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Ichetucknee Springs State Park
If you have ever attended the University of Florida or Santa Fe College, chances are you have tubed or paddled down the Ichetucknee River from Ichetucknee Springs. These 9 springs—the head spring and 8 others—taken together, constitute one of Florida’s first-magnitude springs, spewing out, on average, 233 million gallons of water daily. The water from the springs stays at a constant 72-degree temperature.
The springs area has been inhabited by native American cultures for thousands of years. In 1608 the Spanish settlers from St. Augustine built the Mission de San Martin de Timucua at a Timucuan Indian village.
By the late 19th-century a gristmill and general store were located on one of the springs, appropriately named Mill Pond Spring. The area became the headquarters for the North Florida phosphate industry. Cypress and longleaf pine forests were harvested by the local timber and naval stores industries.
In 1970, Ichetucknee Springs State Park was purchased by the State of Florida from the Loncala Corporation. In 1972, the head spring was named a National Natural Landmark by the U. S. Department of the Interior.
From the head spring, the Ichetucknee River flows for 6 miles to the Santa Fe River.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park is located 4 miles northwest of Fort White. The park has 2 entrances. The north entrance is off SW Elim Church Road (S. R. 238). This entrance provides access to the head spring, Blue Hole Spring, and hiking trails. The south entrance is off U.S. Highway 27.
Canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboarding are best done in the cooler months as the river becomes crowded with tubers when the temperature heats up. A concessionaire, Paddling Adventures, is located within the park at the north entrance and rents all these conveyances in addition to providing shuttle services. Tubes can be rented at the General Store located at the south entrance.
Several river trips of varying length can be undertaken: a 3.5-mile paddle from the head spring to U.S. 27, a 2.5-mile trip from U.S. 27 to the Santa Fe River, or a 9-mile trip from the head spring to the William Guy Lemmon Memorial Park at the U.S. Highway 129 bridge. It is also possible to continue down the Santa Fe to the Suwannee River for a longer trip.
Other recreational opportunities at the park include hiking, wildlife viewing, swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, picnicking, and geocaching. Three hiking trails are located at the park’s north entrance. Blue Hole Trail provides a half-mile walk to Blue Hole Spring, the largest spring in the park. Trestle Point Trail is a shaded path along the river. You will pass by the remains of historic phosphate mines. The Pine Ridge Trail is a 2-mile loop through a sandhill ecosystem.
Blue Hole Spring accommodates swimmers, snorkelers, and scuba divers. Swimming is also permitted at the head spring. Divers must be cavern or cave certified.
Picnic tables and grills can be found at both the north and south entrances. There are also picnic pavilions at the south entrance that can be reserved by calling (386)497-4690. Food is available from a concession at the south entrance.
The park is part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. Wading birds, river otters, and manatees can sometimes be seen in the water.
Although there is no campground at this park, camping is available at nearby O’Leno State Park. A paved, 12-mile-long bicycle trail connects the 2 parks.
Content copyright © 2018 by Georgiana Kurtz. All rights reserved.
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