In 1821, Frederick Warburg immigrated to America to create a Jewish agricultural colony in Alachua Colony in which – though misspelled – Lake Wauburg came to be. It became known as a popular swimming hole.
In 1918, the University YMCA purchased 20 acres of land and water at Lake Wauburg. Four years later the university purchased the property for $6,000. “University Will Have Camp Site On Lake Wauburg” read the September 24, 1922 edition of the Florida Alligator student newspaper. The article continues with “Mr. George White, Secretary of the YMCA, announced the purchase of the Chamberlain home property on Lake Wauburg near Gainesville …to be used for camping and outing purposes by the students and faculty of the University. The acquisition puts the University in possession of one of the finest camps.” Lake Wauburg was designated to be used for recreational activities, aquatic competitions, leisure, weekend camping trips, and military purposes.
Paynes Prairie, opened across Lake Wauburg from the University's facility. Lake Wauburg North reopened in 1974, under the supervision of the Department of Intramural Athletics and Recreation. The North Shore has continually operated since 1974 with Student Government funding, assistance from the College of Health and Human Performance, and now the Department of Recreational Sports.
In the 1980s, Lake Wauburg South Shore was developed as a recreational area. Development of South Shore began in 1982 with Student Government funding $225,000 through special request funds. North Shore saw extensive renovations from 1998 - 2000 including restrooms with showers and changing areas, shelters for boats, and a lifeguard tower. The most popular improvement was adding central heating and air conditioning as well as a full catering kitchen to the Cypress Lodge. In 2001, the Carolina Climbing Wall, bouldering grotto, Alpine Tower and Low elements challenge course were installed at South Shore. In 2013, the High Ropes Challenge Course was added to create the UF Challenge Course Program. In 2018/2019, the asphalt trails at both shores were renovated to ensure the pathways meet ADA standards and an ADA Ramp and Kayak Launch was added to the North Shore.
On December 14, 2019, a weather event (tornado) ripped through Lake Wauburg North Shore. Fortunately, our major facilities were unscathed. The strong winds downed over 50 trees, damaged watercraft, park equipment, destroyed the sailing dock and fleet, and severely damaged the boatlift/observation tower. In 2022, Recreational Sports will be adding a waterfront equipment checkout, a new boatlift, a pavilion and is master planning the Cypress Lodge in hopes to serve as a leadership retreat center.
There are 85 acres total, 20 at the North Shore and 65 acres at the South Shore. Activities and structures include:
Almost 56,000 visitors use this unique recreational resource each year. The park is known as one of the University's unique gems and a way to connect with nature. Lake Wauburg will continue to improve with the help of the student body. Come celebrate 100 years of Lake Wauburg!