81° 44.808) S. of Clermont off SR. 561. Three AT-6 Texans crashed in this lake in WWII. None were salvaged at the time, probably because of the dark tannic water. The engines probably crystallized on impact, but with Texan airframes fetching $250,000 and more, anything brought up could be worth serious money. There is a boat ramp on Hull Road (off Hwy. 561) for access.
LAKE WINONA CANAL -- (N28° 32.565 W81° 46.191) at the corner of Lake Minnehaha and the Lake Winona Canal stood a huge dance hall and community center of the 1930's and 40's. The swimming beach was from the E. side of the canal on Lake Minnehaha and extended about 100 yards to the East. This spot was a hotbed of activity in those times. Houses now occupy the shore, so a boat must be used to dive the old beach. This spot has never been metal detected to my knowledge, probably due to the mild tannic water. When the city of Clermont's founder arrived to survey the area for a town, he found a two story hotel, dilapidated and the grounds grown to jungle, at the spot indicated.
VILLA CITY -- (N28° 36.978 W81° 51.518) by 1900, this boomtown for the wealthy was gone, its demise shrouded in mystery. In the early 1900's my grandparents used to come here and transplant flowers that had gone wild to their farm in Groveland. They described the place as having huge concrete swimming and lily pools dotted throughout the landscape, and a small beach on Lake Emma, near the Palatlakaha River. Today, all remnants of the town have vanished, but if you can manage to find the old beach, a fortune of old coins and jewelry could be waiting.
LAKESHORE DRIVE BEACH - (N28° 32.566 W81° 44.871) was the local high school kid's hangout for 40 years. A good chance many gold rings are here off the old dive platform, which has been gone for over 20 years!
GRASSHOPPER LAKE POND -- (N29° 07.873 W81° 37.189) has been a swimming and campout place in the Ocala National Forrest for many years. This pond is crystal clear, makes an excellent dive for the diver who likes to camp. There is a boat ramp on Beakman Lake, on the W side of 19 that is your landmark, you'll go up a rise (going N. on 19) look for the first road (sand) to the E., it will take you to the pond and camp (primitive) area. If you go 200 yards further you'll hit the road that goes to Grasshopper Lake (has a boat ramp).
OLD YOUTH CAMP DOCK ON BEAKMAN LAKE -- (N29° 07.229 W81° 37.497) only the posts from the dock are sticking out of the water now. This would be a great spot for the water hunter! There is a boat ramp on the W. side of 19 that would give access, and the photograph is taken from the ramp location. Look closely for the small cabins clustered on the SW corner of the lake, then spot the old dock out in front of them.
BEACH ON WILDCAT LAKE -- (N29° 10.205 W81° 37.658) The beach is just E. of the intersection of the Hwy. 19 & 40 intersection. It was the beach Astor residents used for eons, until the park service put a day fee use box up. Now it is practically deserted, but the money and jewelry left from the old days likely remains!
MARION COUNTY SITES:
RAINBOW SPRINGS & RIVER: are canoed and rafted by over 200,000 people annually! A trip here almost never fails to produce something! A hot spot for the locals is the small public beach on the W. side of the river's junction with the Withlacoochee River. There is also what appears to be a sunken barge or steamer on the E. side of the same junction. On the upper river, look for rope swings, dive platforms, nails in trees where climbing ladders once were, and the like for likely places to fan the bottom for gold! The best way to see and dive the river is to take a boat from the Withlacoochee boat ramp (Hwy. 41 bridge over Withlacoochee in Dunnellon) and go East until you see the clear Rainbow Spring's Run (Blue River) about 1 mile East of the ramp.
SILVER SPRINGS -- are visited by millions annually, and this site is mentioned in Spanish and English documents from the 1500's on! William Bartram is known to have dropped coins in the main spring to judge its depth. In the Silver River, near its confluence with the Oklawaha River, are the remains of the 1800's river steamer METAMORA, which sank March 19, 1903, with the loss of two lives (so it sank suddenly). To reach the river, go E. of Ocala on Hwy. 40 to the Oklawaha River crossing, and look for the boat ramp on the S. side of the bridge.
SALT SPRINGS -- another site in the vast Ocala National Forrest visited by hundreds each day in the summertime, this spring is at the head of Salt Spring's Run, which is littered with ancient pottery shards and spear-points all along its three-mile length! There is a boat ramp off Hwy. 19 in the town of Salt Springs that offers excellent access to the millpond and spring.
Towards the lower reaches of Salt Springs Run, there are the remains of three ancient shell middens that are commonly used as swimming sites by boaters and campers, rope swings come and go with the seasons, suggesting there may be some lost gold in the river at these locations.
SILVER GLEN SPRING -- was probably a Spanish Mission Site, though this is still under study. The spring was one of the ones visited by William Bartram in the 1700's, and he would habitually drop coins in the springs to determine depth. Bartram mentions this one specifically in his literature. Today, thousands of people swim in the spring and its run to Lake George each year. Easy to visit, it is just off Hwy. 19, 5 miles north of the Hwy. 19 & 40 intersection.
FORE LAKE - (N29° 16.30 W81° 54.94) in the Fore Lake Recreation Area should produce gold jewelry at the beach. Fore lake is off Hwy. 314 (Salt Springs Highway) which connects Hwy. 40 out of Ocala and Hwy. 19 out of Palatka.
INVERNESS - just W. of hwy. 41, N. of the town of Inverness, off Byron Street is a sink/spring that appears deep enough to dive. I spotted this spring/sink while flying to the Rainbow River, don't know what activity has occurred here, but the white mark is a small beach. Activity may be concentrated around it, and if so, this would be an easy place to hunt.
ORANGE COUNTY SITES:
ROCK SPRINGS -- (N28° 45.52 W81° 30.12) was long a favorite of local divers before the state put up the no diving signs, and it is still visited by hundreds of swimmers each day in the summertime. The spring can be snorkeled easily, and hand fanning the shallow sections to bedrock should produce. The state run spring is off Rock Springs Road, on Kelly Park Road, E. of Apopka
WEKIVA SPRING & RIVER -- (N28° 42.80 W81° 27.53) the spring has been in constant use from earliest man to modern times. The river is clear, with numerous remnants of diving platforms (only nails remain) that should put you onto old gold! In the river, you may also discover mastodon bones, sabertooth tiger, camel, or horse fossils. To get to the river, take Wekiva Springs Road N. off Hwy. 436 then take Miami Springs Road to the marina. The marina has canoe rentals and a Cracker-food style restaurant.
SANLANDO SPRINGS -- (N28° 40.706 W81° 24.025) from the 1880's to the 1960's, this was the spot to go for a swim, or slide into the Sanlando spring vent from a huge water-slide. The spring was pay for the day private park for a century, then developers bought it out, and now private homes are packed all around it like so many sardine cans. All that was dropped in it is probably still there, because modern metal detectors had not yet reached their ease of use zenith when the park was bought out. The spring is a commando-dive, by taking Douglas Street N. off Hwy. 436 (just before it crosses I-4) then look for Candlewick to your left, and go back to the small county park. On the West Side of the park there is a hole cut in the fence where divers and swimmers traverse to the spring, by going to the river (ahead and to your left) and wading up current to the spring. There is no legal access for non-property owners that I know of, .
TURKEY LAKE - A P-47 Thunderbolt fighter crashed into this lake it WWII, and was not salvaged at the time. This lake is just E. of the Turkey Lake Plaza on Florida's Turnpike in Orlando. A P-47 in flying condition can fetch over 2 million dollars, so even parts are worthwhile finding!
GOURD-NECK SPRING -- (N28° 34.023 W81° 40.796) take a look at this thing! It was used as a swimming hole for years prior to the farms on the S. end of Lake Apopka polluting the lake. Now, with a massive cleanup, the lake is coming back, and cave-divers are diving the spring again. There must be many Paleo-artifacts in this spring, in addition to old gold from the early frolickers! There are boat-ramps at Winter Garden & Oakland for access.
SUMTER COUNTY SITES:
OUTLET RIVER -- (N28° 48.014 W82° 09.188) where SR. 470 crosses Lake Panasoffkee's short outlet river to the Withlacoochee River is the site of a pitched battle between U.S. Army, Militia, and Seminole Indians. Each group crisscrossed the river at this site several times, undoubtedly leaving a few relics to the depths. The Outlet River is filled with artifacts from a Paleo-Indian culture. There is a boat ramp and picnic tables at the site, and the water is usually clear, with deep (25 ft.) spots to the S. of the boat ramp, and adjacent to a small island. This site should also be productive for fossils, but don't leave the kids or pets on the banks or let them play in the water here, because Lake Panasoffkee is teeming with alligators. Y'all be careful!
POLK COUTY SITES:
WIRE LAKE: (N28° 02.81 W81° 57.68) - people may look sideways at you for diving into "Lake Wire" as it in the center of Lakeland's business district, but this lake was the center of activity for the surrounding area from 1866 onward. The real start of Lakeland came when Herbert J. Drane located his 3,000-man railroad construction camp on the bank of Wire Lake in 1883. By 1890, 20-25 trains were pulling into the station daily, and the lake is the probable repository for who knows what!
ROUGHRIDER'S CAMP - (N28° 01.73 W81° 56.79) Teddy Roosevelt's brigade was camped on the bank of Lake Hollingsworth where Florida Southern College is located today. The old beach was located in front of the college.
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