The Santa Fe River

The Santa Fe River
The Santa Fe River, a 75-mile-long tributary of the Suwannee River, is a geologically interesting stream, as well as a popular water recreation destination. It begins in Lake Santa Fe, a spring-fed lake near Keystone Heights and flows in a generally east to west direction to its confluence with the Suwannee River near Branford. The river’s name comes from a Spanish mission named Santa Fé de Toloca, located near the river during the 16th century.

Because the upper Santa Fe is slow-moving and accumulates lots of tree leaf drops along its path, its water is stained dark by tannins. In O’Leno State Park, the river drops into a large sinkhole and goes underground for about 3 miles. Then, in nearby River Rise Preserve State Park, it resurfaces. When it reappears, its water is more voluminous and clearer. This indicates that the river is being augmented by underground waterways.

Downstream from the rise, it is fed by multiple springs including Gilcrest Blue, Columbia, Ginnie, Hornsby, Lily, Rum Island and Poe Springs. County, private, or state parks surround some of these springs.

At Ginnie Springs there is a privately-owned park which offers camping as well as water-related activities such as swimming, snorkeling, tubing, and world-class SCUBA diving. Snorkeling, tubing, and paddling gear is available for rent. Open water diving can be undertaken in the springs and river. Certified cave divers can explore over 30,000 feet of passageways in the Devil’s Eye/Ear system. Ginnie Springs Park is located at:
5000 NE 60th Ave
High Springs, FL 32643
Phone: (386)454-7188

Poe Springs Park is an Alachua County park situated 3 miles west of High Springs on C.R. 340. The springs pump out 45 million gallons of water daily. The springs basin can be accessed from the river or via a boardwalk. The park is open Thursday through Sunday from 9a.m. to 6p.m. There is no camping, but picnic facilities are available. The address is:
28800 NW 182nd Avenue
High Springs, FL 32643

Rum Island County Park provides free access to the Santa Fe River and a picnic area. It can be found at:
1447 SW Rum Island Ter
Fort White, FL 32038

Located about 5 miles west of High Springs, Gilcrest Blue Spring State Park is Florida’s newest. Gilcrest Blue is a second-magnitude spring that discharges 44 million gallons of water daily. But there are other named springs within the park as well: Little Blue Spring, Naked Spring, Kiefer Spring and Johnson Spring. Recreational opportunities available are hiking, swimming, fishing, snorkeling, and wildlife viewing. Amenities at the park include picnic pavilions and a small campground that accommodates both RVs and tents. Camping reservations can be made on-line at the Reserve America web site.
The park’s address is:
7450 NE 60th St
High Springs, FL 32643
Phone: (386)454-1369

A 26-mile state paddling trail begins at the US 41/441 Bridge in High Springs and ends at the US 129 Bridge. Several outfitters in the area provide paddling equipment and shuttle services.

You Should Also Read:
The Suwannee River

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