Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park is different from any other state park in Florida. Located about 15 minutes outside of Wellborn, Florida, in the tiny town of White Springs, this interesting state park is dedicated entirely to the musical legacy of iconic American songwriter Stephen Foster. Born in 1826, this composer had written over 200 songs by the time he passed away at the age of 37. Although he never visited Florida, Stephen Foster made the Suwannee River, which runs through the southern area of the park, famous by composing "Old Folks At Home." In 1935, the song was recognized as Florida State's official song. A short 15 years later, in 1950, the 247-acre Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park was created to commemorate Foster's legendary musical contributions.
As part of the park's efforts to preserve Florida's folk culture and history, the park includes a museum where visitors can learn more about the area and participate in family activities at the Crafts Square. Here, visitors get a chance to observe live demonstrations from local artisans who showcase their skills. From blacksmithing and leatherworking to beading and pottery making, visitors can observe and learn various crafts in workshops and classes. There is also a wide range of gifts available at the gift shop, including musical instruments such as drums, shakers, and a variety of handmade crafts.
In addition to these fun, history-preserving activities, visitors can also get out and enjoy the great Florida outdoors. The park is situated on the western banks of Susquehanna River and includes miles of Florida wilderness. Fishing, horseback riding, and hiking are just some of the popular activities that park visitors can enjoy. Anglers can catch largemouth bass, crappie, and catfish by casting their line into the Suwannee River. Tucked away in northern Florida, Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park is full of fun for RV campers of all ages.
About an hour outside of Jacksonville, Florida, the park is easily accessible by driving off of US Highway 41. RV campers will have no issues getting there and will enjoy a smooth ride. Once inside the park, guests will appreciate that all internal roads are paved and in excellent condition. Any type of vehicle can easily access any of the park's roads. There are no RV driving restrictions within the park, and big trailers can easily navigate the roads. Larger rigs should do just fine since the maximum vehicle length is 100 feet. Keep in mind that after storms, some sections of the park may experience flooding.
Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park has one main campground with 45 campsites shaded by large oak trees. The campsites are a mix of pull-through and back-in sites, and many of the campsites are big enough to accommodate large rigs. Each campsite is equipped with water and electrical hookups, and all of them are ADA-accessible. You will be provided with a picnic table and a fire ring at your site as well.
Campers should note that it is prohibited to gather firewood inside of the park. Visitors can instead purchase wood at the park entrance station. Campground amenities include access to laundry facilities, restrooms, and a dump station. Pets are allowed within the campground but must be kept on a leash at all times.
There are two larger campsites that are designated for group camping, with each site being able to host up to 20 people. These campsites are designed for primitive camping and do not include any amenities. Campers will need to be sure to bring in with them any supplies and water that they will need during their stay. Each of the campsites includes picnic tables and a large, group fire ring.
In addition to the individual campsites, the park has a total of five riverside cabins that are available for guests to reserve. These cabins are perfectly located for park visitors who are anxious to spend all of their time out on the water. Each of the cabins has a two-bedroom floor plan and can comfortably host six people. The cabins are equipped with both heating and air conditioning and come with basic furnishings and a kitchenette. A screened-in porch offers guests an area where they can enjoy the fresh air without the annoyance of insects. Each cabin also includes a picnic table and a grill. One of the cabins is designed to be ADA-accessible.
There are several different day-use areas nestled under the cooling shade of the large pine and oak trees inside of the park. Designated picnic sites can be found adjacent to the museum, next to the Bell Tower, and at the playground. Each site includes several different picnic tables that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. For larger groups, there is a 10-table picnic pavilion located near the Craft Square that can be reserved in advance.
The Stephen Foster Museum is dedicated to preserving the admirable works of Stephen Foster. Built in 1950, this museum has ten original dioramas of some of Stephen Foster's most famous songs. Additionally, there are several different artifacts on display, including Stephen's desk and old pianos, from several different time periods throughout history. Visitors can take a guided tour through the museum and listen to Stephen Foster's songs as they go. Some of the songs have an animation that goes along with them, which is fun for younger kids.
During any time of the year, visitors can request a tour of the Stephen Foster Carillon Tower. A carillon is a set of bells that are all perfectly tuned to a specific note and arranged so that a melody can be played by striking certain bells in succession. Built in 1957, this 200-foot high carillon tower contains a 97-bell carillon system and is the largest tubular bell carillon in the world. Throughout the day, visitors can hear bell concerts playing different tunes of Stephen Foster’s songs.
Due to the presence of alligators in the Suwannee River, swimming is not allowed. However, during certain seasons of the year, the water levels are high enough that park visitors can paddle down the river in canoes and see the native wildlife up close. Visitors will have the opportunity to view wild azalea flowers blooming along the riverbanks as well as observe alligators and turtles in their natural habitat. Anglers will often take a canoe down the river to go fishing as well.
The park holds many events throughout the year to educate visitors and celebrate the cultural history of Florida. The most popular park event is the annual Florida Folk Festival that dates back to 1953. Other regular events held throughout the year include a quilt show, antique tractor show, and an engine show. Many musical concerts and weekend retreats are also part of the park’s entertainment and fun. Check with the park to see what events are being held during your motorhome trip to Florida.
The park’s trails pass through river bluffs, limestone outcroppings, pines, rock formations, and swamps, giving visitors diverse views of park scenery. The Florida Trail, which is designated as a hike-only route, passes through the entire park. All of the park’s trails are multi-use so that guests can traverse the landscape on bike or horseback as well. Cyclists under 16 years of age must wear bicycle helmets, and horseback riders are required to have proof of a negative Coggins test for each horse they bring to the park. Bicycles are available for rent at the park gift shop.