Looking to spend your camping vacation swimming with the manatees, fishing and loafing on the lake? Then the Lake Rousseau RV Park has what you’re looking for. We spoke with Jo Hatton, who shared with us the secrets of the park, where he’d spend the night, and some of his favorite things to do. Listen to our full interview here:
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Camping in Central Florida: Lake Rousseau RV Park
Camp Florida: I’m talking with Jo Hatton. She is the Owner of Lake Rousseau RV Park, here in Florida. How’s it going this morning, Jo?
Jo Hatton: Oh, it’s just wonderful. We’re having a beautiful day. A little touch of fall in the air.
CF: So, let’s start with how long Lake Rousseau RV Park has been there and how it got its start.
Jo Hatton: Well, it’s been here, I guess, from the sixties probably. The family who started it, still have a house that’s adjacent to the property and their son owns that now. He grew up in the Park, and then there have been two owners between the original people and myself.
CF: Okay. And what are the most popular activities for the guests there?
Jo Hatton: Fishing. This is a wonderful fishing lake. Lake Rousseau is a bulge on the side of the Withlacoochee River. It used to be a separate body of water. And when they built the dam downstream from us, the backwater merged the two bodies of water. So, we are a former Cyprus head, which means there are lots of stumps in the lake and the fish love that. So, every year we have people pull a couple of ten-pound bass out of the lake.
Jo Hatton: And other sizes too, but we always have a ten or eleven-pounder a couple of times a season.
CF: Yeah, the nice thing about those stumps too is that it ends up keeping the speed down on the lake. You don’t have people flying around on jet skis and creating a bunch of racket.
Jo Hatton: Absolutely, we don’t. Of course, in this part of the country, airboats are a disruption, and we don’t have those either. So, if you’re on this lake, on this body of water, you’re either fishing or loafing. That’s just all there is to it.
CF: That’s my kind of time.
Jo Hatton: Yes.
CF: So, what are some of the other attractions in the area worth checking out if I was going to stay there for the weekend and I wanted to head out for the day?
Jo Hatton: Well, Silver Springs is in Ocala. That’s 35 miles from us. Of course we are just an hour southwest of Gainesville. University of Florida has a lot. A history museum. A butterfly – I don’t know exactly what you call that. Aviary or whatever. Butterflies. We also have a Butterfly Park in Homosassa. There’s the Homosassa Wildlife Park, which is very popular and very famous. They even have a hippopotamus. You take boat rides, and gators and all that kind of thing are there. So, that’s a real good draw. There’s horseback riding not too far from us. Just a lot of weird kind of rural.
Jo Hatton: We’re eight miles north of Crystal River. Of course, in Crystal River, there’s all kinds of shops; and being on the Gulf Coast, we have a lot of, you know, fish restaurants and that kind of thing.
CF: Oh, that’s delicious.
Jo Hatton: Yes, and one of the main things people like to do here is swim with the manatees. They take you out in a pontoon boat and they provide the wetsuits and the snorkels, and all that, and you get in the water with the manatees, down in Crystal River.
CF: That sounds amazing, and maybe a little bit scary.
Jo Hatton: No, not scary at all.
CF: Not scary at all?
Jo Hatton: No, the manatees are very gentle. And they seem to respond to human touch, so people really enjoy that.
Jo Hatton: And in the winter, we have lots of activities right here, in the Park. We have bingo twice a week and cards twice a week. And we have a Bible study. We have a Church service. We have Texas Hold’em tournaments. We have holiday parties.
Jo Hatton: And all sorts of special dinners and cookouts, and fish fries. Just a lot of things going on here.
CF: Yeah, that’s one of the things I like. You know, I talk to a lot of campgrounds and, when I get into speaking with RV Park owners, that’s really one thing that sets them apart; is you have those long-term guests and then you end up developing this incredible sense of community.
Jo Hatton: Absolutely. As a matter of fact, people trickle in of course all through November and December, but New Years Day, the porch at the office is full of people, waiting to greet people. The first few days of January. And it’s just squealing and hollering and hugging. You know, it’s like home week.
CF: I love it.
Jo Hatton: Yeah, everybody, because we have a lot of people who’ve been coming here as long as I’ve owned the Park.
Jo Hatton: Which has been ten years. And then we have residents who get together up the country and they call themselves Lake Rousseau Ramblers or something, and they meet as a group. Different places all over the country.
CF: Sure. Now, how do the rentals work there? Do you have people? Is it possible to come in, to pull in just for a night, or is it all long-term?
Jo Hatton: Oh, no. Oh, no, we have every form of stay. We have nightly, weekly, monthly, seasonal, and annual. So, we just have every. Whatever your need is, we can provide you with a stay that’ll accommodate that.
CF: Sure. Are there any homes in the Park or is it all more RVs?
Jo Hatton: No, we have some park models.
CF: Oh, you do, okay.
Jo Hatton: We have about 35 park models. Oh, that’s not true. We have about 35 people who maintain something here year round, whether it’s an RV or a park model, but we have a mixture.
CF: Sure. Sure. One last question for you, Jo. If you were going to spend just one hour hanging out in Lake Rousseau RV Park, how would you spend your time?
Jo Hatton: I’d probably spend my time drowning worms, or fishing with people. I’m sort of a talker and I love people, and so I like to hear where they’re from and what their interests are, and all those kinds of things. So, probably I would spend it talking, but don’t tell anybody.
CF: I’ll keep it a secret.
Jo Hatton: And time on the water, you know, is always wonderful.
Jo Hatton: We have a heated pool, and so water is a big feature around here.
CF: Oh, okay. Well, hey, thank you so much, Jo, for taking some time out of your day to talk with us. And we’ll get this featured article up for you at Florida-Camp.com as soon as we can.
Jo Hatton: Okay. As Bob Barker would say, come on down.
CF: Will do. You take care.