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Even in a state with thousands of lakes, Lake Washington stands out. This lake, one of three large lakes along the Saint Johns River Upper Basin, is one of the few in Florida to be used for drinking water supply. Located near the Atlantic Coast in Florida's East Central tourism region, Lake Washington supplies most of the water for the City of Melbourne. Because of the lake's importance both ecologically and to the area's human population, Lake Washington is carefully monitored for water quality.
Lake Washington, with its extensive wetlands, is a favorite for both fishing and nature exploration. Fishermen come casting for largemouth bass, black crappie, bluegill and shellcracker (known in many places as the red-eared sunfish). Several fish camps along the shore provide bait, boat rental and fishing supplies, along with plentiful advice on the best fishing spots. Because of the acres of emergent water plants and the shallow shoals, a preferred fishing craft is the airboat. The boat launch ramp at Lake Washington County Park has facilities for launching both regular small boats and airboats. Boating is enjoyed on the lake, including pontooning, canoeing, kayaking and rowing. The entire lake, as are most lakes in Florida, is quite shallow, with depths usually no more than 10 to 15 feet. A small fixed weir at the north end of the lake assures there is always enough water in the lake to meet water supply needs for the city of Melbourne. The St. Johns River, one of the longest rivers in Florida, is protected throughout most of its journey north to the Atlantic. The Upper Basin remains navigable to canoeing and air boats even under drought conditions.
Airboats are popular for exploring the vast areas of marsh and enjoying the wildlife that live there. The River Lakes Conservation Area encompasses much of the area along the western shoreline and the Saint Johns River, and can best be accessed by boat. Lake Washington is a favorite starting point for canoe campers and nature observers who canoe north through the Conservation Area into Winder Lake and Lake Poinsett. A number of primitive campsites are located along the waterway with several on the west shore of Winder Lake. The wetlands shelter a large number of raptors, waterfowl and wading birds such as eagles, purple gallinule, marsh and sedge wrens, limpkin, snail kite, sparrow and bobolink (during migration). South of Lake Washington, conservation lands continue with the Three Forks Marsh Conservation Area providing protection to another 52,000 acres along the St. Johns River and encompassing several small lakes. All of the protected lands are necessary for flood control and wildlife habitat and managed to enhance the cleansing effect the marshes exert on surface run-off.
The neighborhood of Lake Washington - a suburb of Melbourne - sprawls lazily across the sand on the east shore of the lake. A town of horse trails and semi-rural, relaxed living, Lake Washington is considered the perfect compromise between city living and the vast wetland wilderness along the Saint Johns River. The Lake Washington area is a comfortable mix of shops, camping areas, trails and parks. Nature is always close-by here. Since Lake Washington has several blocks of cafes, ice cream parlors, antique shops and gift shops, the area has become popular as a vacationer's destination. Lake Washington County Park brings up the western terminus of the Lake Washington neighborhood and acts as the main access point for the lake. The 26-acre park has space designated for swimming, camping, and plenty of picnic tables. Both a boat launch and fishing pier are provided. Several private campgrounds exist around the town of Lake Washington, although none are located directly on the lake due to its marshy perimeter.
The Lake Washington area is perfect for an unhurried and non-commercial vacation. Lake Washington is by no means the only place to access a large expanse of water: the Atlantic coastline is only a couple of miles away. A variety of public beaches and nature preserves provide all of the water access any visitor could want. The Sebastian Inlet State Park is one of the more popular camping and beach access locations. Located along Hwy 1A south of Melbourne Beach, both day visitors and overnight campers can enjoy the sun, sand, surf and shorebirds. The park is well-known for the variety of birds on the mudflats and often attracts birding tourists. Eighty miles to the north, the Canaveral National Seashore preserves 58,000 acres of barrier island and sand dunes. The park is home to more than 1,000 plant species and 310 bird species. The park's 24-mile-long beach is the longest undeveloped beach on the east coast of the state. At the south end of the island is the John F. Kennedy Space Center. Parking areas are provided for watching launch activities at the Space Center. Between Sebastian Inlet and Canaveral National Seashore are Cocoa Beach, Patrick Air Force Base, Satellite Beach and several other well-known beach destinations - some public, some private.
Deep sea fishing charters can easily be arranged around Melbourne, or the adventurous can enjoy kayaking near the shore or the barrier islands. Sailing, wind surfing, surfing, sea turtle watching, space exploration and simply sun bathing all have a home along this gorgeous and richly-endowed coast. With a campsite at Lake Washington as base camp, visiting vacationers can take in all of the sights, shop to their hearts' content and never miss a golf game at one of the many nearby public golf courses. Other accommodations include private vacation rentals, motels, hotels, guest cottages and bed-and-breakfast facilities all within bicycling distance of Lake Washington. Real estate opportunities in the area are in increasing demand, particularly newly-completed condos and existing homes on lots up to three acres complete with horse fencing.
If this sounds like the perfect vacation - or lifestyle - for you, then come to visit Lake Washington as soon as you can slip away from the office. Bring the binoculars, the bird book and the bicycle. You're in for a never-to-be-forgotten get-away. How about getting away from it all now?
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