Known to the early settlers of Florida as the Elfin River this one and a quarter mile stretch of waterway has earned the reputation of being one of the most beautiful in Florida. This jungle-like waterway is part of a large wetland swamp, fed by underground springs, abundant rainfall and lake out flow. Its beautiful old Bald Cypress trees draped with Spanish Moss provide a picturesque canopy for the abundant flora and fauna below.
Wildlife abounds in this waterway. Here you can observe many creatures in their natural habitat. Wading birds, herons, egrets, anhinga, wood ducks, ospreys, eagles, otters, alligators, turtles, snakes and fish are commonly seen.
Once home to the Timucuan Indians, they were followed by French, Spanish and British settlers. In the late 1800s the waterway was dredged out and widened to accommodate easier passage of small steamboats. Before the arrival of the railroads, steamboats were vital to the area connecting it to the outside world.
In 1951, this waterway was used to reshoot some of the river scenes in the now-classic movie, African Queen, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. The movie had been originally filmed in Africa. For retakes a closer place was needed and this location was selected. Other than a few residences at the southern end, it looks much like a wild river running through an uninhabited jungle. As characteristic it maintains to this day.
Here in Central Florida we’re blessed with this destination being in our backyard. Connecting Lake Dora to Lake Eustis on the Harris Chain of Lakes the Elfin River provides great subjects for photography, or a peaceful, quiet and enjoyable boat ride. Of course we know it today by the name it was given in the 1800’s……The Dora Canal.