Experiencing Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park as an Outdoor Museum

Experiencing Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park as an Outdoor Museum

By Deanna Dammer Kimbrough Posted on January 23, 2020

First in a Series: The Land Tour

The Florida State Park system includes 175 parks which are located in 58 of our 67 counties, according to the Florida Park Service. 

Werner-Boyce Salt Springs, in Port Richey west of U.S 19, is the newest Florida State Park, opening it 3,999 acres to the public in March 2001. The Park’s staff continue to add more interpretive opportunities for visitors – hikers, water enthusiasts, picnickers, and, of course, plant and wildlife lovers.  

The Park has boardwalks, a kayak and canoe launch, and bird viewing stands that were built in cooperation with the Audubon Society. In fact, Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park houses the first ADA portable bird viewing stand in the Florida State Park system.

The Park Manager Adam Belden, Specialist Michael Faustini, Ranger Karen Strawn, and the many devoted volunteers are so passionate about sharing their park and its many natural and historic wonders.

Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park offers hiking, biking, boating, and historic education

Visitors can enjoy the Werner-Boyce interpretive opportunities, the beauty of nature and never-ending awe that is inspired by wildlife. They wear many hats, but the main mission of the Florida State Park System is exactly what you will find at Werner-Boyce: To provide resource-based recreation while protecting, preserving and interpreting our natural and cultural resources.

You may see an eagle’s nest with eaglets if you are very observant on the Eagle Trail – and it is a good idea to bring binoculars! Image courtesy of Pixabay.

When you hike the Eagle Trail, you may see an eagle’s nest with eaglets, if you are very observant and it’s the right time of year.  Park Ranger Adam Belden loves to tell the story of how often he sees the parents trying to teach their young ones to fly and be independent.  It seems sometimes the little birds are like stubborn children and have tantrums.  Eventually, the eaglets do get the idea and become very independent.  Future plans include an eagle cam, but for now, it’s a good idea to bring binoculars.

Try the Springs Trail to see a Mullet Boat

The Springs Trail winds around Mullet Cove and features a model of a mullet boat (handcrafted by Park staff and volunteers). Enjoy the volunteer crafted butterfly garden as you climb the stairs to the elevated, composting restroom building.  

A model of a mullet boat handcrafted by Park staff and volunteers is part of the display at Mullet Cove along The Springs Trail at Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park in Port Richey, Florida. Image by Deanna Dammer-Kimbrough.

The Park does have ADA restrooms throughout the grounds, as well as many waste receptacles, allowing visitors to help keep the areas safe for wildlife.  A nearby boardwalk also provides access to the free kayak/canoe launch.

Toilet Bowl and Cauldron Springs reach over 340 feet into the Emerald Room Cavern

Further on down the trail, a cozy picnic area is nestled in between the Toilet Bowl and Cauldron Springs.  Cauldron Springs flows deep into the Emerald Room cavern. This amazing phenomenon has been explored by Park-approved divers who went as deep as 341 feet – and it’s believed the spring may be even deeper.  The adjacent picnic area includes a box on a post that serves as a free library for those who want to sit back and read while listening to the water rush by.  Make sure you spot the dugout canoe carved by early natives who called the area home. 

Otter’s Landing has a giant oyster bed only a few feet into the water. Otters are a common sight here at low tide. Image by Deanna Dammer Kimbrough.

See a real Oyster Bed at Otter’s Landing

Next on the journey is Otter’s Landing where, you guessed it, otters have been seen on shore when the tide is low.  The big draw at Otter’s Landing is the giant oyster bed just a few feet into the water, where the shells are washed into the water with the tide, fusing with other shells to form the oyster bed, providing habitats for a variety of marine life.

Fisher’s Corner provides a great place to Fish

Fisher’s Corner offers the chance to catch a variety of fish, when in season. You will want a Florida Fishing license and it is wise to do your homework before casting any lines.

At times the Florida Wildlife Commission bans certain fish when the populations are affected by red tide.  As of this writing, redfish, speckled trout and snook are off-limits, so check with FWC before putting that hook and line in the water.  Mullet fish is a “restricted species” and can only be caught with nets. 

Great horned owls and red hawks are common on Red Spring Trail, with 150 species of birds known to inhabit Werner Boyce Salt Springs State Park. This is a great location for birders of all skill levels. Image courtesy of Pat Manfredo.

Red Spring Trail provides wonderful Birding opportunities

Great horned owls and red tail hawks have been seen along Red Spring Trail.  They are just two of the 150 species of birds known to inhabit the Werner-Boyce Salt Springs Park.  Other birds commonly seen include raptors, wading birds, shorebirds, and migratory songbirds.  Another reason to bring binoculars.   

The Reflection Spring is a calming name for the “pond” in this area, fed by the Pithlachascotee River, which means “the place where canoes (or boats) are made.  It was the home of the Tocobaga natives.  Think “Toilet Bowl Spring”, where the historic dugout canoe rests in the wild.

The Salt Works Alive display includes historic photos and information on the value of salt mining in the area. Demonstrations are held on the second Saturday of each month to show how this valuable resource was procured and processed. Image courtesy of Deanna Dammer Kimbrough.

Salt Works Alive shows historic Salt Mining

The Tidal Waterfall is the site for Salt Works ‘Alive’.  Here is where visitors can participate in demonstrations of how one of the most valued natural resources in the area was mined and turned into usable salt. 

In the pre-Civil War era, salt was used to preserve many things, including meat.  At one point during the war, salt work locations were intentionally destroyed by Union soldiers, and people ended up traveling miles to this spot to purchase salt. 

A retired 200-year old pot along with original tools are on display at Salt Works Alive in the Werner Boyce Salt Springs State Park. Image courtesy of Deanna Dammer Kimbrough.

The exhibit includes a “retired” 200-year-old pot originally used for processing, and a working pot made from original salt rocks found on site.  Original tools are on display with some available for use during the hands-on demonstrations.  Demonstrations are held on the second Saturday of each month.

Visit Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park on Florida’s Nature Coast

Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park is another one of the amazing locations on the Nature Coast where it can truly be said: you really need to be there, feel it, smell it, sense it.

Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park is at 8737 U.S. Highway 19 North in Port Richey, Florida. The cost for entry is $2 for bicycle or pedestrian or $3 for a vehicle with up to 8 persons. For further information and to check on current hours of operation, go to https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/werner-boyce-salt-springs-state-park



aaron says

I’ve been there dozens of times. Great trails to walk your dog. Sometimes I’m there for 2 hours and don’t even see another human. I’ve seen manatees, otters, alligators and just about everything else. However I have never seen this dugout canoe.

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