Back in May, our family went to West Central Florida for a true nature vacation. This would be our family’s first nature vacation trip. We wanted a vacation that was all outdoors, involved no crowds, and focused on Florida’s beautiful natural springs. We also included 72-year-old Grandma!
Warning: On weekends and holidays, the park is packed! To enjoy a peaceful day with nature, try visiting early in the week.
Renting a Kayak
We had brought three kayaks with us, but needed a fourth for Grandma.
Before arriving at the park, we stopped at a private tube and kayak rental business near the entrance of the park, four miles northwest of Fort White, off State Roads 47 and 238.
We made arrangements for the rental company to pick us up and transport us back to the front of the park where our car was. Otherwise, when we finished kayaking, the family would need to stay with the kayaks as one person takes the seasonal tram back to the north entrance of the river where the truck was parked.
However, Kayak rentals were also available at the path to the river.
Into the River We Go!
If you’re parking at the entry point of the river, you’d have to walk for 10 minutes carrying a kayak. Instead, do what we did and pull down a path and unload the kayaks there, next to the park’s kayak rentals.
Tubers also enter the river there– it’s Florida’s most popular tubing destination.
The Ichetucknee River
The Ichetucknee River is fed by natural springs under a big bright blue sky, and maintains a temperature of 72 degrees year-round. The water is crystal clear with river grass at the bottom.
The upper portion of the river is a national natural landmark. It runs through shaded hammocks and wetlands before it joins the Santa Fe River.
From the end of May until early September, tubing down the river is the area’s premier activity.
The water was clear and slow-moving, so at many points we just floated with the tubers and enjoyed the beautiful weather.
It’s such an easy river that Grandma, a first-time kayaker, only had to steer the kayak– we tethered her kayak to one of the adults in the group. Our youngest daughter accompanied an adult in a two-seat kayak, and Emily enjoyed having her own kayak to paddle and explore with.
We all enjoyed the wildlife– there were many fish in the water and beautiful birds like herons and egrets. (Someone told us that they had seen an eagle, but he did not show up during our trip.) We also saw lots of humongous turtles basking in the warm sun on submerged logs.
Blue Hole Spring
After kayaking, we headed to Blue Hole Spring, the largest spring in the park. It’s only a half-mile walk through the Ichetucknee forest and Cypress flood plain. It’s a secluded swimming hole with not too many people.
There’s a platform with a ladder to enter the spring, but the best way to get into it is to jump in! We enjoyed trying to stay afloat above the very deep hole despite the strong current pushing you to the outer edges of the pond. (We cheated using goggles and swim noodles!) The water isn’t clear due to vegetation, but if you look down with goggles you can see some beautiful sights!
We spotted more wildlife, including a swimming snake that gave the people a wide berth, as well as two scuba divers with an underwater camera!
We then went to the other spring at the park. It was perfect, with clear water and a sandy bottom. The spring was not as strong but it gave the water a pleasant movement. Several rock ledges were at the entrance to the water, which then dropped off to a deeper swimming area. There were many people there swimming.
Our Conclusions and Impressions: A Review
Ichetucknee is great! It’s enjoyable for the whole family, especially if you want a tranquil experience enjoying natural Florida. It’s also a great first-time kayaking park– Grandma had a blast!
Must-Haves for Ichetucknee Springs
- When kayaking or tubing, you absolutely need sunscreen and a hat– don’t risk hurting your skin! Also bring bottled water and snacks to keep your energy up.
- A snorkel, mask, and swim noodle are recommended for the springs. Don’t bring fins– it will damage the vegetation.
- A waterproof camera such as a GoPro or a waterproof case for your cellphone so you can take pictures of this beautiful park.
- You’re also going to need bug spray!
What: Ichetucknee Springs State Park
Where: 12087 US-27, Fort White, FL 32038
Cost: Entrance Fees – For 2-8 people in a vehicle: $6. Single-occupant vehicles or motorcycles with one or two people: $4.Pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, passengers in a vehicle with the holder of an Annual Individual Entrance Pass: $2