Once called Acuera, or “Healing Waters,” by Mayaca Indians who inhabited the area, De Leon Springs is a place to cool off in clear waters, roam trails through a lush subtropical forest that features a massive old-growth bald cypress tree, and immerse oneself in a rich history. The outstanding feature of this 625 acre park is the spring overlooking beautiful Spring Garden Run producing 19 million gallons of water a day at 72 degrees year-round. Visitors may notice shells in the ground as they walk the nature trails. This is evidence of centuries of occupation by Native American groups who came to the spring to gather food. They would cook the snails and discard piles of shells. Two dugout canoes found in the spring are among the oldest canoes in America (5,000 and 6,000 years old).
Native people known as the Mayaca lived here for at least 6,000 years. The Mayacas occupied an area in the upper St. Johns River valley just to the south of Lake George. According to Hernando de Escalante Fontaneda, the Mayaca language was related to that of the Ais, a tribe living along the Atlantic coast of Florida to the southeast of the Mayacas. They were hunter-fisher-gatherers, and were not known to practice agriculture to any significant extent, unlike their neighbors to the north, the Utina or Agua Dulce (Freshwater) Timucua. (In general, agriculture had not been adopted by tribes living south of the Timucua at the time of first contact with European people.) The Mayaca shared a ceramics tradition (the St. Johns culture) with the Freshwater Timucua, rather than the Ais (the Indian River culture).
page information credit: Florida State Parks, Florida Hikes (floridahikes.com) Viera Voice, John C Karjanis
photos from the sources listed above, as well as publicly posted online sites with thanks to the contributors