Tour explores ecology of 'undiscovered Florida'

TAVARES, Fla. -- Heritage Lake Tours, owned and operated by David and Lynn Hollander, takes visitors on boat tours through Lake County's Dora Canal and Lake Harris.

Lake County, about an hour's drive west of Orlando, is marketing itself as the "undiscovered Florida," citing its ecological attractions.

Sportswriter Grantland Rice called the Dora Canal "the most beautiful mile of water in the world."

a man and his boat The guided, 90-minute area tour uses a 42-passenger boat that takes visitors to Lake Harris and then on to the cypress-tree-canopied Dora Canal.

The canal is the longtime home to water moccasins, alligators and a wide variety of birds that include snowy and great egrets and even increasingly rare lumpkins, whose numbers are diminishing. Some of the moss-draped, bald cypress trees here that reach out and cover the canal like outstretched arms, predate Columbus' discovery of America. "About the only thing that kills them is fire and lighting," said Lynn Hollander, who narrates the tour while her husband pilots the boat.

The narrow, winding canal is also a popular place for Jet-skiers and recreational boaters. But the Hollanders said visitors can avoid that distraction by going out on weekdays, when the canal is often deserted.

The tours also include a ride down the Dead River, named for its placid nature. The cost is $10, which includes tax. Group rates are available at discounts of 10%. The tour is operated twice daily year-round; reservations are recommended.

Heritage Lake Tours, Phone: (352) 343-4337

A 70-room Holiday Inn Express, under construction here, will open next summer near the Dora Canal.

The 8,000-square-foot Vic's Dead River restaurant is to open nearby during November.

Meanwhile, clients looking to hook bass, pan fish or brim and bluegills should know about Palm Gardens, also on the Dead River. One-bedroom fishing cottages rent from $45 per night, double; group rates are available. Jet skis and pontoons can also be rented there.

Palm Gardens, Phone: (352) 343-2024

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