I should start by saying I have lived in Florida for the last 13 years. In all of the time I have lived in Florida I had never been to the following places…. Dry Tortugas, Everglades, Biscayne, NASA, Blue Springs… I have no excuse really. I mean, I was always working and when I vacationed it was usually to Michigan to see family or on a cruise or going somewhere else. I never took the time to explore these amazing places and that is something I regret. So the moral of the story is this: Go explore the State you live in. Explore what’s in your own backyard. I promise you there is far more than you realized.
I arrived at Blue Springs State Park just south of Deland Florida and set up camp. The campground at the park is nice, pretty basic site layouts with ok privacy. The bathrooms are newly renovated and are very nice, some of the nicest I have seen in a while at a State Park. Blue Springs is located on the St. Johns River and is therefore perfect for any kind of paddling. The river stretches for miles in both directions of the park and is completely wild and unpopulated on both sides. You can rent canoes and kayaks at the water entry point as well as book a ferry tour if manually propelled crafts are not your thing. I brought my Surftech paddleboard and took it several miles up river and saw so much wildlife. From birds to fish to giant aligators lining the banks of the river, it was an awesome experiance.
The springs itself has two parking lots, one for accessing the river and one for the springs itself. I recomend the river parking lot as it is less crowded and is just a short walk to the springs. There is a nice wood deck pathway with lookout decks all along the springs. The springs flow from a large underwater cave system and because of this, the water is a constant 72 degrees and crystal clear. You will see manatees and tons of fish from the lookout decks but if you wanted to get closer, there are two entry points into the springs for swimmers and tubers as the banks of the spring are otherwise steep and un-climbable. *Note: Do not swim up to the manatees to get a ‘selfie’ with them, it’s ridiculous.
There is also an underwater cave at the beginning of the springs. The cave is not really suitable for Free-Diving as there is a giant submerged tree that covers most of the opening to the cave. I am not entirely sure why the Park has not removed the tree covering the opening, my guess is to prevent people from trying to dive down into the cave without equipment. Either way, if you are an experienced free-diver, you can still get about 50 feet into the cave opening.
Blue Springs State Park is definitely worth visiting if you are near central Florida, under an hour from Disney it is a great place to go to get away from the urban sprawl. I would avoid weekends however, as on a nice day they will close the park when it becomes overcrowded. For the best experience, camp in the park and explore the river and springs at your leisure. *Note: the snack shop doesn’t have ice cream sandwiches like the sign says, major bummer.