March 2, 2017 (by Angela)
Ichetucknee Springs State Park was our last outing while in Florida in February. Jim had previously visited the nearby campground, which he writes about here, but he’d not hiked in the park. Monday, before leaving on Tuesday, the three of us explored the park, and we are so glad that we did because the water there is some of the prettiest fresh water I’ve seen. Like Manatee Springs SP, the entrance fee was $6 per car, giving access through both entrances. Try as we might while there and using our little digital camera, we could not capture the beauty. I guess you’ll have to experience it for yourself.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park has two separate entrances, the south and north entrances. It does make a difference depending on what you want to do as to which entrance you should enter. As far as I could tell, you are unable to drive from one to the other through the park. I assume that is because of wetlands created from the Ichetucknee River that runs through the park.
The north entrance, which is closer to the campground Jim reviewed, is where visitors can visit the spring source and spring pool along with a deep swimming and diving location known as Blue Hole. There are alligators in the park, and warning signs remind visitors to be careful. Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on the boardwalks or regular trails in the northern part of the park. The water is amazingly clear and beautiful in the spring pool, so one can see to the bottom as well as all of the fish swimming in the pool.
We actually visited the southern portion of the park first, and for us, that worked out because we were able to take Chewie down the trails. There is a huge parking lot with picnic tables at the south entrance. Folks can park and tube, kayak, or canoe down the river as well as walk trails or visit the Environmental Education Center, which has a Florida State Junior Ranger Program. Wading in the river is not allowed in order to protect the river grass. Don’t tell on Chewie; we didn’t let him get in the river grass.
The three of us hiked the middle of the three trails to the river, and I can’t describe the beauty. In this case, I can’t even say “a picture is worth a thousand words” because our pictures don’t do justice to the beauty of the clear river water and waving river grass or anything else we saw. It actually took my breath away. We’re sharing our pictures below, but you just have to go there. If you go to the park’s web site HERE, you can learn more and see pictures made by better photographers with awesome cameras.
Jim and I had two regrets about our visit on Monday, both pertaining to the fact that we wish we had visited the park earlier. If we had gone earlier in the month, we may have been able to see manatees here; the last sightings had been about 4 days before our arrival. It was getting too warm for the manatees to still be so far inland. The other regret was that by waiting until Monday, he and I didn’t have time to take a canoe or kayak down the river. If we find ourselves in the area again during the winter months, I’m sure he and I will remedy these regrets.
If you have a chance to visit this park, or any of the wonderful Florida parks in the general area, do so without delay and allow plenty of time to enjoy the beauty of our natural world.