Every winter, Blue Springs State Park offers Central Florida visitors a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with some amazing natural phenomenons.
First is the spring itself, around which the park is designed. The Blue Spring is the largest natural spring on the St. John’s river.
If you’ve never seen a natural spring before, you’re in for a treat! Which is cliche, I know, but true. The entrance to the spring is actually a large underwater cave that feeds out into what can best be described as a large creek. Eventually the creek widens and flows into the very large St. John’s River.
The water is 73 degrees year around. Even on the coldest January days, visitors to the park can feel free to swim in the warm waters. Of course, you’ll want to bring a towel and something warm to get into as soon as you get out of the water and step into the much colder air.
If you do venture into the spring waters and head toward the mouth of the underwater cave, you may see professional divers who explore the spring’s opening almost daily.
You may also see an alligator or two.
Yes, it’s true. Blue Springs State Park has signs posted up and down the water way warning visitors to watch for alligators. In fact, the last time my family and I went we were pleased to see three very large alligators in the water – about five minutes after we had gotten out of it.
Blue Springs State Park, which is located in Deland, Florida (about 25 minutes outside of Orlando), also features several walking trails for hiking, bird watching, and romantic hand holding.
But the most popular attraction at Blue Springs is the return of the manatees each winter.
The spring serves as a natural warm water haven for the manatees when the temperature of the St. John’s River plunges in October or November each year. On some cool mornings, visitors can see more than 100 manatees swimming along the spring run in Blue Springs State Park. As the weather (and water) warms up in the spring, you’ll find fewer and fewer manatee. However, even as late as March you may run across a few refugees from Sea World’s rescue and rehabilitation program.
These two manatees, Annie and Rocket, had been released last March back into the wild by Sea World. They were equipped with tracking devices to help trainers and scientists monitor if they are joining the other manatees and returning to the river to feed.
What makes Blue Springs State Park unique from other Central Florida attractions is the ease with which visitors can interact with nature. Although park rangers forbid swimmers from approaching and/or touching the manatee, it’s not uncommon for the manatees to approach the swimmers and bump humans with their large noses. They’re harmless, and swimming with them truly is a unique, calming experience. Even the spring itself is easily accessible via wooden walk ways, piers and docks.
Blue Springs State Park is open 365 days a year from 8am until sundown. Admission is $5.00 per vehicle, or $1.00 for bicycles and pedestrians.
All photos by Britt Reints