In 1971, Disney World opened in what had been vacant swamp land outside Orlando, Florida, and the middle of the state began to change drastically. Many people do not realize that lawmakers in Florida took action to counteract the effect and offer a natural alternative to paved theme park madness. The state bought up thousands of acres of pasture, woods, and orange groves on the shores of Lake Louisa to build a state park. Today, the park encompasses 4,500 acres, which is a tiny fraction of the land given up to rides, restaurants, hotels, and costumed characters. However, the park includes six lakes, two fast-flowing streams, and 11 different nature habitats, creating a home for a diverse array of plants and animals. A little traffic noise in the distance is the only clue that you are only 13 miles away from thousands of children are having meltdowns in the parking lot at Disney World.

The campsites at Lake Louisa State Park are clustered around Lake Dixie and offer beautiful views at sunset. The facilities are excellent – I will admit I was heavily swayed in my opinion by the fact that they had laundry facilities that take credit cards, a feature which I thought I would never see.

Live Oaks at Lake Louisa State Park (photo by Kate Dolan)We enjoyed biking and walking the trails and roads but did not begin to cover all of the 23 miles of trails and we never even made it all the way to Lake Louisa. While we were not overwhelmed with unique wildlife sightings, I did see a bobcat run out in front of me on a trail one morning. My favorite part of this visit was an off-road segway tour, where our knowledgeable guide explained interesting facts about the differences between the natural habitats while I tried not to run off the trail or flatten any squirrels.

This park is definitely on our return list for camping with history–even if it is recent history


If you like stories about people behaving badly on amusement rides, you might enjoy my suburban mystery Roped In, where my private detective has a meltdown on the train ride at the zoo.