ExploreSouthernHistory.com - O'Leno State Park, Florida
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - O'Leno State Park, Florida
O'Leno State Park
The historic suspension bridge takes hikers across
the picturesque Santa Fe River at O'Leno State Park
near High Springs, Florida.
Mill Dam Ruins at O'Leno
The Santa Fe River flows over
the ruins of a 19th century mill
dam at O'Leno State Park
Dissappearing River
The beautiful Santa Fe River
sinks below the surface and
flows underground at O'Leno
State Park.
Ghost Town of Old Leno
The park was the site of a
19th century town, only ruins
of which remain. Old Leno
provides the name O'Leno.
O'Leno State Park - High Springs, Florida
History & Nature on the Santa Fe
Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
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O'Leno State Park
The park, seen here in fall, is
one of the most beautiful
places in Florida, regardless
of the season.
O'Leno State Park near High Springs
preserves one of the most beautiful and
historic settings in all of Florida.

Located along the Santa Fe River, which is
spanned in the park by a historic suspension
or swinging bridge, O'Leno is home to the
river's famed natural "sink."

After flowing peacefully through a large area,
the Santa Fe vanishes beneath the ground at
O'Leno State Park to become one of Florida's
famed "disappearing rivers." A natural sink
just below the park's picnic area takes the
waters of the Santa Fe down into a network of
caverns. It flows underground for three miles
before surfacing again at nearby
River Rise
Preserve State Park.

The natural bridge created by the sink was
used as an important crossing point by
generations of Floridians. Researchers
believe that Indian trails crossed the bridge
long before the arrival of the first Spanish
explorers and missionaries in Florida during
the 1500s.

The important Mission, Pensacola to St.
Augustine and Bellamy roads crossed the
natural bridge and its presence was a
contributing factor in the growth of the town of
Leno during the early 1800s.

Leno was originally known as Keno, after a
popular bingo-like game often played by
gamblers. The name was changed to Leno
as the town grew, apparently to do away with
the gambling association.

Founded in 1840, Leno at its height boasted
two grist mills, a sawmill and six cotton gins,
as well as a post office, general store, hotel,
stables and doctor's office. It thrived during
the years after the Civil War, thanks to power
provided by two rock dams built across the
Santa Fe.

As was the case with many such towns,
however, Leno met its fate at the hands of the
railroad. The SF&W railroad was built
through the area in 1894, but bypassed Leno
in favor of Fort White. Within two years the
town all but disappeared.

All that remains of today are a few ruins and
the remains of the two rock dams that can
still be seen in the river. An exhibit shelter in
the picnic area provides information on the
ghost town and displays grindstones and
other artifacts found in the vicinity.

Leno is long gone, but its name lives on
thanks to the state park. O'Leno is a
contraction of "Old Leno."

Even after the old town faded away, the river
at O'Leno remained a popular swimming
hole and picnic spot. When the development
of public parks and recreation areas was
conceived as a works program during the
Great Depression, the beautiful spot on the
Santa Fe was a natural choice.

In 1935 the Works Progress Administration
approved the development of a work camp
P-67 at O'Leno.  
Company 418 of the Civilian Conservation
Corps (CCC) spent 1935 and 1936 building
the core of what became O'Leno State Park.
They built campgrounds and picnic areas,
cabins and other rustic structures, hiking
trails and roads.

Perhaps the CCC's most remarkable project
at O'Leno was the construction of a swinging
or suspension bridge across the Santa Fe
River. Designed as a way for hikers to cross
the river, the bridge is still in use today and
provides spectacular views of the Santa Fe.

O'Leno State Park now encompasses more
than 6,000 acres along the Santa Fe River
north of High Springs. In addition to its
historic and natural features, it offers
camping, picnicking, swimming, hiking and
other outdoor activities.

Two noteworthy walking trails lead from the
picnic area of the park. The River Trail runs
for 1.3 miles down one bank of the river,
around the natural sink where it flows into the
ground and then back up the other side to the
historic suspension bridge. The Limestone
Trail leads through a hardwood hammock,
pine forest and past a natural limestone

The park also offers more than 13 miles of
other hiking and biking trails, all well-marked
and maintained. Equestrian trails are
available for horse enthusiasts, both at
O'Leno and in the adjoining River Rise
Preserve State Park.

To reach O'Leno State Park from High
Springs, travel north on U.S. Highway 41/441
for just over six miles. The entrance will be
on your right.  The entry fee is $5 per car.

Please click here for more information.