Ichetucknee Springs State Park in North Florida

Ichetucknee Springs State Park is both well known and totally unknown.  To residents of north Florida and the Panhandle, it’s legendary.  But as you go further south in Florida, fewer and fewer people have heard of it.  And by the time you  get to South Florida, people say “what?”.Ichetucknee Springs State Park - Blue Hole

And they don’t know how very much they are missing!

Long lazy tubing down a crystal-clear river.  Picnics in the cooling shade of trees.  Walks on the nature trail.  And testing the waters at the Blue Hole, a first-magnitude spring.

Sound interesting?  Let’s head off to Ichetucknee then.

Where is Ichetucknee Springs State Park?

It’s located in North Florida, near Ft White.  The closest cities of decent size are Jacksonville (to the east), Tallahassee (to the west) and Gainesville (to the south).

  • From Jacksonville: Take 10 west to US 90 exit, follow 90 to Lake City to 41 south, follow 41 south to SR 47 south, follow park signs.
  • From Tallahassee: Take US 27 south and follow signs, or take I-10 east to I-75 south to exit #423 (old exit #81), take SR 47 south, follow park signs.
  • From Gainesville: Take US 441 north to High Springs, US 27 north to Fort White and follow signs, or take I-75 north to exit #399 (old exit #78), take US 441 north to High Springs, US 27 north to Fort White, and follow signs.

Springs – Tubing, Canoeing and Kayaking

Ichetuknee SpringsHands down, the most popular activity is taking a tube ride down the river.  “Tube” loosely refers to both inner tubes and rafts (depending on how wet you want to get).

If you’ve never done tubing, picture strolling to the launch area with inner tube in hand.  Sit down on it, get comfy and push off and let the current carry you down the river.

The water is spring water, so it’s naturally crystal-clear and you can see the fish and the grasses and the like if you look down.

Looking up, you see the trees that bend their branches over the river and sunshine.  Blue skies or puffy clouds, either way makes for a wonderful ride.

And it is quite a ride, too — it takes anywhere between 1.5 and 3.5 hours to ride down the Ichetucknee, depending on which entrance you’re starting from.

Note:  You cannot rent tubes inside the park — you must bring them in from outside.  There are a lot of tube rental places by the side of the road leading up to the park, though, so it’s really easy to get one.

However, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, you can rent a canoe inside the park.  Outside of those months, you will have to bring your own canoe if that is what you’d like to do.  And something else to note:  outside of the summer season, if you wish to launch a canoe or kayak from the north entrance, it must be Coast Guard certified.

And just one more thing about the summer — there is a tram service that goes between the parking area and the springs.  Off-season, there is no tram — you have to make your own arrangements for getting yourself and tube/boat back to where you need.

Take a Hike

Boardwalk at Ichetuknee SpringsThere are some nature trails you can hike down, but the best one leads to the Blue Hole (about 1/2 mile).  This is a magnificent spring (photo at the top of this post) that pours its water into a little lagoon-ish area.

However, there are two other trails as well:

  • Trestle Point Trail:  Around 3/4 of a mile long, this follows beside the river.
  • Pine Ridge Trail: This features a sandhill ecosystem, with its towering longleaf pine and wide open vistas. This trail is around 2 miles long.

Note:  all three of these trails are at the north entrance.

One Park – Two Entrances

There are two entrances to the park — north and south.

The north entrance is open for tubing from May through September, and if you tube down it, you’ll have a lazy 3 to 4 hour trip.

From the south entrances (which is open all year long for tubing), the trip downriver is around an hour and a half.

During the summer months (and especially weekends in the summer), this is a very popular park.  If you show up late morning or early afternoon you may find the park closed at the north entrance.  They do this to help protect and preserve this wonderful piece of natural Florida.

Other Things to Do at Ichetucknee Springs

Of course you can picnic, but you can also camp in the adjacent campgrounds.  There is a food concession at the south entrance, but no food concession at the north entrance.

You can swim in the springs, but only experiences swimmers should go into Blue Hole, because of the extremely strong current.

You can also scuba dive in Blue Hole if you are cave-certified.

That’s it for now.  Hope you get to go to Ichetucknee Springs, even if it’s only to see something truly amazing!

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