Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens
Bushnell, FL - Events of Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Last Tuesday, we headed to Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens located in Williston, Florida, which is about 90 minutes north of Bushnell. Cedar Lakes is a botanical garden located in an old limestone quarry. The area surrounding the garden is a nature preserve administered by the Conservation Trust of Florida. The gardens are open Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Dr. Ray Webber purchased about 100 acres of land outside Williston containing several old limestone pits in 1993. His original intent was to stock some of the pits with fish to create his own private fishing holes. Over the course of a few years, a couple of the pits were dug out and the banks were lined with concrete to prevent erosion. Then to hide the concrete, Dr. Webber began adding plants. Soon, he was spending more time planting than fishing. Dr. Webber started concentrating most of his efforts on one main pit, which he eventually opened to the public.
It's a fairly long way from the main road to the parking area. The entrance road is also pretty rough in spots, especially for the stiff suspension on our one-ton truck, but we somehow made it to the parking area with the fillings in our teeth still intact. There are also signs along the road warning to watch for cattle, and they aren't kidding.
After paying our $12 per person admission and before we headed off to the gardens, we got to visit with one of their two rose-breasted cockatoos. We thought all cockatoos were white with a yellow crest, but this pink and gray variety is quite common in Australia.
There are paths that wind around the rim of the garden, and there is a labyrinth of paths down at the bottom. Bridges connect several islands and peninsulas.
There are quite a few squirrels in the gardens, and we could occasionally catch glimpses of them scampering out of our way as we walked along. At one point, one of them who was raiding a bird feeder finally paused long enough for Paul to snap a photo.
At the far side as we started down the path to the lower part of the garden, we came upon a small pool where water bubbling up formed the starting point of a series of cascades and small waterfalls that ran along the path. The cascades created a pleasant trickling sound as we followed the path.
Along the way, there was a pool with a number of large koi.
We strolled around the lower paths taking in the sights and snapping photos.
In addition to the cascade of water that followed the path down to the lower level, there are several waterfalls splashing down from the upper rim.
There was a pair of swans on the lake. They were paddling around the lake rather quickly; but after following them around for a while, we were eventually able to get a few good photos, one of which is shown below.
The lake also contains quite a few yellow-bellied slider turtles. The ones shown below were part of a group of about 10 of them sunning themselves at one end of the lake.
After navigating our way around the lower paths, we headed back to the upper level and began making our way to the exit. On the way, we stopped for another photo from the rim.
A short distance from where we took the photo above, we also got a good look at the two blue catfish that live in the lake. Big Ben, the larger one (they were both huge - we couldn't tell which one was Ben), weighs 100 pounds and is over 3 feet long.
We enjoyed our visit to Cedar Lakes. It was still early in the season so there wasn't a lot of spectacular color when we were there, but there were a few azaleas and a couple of other flowers in bloom. They told us there is a a lot more color by late March or early April and there is more lush foliage, so maybe we'll go back next year later in the season.
There is a restaurant called Dan's Clam Stand we have been wanting to try, so we took the long way back to Bushnell through Crystal River where Dan's is located. There is also a Dan's Clam Stand in Homosassa Springs, but we went to the one in Crystal River because it gets better reviews. Not only that, but it was a little closer, and we were hungry.
Dan's has all kinds of seafood, but we wanted clams. They have them available in numerous forms including whole belly clams at market price, a dinner basket of frozen clam strips with two sides for $7.75 and a dinner basket of fresh clam strips with two sides for $9.75, and a lunch basket of clam strips (presumably frozen) with one side for $6.50. We both had fresh clam strip dinner baskets with slaw and onion rings ($1.75 extra).
The clams were outstanding! They were crispy on the outside and tender and sweet on the inside. They were sweeter and more tender than the ones we get at Anna Maria Oyster Bar, but they still were not quite as good as those at the Ipswich Clambake Company in Ipswich, MA. We don't think anyone else can ever beat those. The cole slaw and onion rings at Dan's were good, too. The good news is Dan's is a lot closer to Blueberry Hill than Anna Maria Oyster Bar - only about 45 minutes as opposed to over an hour away. We're going to try to get there at least once more before we leave Florida.