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Ichetucknee Springs: Floating Along and Livin’ the Life

I got in the car and headed west, not knowing my exact destination. I carried with me the essentials: water bottle, camera, cell phone, shoes and a change of clothes.

Last time I made a journey into the unknown, I had my car loaded down with everything I would need for my first semester of college.  Today, I am much lighter of a packer, but still include my cell phone among the necessities.

The usual scenery began to fade out to farmland and dispersed homes. And one other difference-my usual mode of transportation was now a bright yellow school bus.

Today’s adventure was sponsored in part by a local church and the day of tubing at Ichetucknee Springs State Park was promised to be a day of fun for its youth group.

Ichetucknee Springs State Park is about an hour and a half outside of Jacksonville but is well worth the journey.

We stopped at Lowes Tubeland a few miles away from our destination. The tubes we wanted cost $3 each and Lowes Tubeland delivers them to the park if you have a large enough group.

Arriving at the park, I was informed my plastic grocery bag of items was neither allowed in the stream (fear of littering) nor would keep my valuables (camera and cell phone) free from the imminent flooding that would occur could I have even attempted to take my valuables on my tube with me.

Once I got over my shock, I walked barefoot (my shoes were not necessary) out of the bus. Following the wooden bridge, I came to Blue Hole Spring, a large freshwater pool we could swim in.

Stairs led down to the pool with clear, chilly water beneath. Through the water green weeds grew in patches between thick areas of white sand. I swam for as long as I could stand it before having to jump out as my teeth began to chatter from the cold.

We regrouped and headed towards the stream. The water was still cold, but the excitement of trying to stand on the slippery stairs to the stream without falling warmed me up quite a bit.

I was able to climb into my tube and the current took me out. I spun around and maneuvered in my tube, trying to avoid the log or high weeds every few feet.

Some more agile children were able to jump off their tubes doing flips and some even managed to throw me out of mine. Soaked, I climbed back in and tied myself up with a few friends on their tubes.

We traveled together down the stream, trying to balance ourselves and keep each other in the center of the stream to avoid the perils of the banks such as snakes, spiders and other species of the stream.

Screaming and laughing, we made it past the two break points, areas where you could stop and use the restroom, or relax, if for some reason you had not been relaxing already.

It was dirty. It was cold. At times, it smelled like a swamp. But despite all of this, you must know Ichetucknee Springs was also fun, so much fun.  While I was dirty, I felt clean from the cool water.

I was stressed out before the journey, but relaxed during the three hour tour of the spring.  Some stood on rocks and hanging tree limbs jumping off and others walked along the bottom, feeling the sand between their toes.

For awhile, I had forgotten all about my cell phone and camera, and simply captured the day in my mind. I got home soaked and out of water. I immediately jumped in the shower and returned missed calls.

But I didn’t forget the fun I had sitting with my head back, tubing down a stream, caught up in a current, and enjoying a part of Florida that seemed to be a happily kept secret, shared only between those who knew of Ichetucknee Springs State Park and the good times it holds inside.

1 Responses »

  1. Back in the 70's, there were no rules, no signs and no organization to the Spring. People would take pets, scuba equipment and GIGANTIC tubes. Parking was where your car ended up. But not one group started out without a GIANT COOLER well positioned in its own special inner tube. Inside the cooler were cold beers and food for a four to six hour trip. I'm talking full meals inside.

    Check with the rangers and find out when the water is moving rapidly. It is a rush.

    Many families would take fish netting and drop their grapes and soft drink cans over the side to chill in the freezing spring water. Thanks for bringing back those fine memories...