Ichetucknee Springs State Park, FL

ichetucknee-springs-state-park-fl1Friday March 28

For the first time since rehearsals started in February, I’ve got a weekend off. Oh, I still need to drive up to Atlanta for Monday’s rehearsal, but there isn’t one on Sunday this week. I have some precious free time, and I know exactly what I’m going to do with it.

Florida State Parks! Devils’ Millhopper is the only park of any sort I’ve visited since I got down here, and even then it was only a couple hours. It’s a crying shame really, I know Florida has a lot of neat natural places.

I want to see a spring, darnit. I loved the one I saw up in Missouri the first fall I hit the road, and I see signs for them on my drive back and forth from Georgia so I know they’re around. I ask the experts (my coworkers at the station) for advice on which in the area is most worth seeing. Ginnie Springs is beautiful but it costs more to get in being privately owned and since alcohol is allowed on the grounds it’s often rowdier and louder than the state park ones. Ichetucknee Springs State Park  is the other one they both recommended, so that’s where I set my sights.

The entrance fee is $5 per carload of up to 8 this time of year, or $6 if you want to go swimming in the springs. If you’re going to go tubing, or take a kayak or canoe down the six crystal clear miles of the Ichetucknee river, there’s an additional fee of $5 per person – several private outfits in the area ofter equipment rentals. These are the most popular activities at the park. During the off season only the southern half of the tubing route is open, to allow the springs to recover from the busy season.

Also available during the off season is scuba diving, which I found pretty nifty. There are two springs within the park, both off of the North entrance. Ichetucknee Spring is the premier swimming one, it’s shallower at one end and is not as high producing, so the current isn’t as swift – good for younger kids.

ichetucknee-springs-state-park-fl2Blue Hole Spring is where scuba diving is allowed. It’s deeper, has a swifter current, and is not as picturesque. There is river grass growing along the bottom making it look kind of dark and foreboding, but in the center is a blue hole – an open top cave that goes down 40 feet. Old time visitors are apt to call it jug spring, because’s that’s what the cave looks like, there is a relatively narrow opening where it boils up to the surface pool, but once you swim down through that opening there’s a larger cave underneath with a flat sand bottom.

There are four trails, but really the focus of this park isn’t hiking, if that’s what you’re looking for you’ll probably want to look elsewhere. All are less than a mile except for the 2.1 mile Pine Ridge Trail that features the famous sand hill ecosystem that the OSBS is working to maintain. Getting to Blue Hole Spring requires a 1/3 mile walk, and there is a ½ mile walk along the river which while short is quite pretty.

Ichetucknee spring is almost right off of the parking lot, so that’s what I see first. The sky has been overcast since I woke up this morning and it will continue to be so all day, except for the 20 minutes or so that I’m at that first spring the sun pokes through the clouds and allows me to get a couple great pictures. The springs stay at a constant 72 degrees all year round, and the high today is 77. Not exactly great swimming weather but a couple families are getting into the water, no one stays in real long.

I walk the trail along the river and admire the ginormous trees along the river banks, and then take the short one out to Blue Hole Spring. There isn’t another soul in sight, I love visiting parks in the off season. I had brought my camp chair and kindle with me, so I set it up right there on the deck next to the spring and have a good 45 minutes with no sound but the wind through the trees, the burbling water, and the birds singing of spring. What a good life.

When some teenagers show up to go swimming I relocate to the picnic area and read for a while longer, gathering up my courage. I’d brought my swimming stuff with me just in case, but had not full decided to get in the water. Seeing so many people at least try though, I feel a bit chicken for not giving it a go, this will be the first time I’ve ever had the opportunity to go swimming in one.

The bath house is right next to Ichetucknee spring off of the parking lot. I change and with some trepidation walk down to the water. It’s started to sprinkle, there’s a 50% chance of rain for the afternoon, and there aren’t many people around now. A grandmother has brought her granddaughter down to get in the water, but like me she’s reluctant to because of the cold water. The girl eventually gets in, but they don’t stay in long before leaving to eat. I have it all to myself.

ichetucknee-springs-state-park-fl3I start getting in on the steps. In this situation some people like to take the plunge and jump in, getting it all over at once, I’m not as fond of that method. Step by step I inch deeper, letting myself adjust to the temperature a bit at a time, it’s chilly! While I’m taking it slow a couple close to my age and a older gentleman show up together. The older man plunges right in beside me, and now I really would feel chicken if I let him show me up like that, so I take the rest of it quickly.

The water at the foot of the stairs doesn’t look deep, but it’s over my head. Luckily I’m a pretty good swimmer. The other side of the stone deck is shallower. It’s kind of unnerving, getting to see that much of what’s in the pond, and I’m glad to have other people in with me, just in case something happens.

We shortly get to talking, and I find out the older man relocated from Maine and has been living in nearby High Springs for a while now. His son is visiting from Maine with his new fiance – they just got engaged on Tuesday and are so clearly happy about their new life together. We talk a little about work, life, and things to see in the area, and then they get out. I just love meeting people at places like this, the conversations are usually more enjoyable than in other settings. I stay a little bit longer, enjoying having the spring all to myself for a while, it’s a magical moment.

But it’s also getting cold. All in all I’m only in the water for about twenty minutes, then I get out and change. On the hour long drive back to the OSBS I treat myself to Pizza Hut for supper since I’ll be able to put the leftovers in the fridge once I get there.

When I go to bed I fall asleep quickly, there are no problems that demand my attention, no worries to mull over. Just contentment from a good day spent outside in a wonderful place.


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27 Responses to Ichetucknee Springs State Park, FL

  1. larry March 30, 2014 at 7:11 am #

    Nice report,will have to check these springs out next time im in area.

    • Becky March 30, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

      If you’re going to be a bit farther south, Manatee Springs and the Crystal River also came highly recommended by my coworkers.

  2. Todd March 30, 2014 at 8:42 am #

    You really vave me a great start to my morning. Thanks

    • Becky March 30, 2014 at 3:24 pm #

      You’re welcome!

  3. Allen March 30, 2014 at 8:54 am #

    Great story, well written with very nice pictures. I will be in Florida next winter and look forward to seeing some of the places you have visited.

    • Becky March 30, 2014 at 3:24 pm #

      Florida has a lot to offer Allen, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

  4. jim March 30, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    That is a great spring. I have floated it many times. It is always on the cold side even in the summer. If you get the change try floating down the spring try it. You will love it. I enjoy reading your blog. Very intersting.

    • Becky March 30, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed the post Jim. And yeah the spring stays at 72 degrees all year round, it must be refreshing in the summer.

  5. Michael March 30, 2014 at 10:08 am #

    Our Scout troop used to do a 50-mile canoe trip down the Suwanee rive every couple years or so. We’d always wrap up with a day at Ichetucknee Springs canoeing it. We have photos where the water is so clear that it looks like canoes floating in mid-air. Be warned, though, FL springs maintain a near-constant 70 degree temperature – which sounds great until the air temp. is higher at which point it’s COLD.

    • Becky March 30, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

      Yeah the air was a bit warmer than the water on this day (water here apparently stays at 72 degrees year round) and it definitely felt colder. I would think on a really hot day though it would be very refreshing.

  6. Sue March 30, 2014 at 11:17 am #

    Wonderful pictures. One place to google and maybe explore while you are in florida are the florida state caverns in Marianna, fl (if it’s not to far away). I grew up in that area and I still remember parts of the tour. Have a wonderful day.

    • Becky March 30, 2014 at 3:37 pm #

      Looks like 3 hours and 20 minutes from where I am. I’ll hit up the panhandle on another visit, I want to see more of the gulf coast too. 🙂

  7. Isabella March 30, 2014 at 12:43 pm #

    I highly recommend Manatee Springs in Chiefland; that is, by far, my favorite springs. As is Devil’s Den, should you be able to get in there (I think some things have changed there since I last went, they’re private, so I’m not sure what you need to do to be able to actually get into the cave anymore).

    I grew up going to these springs all summer, I think I’ve been to almost all of them within a 2 hour drive of Gainesville, even the tiny, obscure ones, and I can say, the springs in Florida are definitely geologically unique to anywhere else in the US.



    • Becky March 30, 2014 at 9:39 pm #

      I looked at Manatee Springs earlier in the year when I thought I might have the chance to go see the manatees, but it didn’t work out. It sounded like that park had better hiking opportunities but on Yelp and Trip Advisor the springs themselves didn’t get as high of marks so I chose Ichetucknee this time. If I get another chance or on the next trip I’ll try to hit it up, particularly if it’s winter. Thanks!

  8. Charlene Swankie March 30, 2014 at 10:35 pm #

    I paddled there New Years Day 2010 with my good friend Gary Lepak. Unlike you, I could not find the words to describe the place but got some video and took lots of photos. http://swankiewheels.blogspot.com/2010/12/29th-state-3rd-paddle-florida-dec-31.html
    Charlene Swankie recently posted..Resources for VandwellersMy Profile

    • Becky April 2, 2014 at 10:44 pm #

      Nice! The river is so clear too, such a beautiful area. I enjoy kayaking but don’t like the high cost of rentals and guided tours. I think someday I’ll have to get one of my own, probably an inflatable to help save on space. Congrats on your continued progress towards kayaking in all 50 states, getting so close now!

  9. Edie March 31, 2014 at 5:49 am #

    I live in Cedar Key which is close to Manatee Springs so that’s the one I go to all summer. It’s a beautiful one and not as busy as ichetucknee which is great for tubing. I also like Rainbow Springs which has a waterfall. And don’t forget Silver Springs which is beautiful to see with their glass bottom boats. It took a while for me to get used to the cold water but now I have a system for getting in and I love it! But, as a Floridian, I only go in the summer when it’s 90 degrees out!

    • Becky April 2, 2014 at 10:47 pm #

      Thanks for the recommendations, I’ll keep them in mind when I get down to Florida again! I also wanted to visit Cedar Key with the RVing rendezvous going on but alas, time hasn’t been on my side so far this year.

      I’m glad I got in, even as cold as it was. Another adventure to remember. 🙂

  10. Dawn March 31, 2014 at 7:02 am #

    What a neat place! So glad you shared it with us!

    • Becky April 2, 2014 at 10:48 pm #

      Glad you liked it Dawn! If you can get down to FL some year I highly recommend it.

  11. ROSEMARY R. April 2, 2014 at 6:32 pm #

    Hi Becky,

    Well, another great place to put on my “TOO SEE” list. Have been to Florida in the past, August (Yuck),too humid. I would love to swim in these springs.
    Thanks again for all your wonderful posts. Have learned so much for when we hit the road.

    • Becky April 2, 2014 at 10:49 pm #

      So glad that you’ve found IO helpful Rosemary, you’re very welcome.

      And yes, if you’re going to be in north central FL you definitely want to hit up at least one or two springs, Ichetucknee is great but there are other good ones in the area too!

  12. LenSatic April 3, 2014 at 6:26 pm #

    Are you taking the Casita with you to stay in when you go to Atlanta?


    • Becky April 3, 2014 at 7:41 pm #

      Sure am Pat! There’s an employee only campground at the festival site. I’ll be able to wake up on fest mornings, stumble down a hill, and be at work. 😉

      Edit: Realized after I hit post that you might be talking about the weekend rehearsals I’m doing now, I don’t haul Cas up there for those, would be a lot of miles for not a lot of time. I carpool with Julie and we take her smaller more fuel efficient car. In a week I’ll be taking Cas up and living up there until the end of festival.

      • LenSatic April 3, 2014 at 8:50 pm #

        Actually, I was asking both. I just didn’t know it. 🙂

        We live about 70 miles from Tucson, which is the biggest city to go shopping, and we take the Casita as a port-a-potty, lunch break room, and a place for me to take a nap when I get tired of following my wife around the stores. 😉

        Have fun!


        • Becky April 7, 2014 at 10:18 pm #

          Hehe, that’s clever Pat!

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