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Ocala National Forest

Historic Sites, Monuments, Landmarks, and Public Art (National Historic Landmark)


The Ocala National Forest is located in northern central Florida, and spans about 387,000 acres. This is the southernmost national forest in the continental United States, as well as the second largest and includes more than 600 lakes, rivers, and springs according to the United States Department of Agriculture. The forest is a popular tourist destination; from renting cabins, taking beautiful hikes through the forest, picnicking, swimming, fishing, canoeing, ATV riding, horseback riding, hunting, and shooting, to even just enjoying a nice day out at the one of many springs open to guests. Locations such as Juniper Springs, Salt Springs, Alexander Springs, and Silver Glen Springs, being credited as one of Florida’s oldest tourist destinations (Draper), are places to enjoy such swimming and recreation. There is something for everyone to enjoy. In fact, the Ocala National Forest was ranked #5 in a Reader’s Choice top 10 Parks for hiking (Ben). If hiking isn’t your thing, perhaps taking in all the beauty and splendor of the area is. There are many terrific spots to stop the car and snap a few beautiful pictures of tremendous trees, and perhaps you may be fortunate enough to stumble across one of the many creatures that inhabit the forest, such as deer and black bears. This forest contains the largest concentration of sand pine in the entire world (United), and make for some beautiful photographs. However, there is as much to learn about the forest as there is to enjoy in it

Juniper Springs Tourists from 1948 (United).
More Juniper Springs Swimming (United).
Beautiful Plant Life (United).
Ocala national forest centennial reenactment of Theodore Roosevelt signing the park into creation (United).


 The Park was founded on the 24th of November 1908, and was the second national forest established east of the Mississippi river out of the 150 forests added during President Roosevelts administrations (United). Before it was a national forest however, it is believed that Silver Springs was inhabited by native Americans, who’s artifacts have been excavated from the sight. Silver Springs State park is also credited with being an early tourist destination in Florida with its origins dating to the 1820’s, when paddlewheel steamboats brought tourists to the area (Draper). However, Roosevelt would be remembered as the man who took Americas preservation into his own hands in a time when no one really cared about conservation. Roosevelt would later write in his autobiography “All that I strove for in the nation in connection with conservation was fore-shadowed by what I strove for New York State when I was governor” (Marvinney). The introduction of the Ocala national forest added acreage to the reserves, of which 15,000,00 acres of Timberland were added during Roosevelts Administration (Marvinney).

 Prior to the forests creation the community surrounding what would become the Ocala national forest relied on the timber and turpentine industries of the area (United). They relied on the market value of timber, when it was high the industries would come and take lumber to be put on the market. When the market value of timber eventually lowered the industries would abandon the small communities and leave them with a neutered economy and much deforestation, including the communities around the Ocala national forest, as well as many other communities of the southeast (United). This all goes back to the idea that in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, people really did not think much about conservation and the protection of the United States resources. This belief was one of the many things Roosevelt sought to change, as he was an avid outdoorsman and sportsman. He wanted there to be a place for future generations to hunt, fish and hike. The Ocala National Forest perfectly imbodies this desire.

The idea of Theodore Roosevelt playing such a vital role in the Forest’s history is something that is still being celebrated to this day. In 2008 there was a huge festival celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Forest, complete with cake and a reenactment of Theodore Roosevelt signing the Forest creation order. The centennial of the Forest birth marks 100+ years of education, exploration, preservation, and recreation. Had it not been for Theodore Roosevelt and his love for nature who knows what would have happened to this lush ecosystem that draws in tourist year-round. Perhaps the forest we know and love today would have been very different. In a time of industrial automation, the forest could have easily been consumed until there was nothing left, taking with it the many species of animal and plant life that inhabit its acres today. What is for sure is that there is something to be enjoyed and much to learn when visiting the beautiful Ocala National Forest. Make sure to bring plenty of bug repellent and sunscreen, and be prepared to take many wonderful photos while enjoying the beautiful Florida weather.


Ben, Mutzabaugh. "Told to 'Take a Hike'? Try These Spots." USA Today, n.d. EBSCOhost,

Draper, Robin. “Authentic Florida: Ocala offers pristine beauty, old world feel”. FloridaToday. Robin Draper, 12 March 2016, Accessed 24 October 2017.

Marvinney, Sandy. "Theodore Roosevelt, Conservationist." New York State Conservationist, vol. 50, no. 6, June 1996, p. 15. EBSCOhost,

"Taking in Orlando, Naturally." Urology Times, vol. 24, no. 4, Apr. 1996, p. S8. EBSCOhost,

United States Department of Agriculture Ocala National Forest. Np, nd, Accessed 23 October 2017.

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This location was created on 2017-09-21 by Xavier Diaz, Seminole State College; Instructed by Diana Reigelsperger.   It was last updated on 2017-11-30 by Xavier Diaz, Seminole State College; Instructed by Diana Reigelsperger.

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