on the river – August 2010

by kelly savage
Looking to cool off? Enjoy one of Florida’s most beautiful and unique natural resources and get a break from the 100-degree weather by jumping into some springs!
There are 85 springs in the St. Johns River watershed and they contribute 20-30 percent of the river’s flow. Springs are richly connected to our history and are a big draw to visitors. While you are there, remember to enjoy the springs responsibly so they can be treasured for generations to come. Here are just a few springs you can enjoy along the St. Johns. You can learn more about these and other springs at www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org.
Spring Park
Magnolia Ave. & Hwy. 17
Green Cove Springs
Open dusk to dawn
FEE: The park is free, the pool is $2/adults, $1/children, under 2 free.
Features: Pool, pavilions, dock, restrooms, picnic areas, playground
A short drive from Jacksonville (less than an hour) off Highway 17 right on the St. Johns River, this park is a gem! Three thousand gallons of 78 degree water bubble up from the spring per minute, filling a public swimming pool for the masses to enjoy. The water then flows from the pool into a beautiful stream that flows to the river. After your swim, have a picnic in one of the big pavilions, let the kids enjoy the playground, or get your fishing pole and head out on the city pier.
De Leon Springs
601 Ponce de Leon Boulevard
De Leon Springs, (386) 985-4212
8 am to sundown
Fee: $6 per vehicle, 2-8 people per vehicle; $4 for 1 person & vehicle; $2 pedestrians
Features: Restaurant, swimming, snorkeling, canoeing/kayaking, hiking, boat tours, playground
I take everyone who visits me to this park. It is quintessential Florida. Go back in time while you enjoy breakfast in the Old Sugar Mill, where they still make their own flour for their delicious pancakes. The best part? They bring a pitcher of the batter to the table and you make them yourself on your own tabletop griddle! After you have a fabulous meal, jump in the spring, rent a canoe or kayak, take a 50-minute boat tour, or visit the visitor center. The center has photos and displays about the history of the park that was once a resort promising “a fountain of youth impregnated with a deliciously healthy combination of soda and sulphur.” I have been to this park numerous times and still have not done it all (and don’t seem to be getting younger either)!
Blue Springs State Park
2100 W. French Avenue
Orange City, (386) 775-3663
8 am until sundown
Fee: $6 per vehicle, 2-8 people per vehicle; $4 for 1 person & vehicle; $2 pedestrians
Features: Camping/cabins, swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, canoeing/kayaking, hiking, boat tours, playground
Named for the color of the spring water against the limestone bottom, this spring is absolutely beautiful. There is no cemented “pool” of spring water, just a natural flow from the springhead to the St. Johns. The 72-degree water feels like heaven during a hot summer day. Bring your snorkel (or rent one) and look for alligator gar and other fish! Other activities at the park including canoeing, camping, and boat eco-tours on the St. Johns. Also, mark your calendar for the Annual Manatee Festival (Jan. 22- 23, 2011) when the park celebrates the return of its winter residents, the Florida Manatees. Last year there were over 200 manatees in the spring! It is quite a sight.

About Shannon Blankinship

Shannon Blankinship is the Outreach Director for St. Johns Riverkeeper and contributes regularly via the “On The River” column building awareness for the many issues that impact the St. Johns River. Shannon received her B.S. from Purdue University in Natural Resources Economics and Policy and her J.D. from Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville. She is currently an elected official in Duval County serving on the Soil and Water Conservation District. She is a board member for the local nonprofit The Girls Gone Green and regularly contributes articles affecting animals and health. She is a Springfield resident and works to promote all things great in the urban core neighborhoods.