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Dora Canal

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Difficulty: Basic Scenery: Fair
Location: Mount Dora,
Lake County
Distance: 4.5 miles round trip.
Atlas: Page 79 B-2
Last Update: December 2003 Canoe OK: Yes

Photos only Photo-trip - limited details.


When most people think of paddling Central Florida, the Dora Canal does not immediately come to mind. It's a small 1.25 mile tree and mobile home-lined waterway connecting Lake Dora on the south with Lake Eustis on the north. So why include it in Central Florida Kayak Trips? Well, that's simple to answer.

Even with the lack of pristine nature and a short distance (about 2 hours to complete the trip); the Dora Canal and surrounding community can be one heck of a good time. If you are interested in bird watching or photography, this place makes it easy. The tree canopy in the center of the canal is home to thousands of wading birds. Most of them have seen scores of people and boats and are unafraid when you point a camera at them. Just watch the lighting; sunlight through the trees make it a respectable challenge.

The second reason you'll want to paddle the Dora Canal is to explore Mount Dora. Just 30 miles northwest of Orlando at the east end of Lake Dora is Mount Dora, a wonderful little New England-style town known for its historic bed and breakfast inns, antique and gift shops, fashion boutiques and restaurants. The City got its unusual name because of small rolling hills and sitting at a stratospheric 186 feet elevation, higher than most locations in Central Florida. So now if you see a "I climbed Mount Dora" bumper sticker you'll understand the inside joke.


From Mount Dora, take Old US 441 west to the small town of Tavares. Turn south (left) on Dora Ave. Turn west (right) on Main Street. Follow Main Street to Rockingham Ave. Turn south (left) on Rockingham Ave and go one block to Wooten Park.

If you are north-bound on Highway 19, go to Main Street in Tavares (just past Dora Canal bridge). Turn east (right) and go to Rockingham Ave. Turn south (left) on Rockingham Ave and follow to Wooten Park.

Dora Canal Photographs

Dora Canal;Lake Dora;Mount Dora;Photo by Hank Brooks, TBSK.

Lake Dora
Lake Dora is part of the Harris Chain of nine lakes connected by canals and streams. Dora is a shallow (average 10' deep), dark-stained freshwater lake with cattails, Kissimmee grasses, reeds and other aquatic plants near the shoreline. Water flows north through the Dora Canal to Lake Eustis and eventually to the Oklawaha River.
Dora Canal;Bridge;Paddler.

Dora Canal
Originally named the Elfin River, it is frequently written the Dora Canal is the "Most beautiful mile of water in the world." Not to debate the point, but in terms of paddling it's rated fair due to extensive development at both ends of the 1.25 mile canal. In between is a great place to photograph birds and other wildlife.
Dora Canal;Tree Canopy.

Tree Canopy
Much of the middle section of the Dora Canal is covered by a Cypress tree canopy. The canopy provides a nice shady place for the local bird population. Several canals leading west make interesting side trips; most dead-end eventually into housing areas.
Dora Canal;Little Blue Heron.

Little Blue Heron (adult)
Egretta caerulea
In the dense sub-tropical growth along the canal, one of the more common birds you'll see is the Little Blue Heron. The adult Little Blue Heron has a slate-blue body and wings with dark purple head and neck. Young (immature) birds are all white in color.
Dora Canal;Great Blue Heron.

Great Blue Heron (adult)
Ardea cerodias
This large member of the heron family is very common to the Dora Canal area. Adults can reach over four feet in height with a six foot wing span with a blue-gray back and wings. Legs are long and typically dull-yellow in color.
Dora Canal;Lake Eustis.

Lake Eustis
Just north of the Highway 441 bridge lies Lake Eustis, a 7,800 acre lake known for bass fishing and sailing. The Buzzard Beach boat ramp and park is about 1/2 mile west of the bridge and makes a convenient spot to rest and enjoy lunch.

If you don't mind an extra 2 miles, go for a wonderful Florida Cracker-style lunch at Dead River Vic's. It's located on the Dead River between Lake Eustis and Harris. You can find the entrance to the Dead River about 1 mile west of Buzzard Beach. (Restaurant is on Hwy 441 at the Dead River Bridge).


Alden, P., Cech, R., Nelson, G. (1998) National Audubon Society Field Guide to Florida, Chanticleer Press, Inc., New York, NY