Tubes of all sizes and colors line the entrance roads to Ichetucknee Springs, the state park popular with tubers for its six mile run from the head spring to the point where it joins the Santa Fe River. Beginning Memorial Day weekend, tubers can float down the river from three different starting points allowing for float trips ranging in length from 45 minutes to 3 hours.
However, tubing is not the only activity available at the park. Visitors can hike the Pine Ridge, Trestle Point, or the Blue Hole Trails. While the shortest of the three trails, the half-mile Blue Hole Trail leads to the largest spring in the park. One that was nearly deserted on our recent visit.
After eating a picnic lunch, and hiking to Blue Hole, we waded into the crystal waters of the Ichetucknee Spring with flippers, mask, and snorkel and explored the head spring.
The Ichetucknee and its run, the most beautiful landscape in the world. ~Archie Carr, A Naturalist in Florida
There were many tubers on the river, but since they are not permitted in the head spring there were only a couple dozen people swimming in the area with only a handful snorkeling in the waters farther from the limestone steps making it possible to enjoy the Ichetucknee Spring on a summer afternoon.
The Icketucknee’s waters bubble up out of the ground and flow like melted diamonds across a sandy bottom through a natural forest. ~Al Burt, The Tropic of Cracker
Early morning thunderstorms during last week’s trip to Juniper Springs prevented us from enjoying canoeing or swimming, but a week later we had better luck. We arrived a little after 9:00 and by 9:45 had rented a canoe, carried it to the water and were ready to shove off.
During the rental process we signed papers promising to follow a whole list of rules. We agreed to carry no disposable containers on the river, to remain in the canoe at all times, and to leave the wildlife alone.
The paperwork stressed that this was not a beginner’s run and that we should expect to paddle 3-4 hours to cover the 7.3 mile distance to the take out point just past Hwy. 19; and while the current kept the canoe moving with little effort, this section of the river could be called an obstacle course rather than a run.
We maneuvered through tight turns and around and under trees and were surprised by a short section of faster moving water creating “rapids”. Not a difficult trip but one that requires both paddlers to work together.
A variety of flowers and plants lined the run.
And while we heard birds throughout the trip, we saw few. Of course, the turtles lazed on the trees from start to finish.
We even spied a couple of gators standing watch.
As predicted, we reached the take out spot nearly three hours later and had just enough time to eat our lunch along the river before the first shuttle of the day arrived to take us back to the park.
We even took a quick dip in the spring before heading back home. Success! A spring visit with good weather.
We’re already planning a trip to Ichetucknee Springs.