Photos by Kelsey & Scott Walters
When you picture a Floridian landscape, what do you think of? Perhaps sandy beaches, sprawling flatlands…maybe some wooded forests?
Rolling hills and tumbling waterfalls probably didn’t come to mind, right? In Williston, just south of Gainesville, you’ll fi nd just that. Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens is a gardener ’s dream project over 100 years in the making.
Cedar Lakes Woods and Gardens – Williston, FL
Back in 1991, a military veteran named Dr. Raymond T. Webber discovered an abandoned 110-year-old limestone quarry just outside of the popular Devil’s Den spring. He purchased the quarry and surrounding lands with the intention of cleaning up the swampy mess left behind when the mine was retired after being used to complete the local highway. Webber planned to create his own fishing oasis and hideaway, and spent the next 27 years doing just that.
Webber and a team of workers spent the next several years taking the old quarry and crafting an entirely new landscape. Using cement and stone, they created a multi-level tranquil scene to explore – all by hand, one rock at a time. W ater tumbles from the top layer into the basin, creating manmade waterfalls. Although they’re not naturally created, they are still a rare sight in Florida. Later, Webber took up gardening, and his “giant fishing pond” was filled with lush greenery and stunning flowers, built into the rock walls of the quarry.
After years dedicated to his hobby, Webber decided to retire and donated the 20-acre gardens, and the surrounding acreage of natural landscape, for the public to enjoy. Now you can stroll the winding paths, lined with blooming azaleas in the spring, to the koi-populated pond below, complete with stops at gazebos, benches offering spectacular views and handmade wooden bridges to cross.
Our family visited just as the azaleas burst to life with color, creating a pink polka dotted landscape all around the “bowl” of the quarry. Scott and I were taken aback when we first came to an overlook of the beautiful scene below us. We spent about three hours traversing every path, cliff and walkway down to the bottom and back up, plus the surrounding trails to a neighboring quarry and woods. One of the paths takes you right behind one of the taller waterfalls, which was met with squeals from Avery as we got splashed, and was a welcome refreshing cool-off on a warm afternoon.
As you explore, you’ll find hundreds of koi and catfish, including a 100-pound beast of a catfish named Big Ben, along with ducks, swans, butterflies and even some resident tortoises. Your own four-legged friend is welcome to join you as well!
The basin of the quarry has been dotted with small manmade islands to stop and relax. Some have picnic tables for an ideal lunch spot, others have swinging hammocks to swing the afternoon away in. A large pavilion in the center of the pond offers shade and more room for groups, picnics and relaxing.
Before you know it, summer will be upon us with sweltering temperatures, so take advantage of the comfortable weather now and visit Cedar Lakes!
CEDAR LAKES WOODS AND GARDENS
4990 NE 180th Ave, Williston 32696
Hours and Admission:
Open daily (except Wed) from 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
$12/adult; $7/child ages 6 – 13 (under 6 are free); $6/active military