The Gainesville Sun today has an article listing some of the popular springs in the area for swimming. Ironically, in yesterday’s Sun (Aug. 21, 2015) there was an article revealing that Florida is on a pace to set a record for tourism this year.
Rick Scott is so pleased that his much-pushed program Visit Florida is on the way for reaching his goal of 100 million visitors in one year. Scott’s program estimates that in 2014 visitors spent 73 billion dollars in our state. He wants and expects even more this year.
Perhaps Mr. Scott should look at articles like this and check the statistics on kayak and canoe activities on Florida’s rivers to realize the treasures Florida has to attract his prized and much-acclaimed visitors.
The Visit Florida website has almost nothing (literally, one picture!) on Florida springs, known internationally to cave divers and enthusiasts as a mecca for their sport. This website’s eyesight reaches to Disney but not much beyond. People travel to the springs area here from Italy, Germany, England, Mexico, Switzerland and other countries to explore the underwater cave system.
The people behind this program need to become familiar with John Moran, Cynthia Barnett, Bob Knight, Rum 138, Paddle Florida, Lesley Gamble, Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, Margaret Tolbert, Adventure Outpost, Brack Barker, Suwannee River Rendevouz, and Canoe Outpost to see what is happening in their state. Many others could be added to the list, these are but a few.
The Visit Florida people should be aware of these people and those doing the same things. They should be helping them; as it is now, they are helping Mr. Scott attain his number.
Spring into nature’s coolest pools
A guide to springs in and around Alachua County
Here’s our guide to cooling off in the area’s springs:
7300 Ginnie Springs Road, High Springs
Located on the Santa Fe River and home to seven natural springs, Ginnie Springs is a favorite among college students and families alike, making it one of the more crowded springs during the summer. Whether you want to spend a day tubing down the river or a night in the woods, Ginnie Springs has an option for you.
If you’d rather be under the water than over it, Ginnie Springs also offers a full-service dive center. Take lessons if you’re a beginner or explore the caves if you’re more advanced. Hours: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays
Admission: $13.09 for adults, $11.78 for seniors over 62, $3 for children ages 7-14, free for ages 6 or younger
Information: 386-454-7188, www.ginniespringsoutdoors.com
28800 NW 182nd Ave., High Springs
If you’d rather have a more quiet getaway, Poe Springs is the one for you. It’s typically the least crowded of the area’s springs and is great for young children due to its shallow waters. The park boasts 202 acres of woodlands as well as fields for soccer and softball and a volleyball court, but be sure to bring your own equipment. The best part? Admission is totally free.
Poe Springs is accessible from the Santa Fe River or from a boardwalk leading from the parking lot. Camping isn’t allowed at the spring.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday
Information: 374-5245, http://www.floridasprings.org/visit/map/poe%20springs/
7450 NE 60th St., High Springs
Aptly named for the color of its pristine water, Blue Springs offers a diving dock and a 50-yard-long white sand beach. Along with the main spring, there are four other springs, three of which — Naked Springs, Johnson Springs and Little Blue Springs — are available for swimming. There is also a quarter-mile boardwalk that leads from the spring to the Santa Fe River, where fishing is permitted, as well as various hiking trails through the park.
Blue Springs also offers camp sites, both for RVs and tents, on a first-come, first-serve basis. You can also rent canoes, kayaks and tubes at the park and buy food from their concessions stand.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday
Admission: $10 for adults, $3 for ages 5 to 12, free for children under 5
Information: 386-454-1369, www.bluespringspark.com
12087 SW U.S. Highway 27, Fort White
If you’ve never taken time to tube down the Ichetucknee River, you’re missing out on a Gainesville summer staple. Whether you take the three-hour journey or the 1½ -hour float, you’re sure to enjoy a lazy day on the river. However, both have a maximum daily limit of persons that is reached quickly during the summer weekends, so be sure to arrive early. Even if you miss one of the longer excursions, the park offers an unlimited 30- to 45-minute float.
If tubing is not your style, the head spring of the river offers swimming, snorkeling, hiking and plenty of wildlife viewing. In 1972, the head spring was named a National Natural Landmark.
Hours: The park is open 8 a.m. until sundown; the 3-hour float is offered until 2 p.m.; the 1½ -hour float is offered until 4 p.m.; and the 45-minute float is offered until 5 p.m.
Admission: If tubing, admission is $5 per person. If driving, admission is $6 per vehicle with 2 to 8 people, $4 for single occupant vehicles, $4 for motorcycles, and $2 for pedestrians, bicyclists and extra passengers