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Ichetucknee Springs

Ichetucknee Springs
The Head Spring

Ichetucknee Springs is a beautiful collection of north Florida springs that, over the years, has been at the same time loved and abused by Floridians and visitors alike.

Starting with the head spring, Ichetucknee Spring, as many as nine springs create the clear-water Ichtucknee River which flows about six miles through wild forest land, until finally its waters empty into the Santa Fe River.

Ichetucknee Springs
The Blue Hole at Ichetucknee

What Al Burt Said

The late Al Burt, noted Florida writer, lived in Melrose, the same small north Florida town in which I live. I knew Al for many years, and considered him a friend, and always hoped he thought of me in the same way.

Al had a wonderful way with words, and in my opinion describes the Ichetucknee Springs and their resulting spring run about as well as anyone ever has. He said, "The Ichetucknee's waters bubble up out of the ground, and flow like melted diamonds across a sandy bottom through a natural forest." His eloquent words are to be found on the plaque next to the Ichetucknee Spring.

Good Times and Bad Times for the Ichetucknee

For better or for worse, Ichetucknee in 1960s became north Florida's big tubing river, and has been that ever since. Starting in the late 1960s throngs of people, largely University of Florida students as I recall, discovered the clear, shallow Ichetucknee.

They soon figured out you could float perched inside a tire inner tube, drink beer, and spend a half day lolligagging down the river. When that happened, they came to love the Ichetucknee--in droves.

But it was an abusive love affair. Now, the way I see it, floating down a cool, clear Florida spring run while responsibly consuming your beverage of choice is not a bad idea. The problem was in a few short years the river lovers managed to trash the place--littering the sandy bottom with their broken beer bottles, pop tops, food wrappers, and other discards.

Then in 1970, the State of Florida purchased the land, and it became a State Park. That action probably saved the Ichetucknee from complete ruin. Volunteers came to clean up after the river revelers. Before too long, the Park Service began to limit tube traffic on the river, and began a management program designed to preserve the river as a natural asset. In 1972, the Ichetucknee Spring became a National Natural Landmark.

Today, responsible tubing is still allowed. Numbers are limited, and tubing of the entire river within the Park is allowed only during several summer months. The remainder of the year gives the river time to rest and recuperate.

Snorkeling the Ichetucknee

To me, snorkeling the Ichetucknee is preferable to tubing it, although I take a sit-on-top kayak or tube to get out of the 72-degree water on occasion to warm up a bit.

Current Problems Facing the Ichetucknee

Today, the Ichetucknee faces problems much greater than the tubers who enjoy its cool waters. Pollution from fertilizer and other industrial insults may be damaging the water quality to a great degree.

My friend, John Moran, perhaps Florida's most outstanding and best-known photographer, has captured Ichetucknee's beauty with his camera. His photo Embraced by the Light is breathtaking.

John published an article in the Gainesville Sun in which he writes about the nature of, and the causes for, the declining water quality he sees at Ichetucknee. As one who has loved Florida's springs since childhood, it disturbs me to read about environmental threats to these jewels of nature.

It appears the Ichetucknee is seriously threatened, and all responsible Floridians should be concerned.

Enjoying the Ichetucknee

That said, you can still experience an enjoyable day of tubing, swimming, snorkeling, SCUBA diving, and trail hiking at Ichetucknee Springs State Park.

The Ichetucknee River
The Ichetucknee River

Rather than repeat the complete information on these activities in the Park, I'll refer you to a couple of good web sites for the info you'll need:

For Overnight Stays

Should you decide to come to the Ichetucknee, you may want to camp overnight. While the State Park has no camping facilities, there are private campgrounds near the park.

Ichetucknee Family Canoe and Cabins is located near the State Park's northern entrance.

Ichetucknee Family Canoe and Cabins view from the street
Ichetucknee Family Canoe and Cabins

Besides campsites, they rent primitive log cabins. Also, they rent tubes, rafts, canoes, kayaks, plus provide shuttle services to and from the Ichetucknee, Santa Fe, and Suwannee Rivers.

Ichetucknee Camping Cabins and Campground
Camping Cabins and Campground

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