25 June 2010

Adventures at Blue Spring State Park

Blue Spring State Park has one of my favorite springs in Florida. Blue Spring is also the largest spring on the St. John's River. Camping in Florida during the summer is not for the faint of heart but if you're near one of these cool refreshing springs in Central Florida you will find that camping is perfect this time of year. The weekend of June 18-20th myself and five friends loaded up the cars and headed up near Orange City, FL where Blue Spring State Park is located. After a late night set-up, complete with a fire, we hit the tents for a big day at the park.

The camping group staring out over the spring fed river.

Blue Springs was littered with families and by mid-day it was a river full of people but near the springs wasn't as crowded and as we drifted from the spring head down to the recreation area there were times with little crowds. One of the great things about the springs was that most of the people were at the dock jumping in. The current was kinda strong so most of the people didn't linger on the river. This was perfect if you wanted to explore the shallow banks for fish. We found nice schools of sunfish, bass, and Florida Gar like the ones seen below.

Those dark slender shapes are Florida Gar, Lepisosteus platyrhincus. This fish is found in east and south penisula Florida.

The springs are known for being 72 degrees year around and in the winter are a refuge for manatees. The swimming area is only open during the warm season. It's great for snorkeling and scuba diving due the clear waters. The spring is 120 feet deep and can be accessed by cave divers. We brought the snorkeling gear along and gave the river a try.

Kim snorkeling near the bank. Notice the clear water.

Mo and Kim adjusting the snorkel gear.

Kim and I trying out the underwater feature of my camera.

Our camping trip to Blue Springs was a lot fun. We spent most of the day by the springs, cooling off when needed. Some other highlights were seeing a Florida Scrub Jay in the campground and jumping into the springs at night. Don't worry, we didn't stay along, just a dip to cool off. Alligators are not common around the springs during the day due to the heavy traffic of people but I am sure they may wander up there at night.

Blue Spring Cave

The shots above show you the opening to the springs. In that second photo you can see the blue fin of a diver. This opening was about 15 feet from the surface. I snorkeled down to the log but didn't go farther. Some people went quite a ways down the spring by holding their breathe but I mostly just swam above it and enjoyed the scenery.

Mo and Kim posing for a photo op near the spring head.

The other great thing about this park are the Live Oaks and palm trees that line the bank. It really gives you a authentic Florida atmosphere. The famous naturalist John Bartram visited this area in the 1776 and I imagine it doesn't look much different than it does today.

One word of caution about the springs, the rocky bottom does cause your feet to get a little sore. I didn't understand why so many people were swimming with water shoes but that became evident fairly quickly. If I could go back I would try a trip during the week, perhaps less crowds. But even with the kids screaming near the dock and the tubes floating down the river, I really enjoyed the camping trip. If you want a real Florida experience you should definitely try out the springs in Central Florida.


The Florida Blogger said...

My wife and did Blue Springs in 08 after one of the tropical storms came through. The park rangers wouldn't let us swim because of downed limbs and such.

Shanae Buckner said...

The waters in Blue Spring state park is just gorgeous. The lush green forest and the clear waters are just amazing. Y'all look like you're having a lot of fun bathing in the waters. It'd probably be the same with me if my family and I got to visit that place!