There are times when my ability to focus completely packs up its bags and leaves, and yesterday was one of those days. I find it rather frustrating when I want to write but the words running around in my brain have previously decided to go on a long hike and not return for a few days. On Sunday, August 6th I posted a review of Manatee Springs, and yesterday I meant to write a review of Ichetucknee Springs. However, as I mentioned, the concentration was simply not there and I decided to wait until today.
Ichetucknee (an Indian word meaning “Beaver Pond”) Springs is actually a group of seven large springs: the Head Spring, Blue Hole Spring, Cedar Head Spring, Mission Springs, Devil’s Eye Spring, Mill Pond Spring, and Grassy Hole Spring. Combined, they produce about 223 million gallons of fresh water daily. The Head Spring is one of the most popular for swimmers, and the Blue Hole is the largest of the springs, pouring out over 26,000 gallons of water per minute.
The springs also have a long history. Through the discovery of numerous artifacts in the park, archaeologists have determined that the springs were popular with Native American hunters. The site of an Indian village dated sometime around 200-900 A.D., as well as two Indian mounds, have also been identified in the area. Hernando de Soto is believed to have passed nearby during his exploration of Florida in 1539. In 1608, a Florida mission known as Mission San Martin de Timucua was founded near Mission Springs in order to minister to Indians who had converted to Catholicism. The mission was destroyed in the Timucua Rebellion against the Spanish in 1656. With the influx of white settlers, the springs continued to be a popular spot, and a grist mill and general store were set up near Mill Pond Spring. Over time, the town of Ichetucknee was founded and the area became known for phosphate mining and the production of turpentine.
During the 1960s, the Ichetucknee River turned into a popular spot with college students from the University of Florida at Gainsville, and the river and springs were flooded with visitors. The area became littered with trash, drinking containers, and broken glass, and drinking and nudity were problematic. Concerned about these issues and the protection of the beautiful river, the company that owned the land surrounding the springs sold it to the state. The river was cleaned up, facilities built, and the area declared a state park and National Natural Landmark. Today, the park is family friendly and limits the number of people allowed to enter each day in order to protect the beauty of the river and springs.
On our visit to Ichetucknee, we decided to focus on the Blue Hole and the Head Spring as our two main points of interest. The Blue Hole is about 1/3 of a mile from the parking area, down a well worn trail. The Head Spring is just a short walk from the parking lot and bathrooms, which makes it preferable for families with young children. In the picture below, you can see the Blue Hole trail on the left, and the path leading down to the Head Spring on the right.
The day was warm, and by the time we walked 1/3 mile to the spring, we were ready to cool off. Blue Hole Spring, also known as “The Jug”, is beautiful and somewhat creepy at the same time. It has a depth of 40 feet at its deepest point, and leads to an underwater cave that is popular with scuba divers. About 500 feet of cave passageways have been mapped over the years.
I took the picture below while standing on the small deck overlooking the swimming hole. When we arrived there was no one else in the water and the area was nice and quiet aside from the noise of tubers on the nearby river.
A closer picture of the opening to the spring from the deck:
I grew up swimming in lakes and have never been squeamish about these kinds of things, but I will admit that the thick grass covering the bottom of the pool made me a little nervous, and there was a brief moment of hesitation. My curiosity quickly won that fight however, and in I went. Since I’m a fairly strong swimmer, I decided I would just tread water the entire time rather than touch the grass. (Don’t laugh.)
The quality of the next four pictures is lower as I was simply using a point and shoot underwater camera, but they will give you a small idea of just how beautiful the spring was.
I took the following picture of the surrounding grass as I was swimming toward the entrance of the spring. You can see the edge of the opening in front of me. The current was strong enough that if I stopped swimming for a moment, it would push me slowly back toward the deck.
My sister and friend joined me as I approached the hole, and one of them volunteered to take a picture of me diving down to get a better look.
These pictures really don’t do the Blue Hole justice. It was gorgeous.
The sun reflected off the bottom of the 40 foot drop, causing a distinct, bright blue color to be seen from above.
We swam around for about 20 minutes, taking pictures and observing.
Next, we headed back down the trail to the Head Spring. At both locations I could not believe how clear the water was. It stays at a consistently chilly 72 degrees Fahrenheit year round.
We took out our underwater cameras again for more pictures. Here I am attempting to get a better look at some of the features in the Head Spring.
Ichetucknee Springs is definitely on my list of places to visit again soon.
Have a great week!
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