Just south of Ocala on highway 441 is symbol of one of Florida’s boondoggles. Not really sure what a boondoggle is, but it does sound good. Maybe a better description would be fiasco.
In the middle of the highway stand large concrete structures that were built to take highway 441 over the infamous Cross Florida Barge Canal.
This had to have been one of the longest running projects that was never finished. Also it was a money pit. The canal began in May of 1933. They plan was to dig a canal across the middle of Florida so that ships did not have to go all the way around the Florida peninsula on their way to the Panama
What does this have to do with hiking? The Cross Florida Barge Canal stopped and re-started a number of times throughout its history. In 1990 President Bush de-authorized the canal. Then in 1991 the Governor and Florida Cabinet finally signed the final paper work that officially ended the canal. That was almost 60 years later.
The land purchased for the canal became the Cross Florida Greenway State Recreation and Conservation Area. This is some of the best hiking in Central Florida. For example the Santos Trail Head and trails are part of the old canal.
If you take the Florida Trail east from the Santos Trail Head you cross 441 and are treated to a close up look at the large hunks of concrete that were to support the bridge over the canal.
They loom up out of nowhere and look out of place. If you were not familiar with the canal and its history you might wonder why anyone would put them in the patch of woods that divides the highway.
It is well worth the hike from the Santos Trail Head just to see these structures.
They are located just past the Sheriffs Sub Station on 441 as you go south toward Belleview. This is just another part of the history of the Florida Trail.
May you Hike In Peace.