Ichetucknee Springs State Park
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Ichetucknee Springs State Park, near Gainesville, is paradise! Here you can swim in the headspring that becomes the Ichetucknee River. The headspring is where the aquifer opened up and millions of gallons of fresh water come up every day. You can open your eyes underwater and see the blue opening in the rock where the water comes out. It's so magical! Gorgeous vegetation surrounds you.
If there are many people at the headspring and you want some peace, you can walk the half-mile trail to the blue hole, which is not as aquamarine as the headspring. It is crystal clear but there is black sand and eelgrass beneath you as you swim- a little spooky but equally refreshing and wonderful! The trail is a nice walk on a flat wide dirt path with tons of shade from tall trees. You don't even need a towel because you will dry off on the walk back from the blue hole. The blue hole receives 38 million gallons of fresh water a day. Only adults are allowed to swim in the blue hole because of the pull of the water out of the spring and the depth of the water.
Another fun option is to start at the north end (summer only), or midway down the river (year-round, Midpoint Dock is halfway, and Dampiers Landing is 3/4 way down), and tube to the south end. It takes a few hours. Bring a paddle if you want to navigate away from the bank and also speed things along. You can't bring coolers, which is good because it keeps the river clean. During summer there is a shuttle service that takes you between the south end, Dampiers Landing, and Midpoint Dock. You must rent your tubes or masks/snorkels outside the park at the many concession stands along Elim Church Road. They tie the tubes to your car and when you are done with your journey, you can leave your tubes at the park for pickup by the company you rented from (tubes are marked with company names).
There is another spring closer to University of Florida called Ginnie Spring but skip on that one because it is private and they allow alcohol and there are all kinds of disrespectful people that are incredibly drunk- it really ruins the atmosphere. They don't appear to be students, by the way, but rather really unattractive people.
A 45 minute drive to the south, check out the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, where you can walk amongst butterflies in their conservatory. Or head 45 minutes north to a music lover's delight, the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center.
Other wonderful springs to check out in Florida are the Venetian Pool in Miami, Blue Spring State Park near DeLand (just north of Orlando), and Madison Blue Spring near Highway 75 on the way to Georgia.
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Ichetucknee Springs State Park is located at 12087 SW Hwy 27, Fort White FL 32038, call (386) 497-4690.
Swimming at the Headspring or the Blue Hole, which are at the north entrance: 8am to sundown (which is 9pm in mid-summer).
Tubing from the north end: Summer only, closes at 2pm or when 750 people have entered. Tubing from the Midpoint, closes at 4pm, or when 2,250 people have entered. Tubing from Dampiers Landing, which is 3/4 way down: closes at 5pm with unlimited people entering.
Cost to enter is $6 per car for swimming or hiking (or tubing during the off-season), OR $5 per person for tubing during the summer, free for children aged 5 and under.
Summer season is the Saturday before the last Monday of May (Memorial Day), until the first Monday in September (Labor Day).
Ichetucknee Tube Center (tube rentals), 7354 SW Elim Church Rd, Fort White FL 32038, call (386) 497-2929. $5 for tubes, $10 for two-person figure 8 tubes, $10 for small raft, $25 for snorkel/mask/fins set.
This is an interactive map, you can zoom and move it.
Overall Visitor Rating: Unrated.