Several years ago I discovered Blue Spring State Park in a Florida travel guide. I asked my friend Laurie, who was from Florida, if it was worth the drive. She immediately said “That’s the best part of Florida!” Although it took many Florida trips before I went and saw it I was really glad when I finally did.
We almost always stay in Kissimmee, and Blue Spring is about an hour drive from there. We had read on the website that we should get there early, before it reached capacity, so we got up early and were there by 9:00 am. It had been record-breaking heat all week in Kissimmee so we were just glad we got to swim in a cool river all day. Entrance fee was $6 per car as of this writing.
First we drove to a parking area where the spring meets the St. John’s River. There we saw sparkling clear blue water filled with fish and a couple manatees. One of the manatees had a location device bobber on it. We learned from one of the employees that he had been found as an abandoned newborn, rescued and sent to SeaWorld where he could be raised safely. He was now almost two years old and had been released a few weeks ago. The location device was to monitor him for the first few weeks and make sure he could survived living in the wild. Apparently he was doing very well.
The reflections in the water looked just like one of Monet’s waterlilies paintings! I have never seen anything like it but all of a sudden I totally understood why he was so mesmerized with his pond.
There were also big black gars in the water as well as catfish. Apparently gars are predatory and eat other fish. They look really primitive and leap out of the water which is a bit startling when you’re on a tube. But we didn’t tube here, we tubed up at the mouth of the spring.
We drove back up to another parking area and brought our tubes and coolers down to a picnic area. I will admit I was a little creeped out about getting in the water. There were alligator warning signs which did not make me happy. Thankfully the water was incredibly clear and you could see that there were no alligators in it. To get to where you put your tube in you have to walk up this long, raised boardwalk. According to the vegetation map I looked at this area along rivers is considered swamp forest. I guess that seems right.
You walk up this boardwalk a little ways and you can see the mouth of the spring. It just may be the prettiest fresh water I have ever seen. I stuck my toe in and it was pretty cold. It stays at 72 degrees all year, which is why manatees congregate there in winter.
You just set your tube in and sit on it. You float very, very slowly down the river until you reach the landing, where you get out and start all over. We bought regular pool floats from Publix and they worked fine. My nine-year-old nephew brought his boogie board and he claimed that was much better. Here he is looking really cute on his boogie board:
The spring is surrounded by so many trees that it’s shady almost the whole float down. It felt really good after the heat we had experienced all week and I understand why the locals love it so much. After about an hour a man in a kayak who was an official manatee observer made everybody get over to the side so the manatees could swim up to the top of the spring, so the manatees get escorted up and down and nobody is allowed near them.
After we were done tubing we got my nephew an ice cream ($3 which is a bargain after paying Disney prices all week!) and gave our floats to some people who had just arrived since we wouldn’t need them again. It was one of my best days ever in Florida, total cost $21 including floats and ice cream.