Friday, July 17, 2015

Tips for Visiting Natural Springs in Florida + Ichetucknee and DeLand's Blue Spring

Many tourists visit Florida for the theme parks, sexy Southbeach/Key West party life or the sandy beach coasts that stretches south from the Atlantic to the Caribbean sea. An often overlooked treasure are the sapphire natural springs, with ice-cold, crystal-clear waters, a welcome respite from the oppressive southeast summer humidity. Florida's springs are widely considered some of the most beautiful in the world! Whether you're an amateur ecologist, thrill seeking diver, or simply looking for a relaxing float down stream, you'd be remiss to neglect a visit to one of the springs if you're planning a trip to Florida.

It's easy to neglect taking advantage of the resources in our own proverbial backyards (if you're somewhere mountainous, admire those purple mountains majesty in the background for me, there's not much as a hill on this entire state), for years I've wanted to explore the springs in the summer, but put it off. (One of my last trips involved a scare with an alligator, it's hard to believe that was already years ago!) This year, I've visited two and have plans for some more visits before summer's end.

Ichetucknee Spring: The first spring I visited was Ichetucknee, or, "Icha-my-tuck-knee!" as my twin brothers joked the whole drive down to visit the spring over a decade ago! I believe I was 10 and they were 15. AJ calls it "Itch me, touch me", I call it, goddamn beautiful river and headspring. Jill and I packed some fruits and nuts to snack on, but there's a concession stand if you don't want to bring lunch.  You can rent tubes for floating down the river/spring upon your arrival or bring your own and pay 50 cents to inflate them via their pay machine. You can walk to the spring or take a tram. There are three runs of varying lengths. We went on the median one and it was over too quickly for our tastes. My favorite part was the gorgeous crystal-clear and icey cold headspring, where we easily spent close to two hours looking at plant and animal life with goggles.

Blue Spring (DeLand florida): There are too many springs named Blue Spring! We almost drove to meet AJ's family at the wrong spring! This spring has a very short run for tubing, but it's the clearest I've ever seen! If you go right instead of left and swim against the current or walk on the shore there's a deep area ("the cave" it was called) for further swimming and snorkeling. Lots of divers were there exploring. Definitely bring your water shoes to this one to protect your feet from the sharp rocks! This spring would be perfect if you're visiting Florida for the theme parks because it's close to Orlando, and the short-run makes it an easy day-trip for in-state visitors. This spring also had a concession stand if you don't want to pack lunch. You can pay (it's by the size) to have your tube blown up for you. The gift shop has water shoes and goggles but it would be way cheaper to buy them before you get there.

General Tips for Visiting Springs:

Bring something to hold you car keys (like this waterproof card case), water shoes, and possibly your own floats to save money unless you're visiting or just don't want the hassle of owning and/or blowing your own up. The weekends are usually crazy busy in the summer, during the week is a better bet if you want a more tranquil trip down the river. If you're going on a busy day like the weekend or holidays, the park limits the amount of people that can visit, so arrive early!

* All shots save for the first two starting the post and a couple of Jill were shot by Jill (a nature photographer, interviewed here on her art school experience) with her underwater digital camera. I need to invest in one of those. Speaking of which, it looks like my old, heavily-used SLR finally bit the dust! If anyone has any recommendations for a new camera, let me know :P

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