Explore the River & Springs
People won’t generally fight to save what they don’t know about and come to love. In that spirit, we hope you’ll explore the lovely Ichetucknee River and enjoy its springs for the first or hundredth time. Bring a friend who’s new to the Ichetucknee and bask in the joy of their discovery!
First, spend some time reviewing the Ichetucknee Springs State Park website for information on park fees, hours, rules and regulations, directions, and updates. Below you’ll find some helpful links to help you get started with various modes of exploration.
“Tubing the Ich” is a rite of passage! Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, tubing is the most popular activity on the river. During summer months, the park runs a tram service to take tubers back to their vehicles at the completion of their river float. During summer weekends, be sure to get to the park early. From the Saturday of Memorial Day to Labor Day, there is a daily limit of 750 people launching from the North Canoe Launch. If the limit is not reached, the North Launch closes at 2 p.m. After 2 p.m. or when north-end capacity is reached, tubers will be directed to Mid-Point or Dampier’s Landing to launch.
From the day after Labor Day until the Friday before Memorial Day, tubing is restricted to the lower half of the river through the park’s south entrance off US Highway 27. Tubers have the option of launching from Mid-Point or Dampier’s Landing. Eelgrasses along the shallow and sensitive north section of the river are given the opportunity to regrow and recover from the heavy traffic of the summer.
You can rent a tube along your drive to the park from the companies below. After your float, you just leave your tube at the designated drop-off point at the park’s south take-out and these companies will retrieve it.
Because the river is so heavy with tubing traffic during the summer, many paddlers wait until after Labor Day to explore the river by canoe, kayak, or paddleboard. After Labor Day, you’ll have a delightful time gliding over colorful eelgrasses, mullet and gar, and even some manatees during the cooler months. And you will see turtles—lots of them! The Ichetucknee, Santa Fe, and Suwannee Rivers lead the nation (and are #2 in the world) for diversity of turtle species. Bird enthusiasts can expect to see a variety of a variety of water birds on or along the river, including great and little blue Herons, ibises, egrets, limpkins, wood storks, moorhens, kingfishers, and even an occasional roseate spoonbill.
You can rent boats or boards and arrange for shuttles through the following outfitters and concessionaires:
Adventure Outpost (includes guided river tours)
Paddling Adventures (located inside the park)
Rum138 (services limited to Santa Fe River on weekends from Memorial to Labor Day)
Santa Fe Canoe Outpost (services limited to Santa Fe River from Memorial to Labor Day)
Paddling Adventures and park rangers regularly team up to offer special group paddling outings in the fall, winter, and spring, like special sunrise paddles and moonlight tours at night. Click on the events tab of the park’s website for a schedule of group paddling outings.
Cavern and cave certified divers are permitted to dive at Blue Hole Spring from October 1 through March 31. Scuba diving is not permitted in the river or other springs. There is a half-mile trail to Blue Hole Spring; many divers bring a cart or wheelbarrow to transport gear. Here’s a description of Blue Hole from one of the Alliance’s board members, who is a cave diver. The following dive shops in the area rent tanks and other gear to divers:
Swimming & Snorkeling
Swimming and snorkeling is available every day of the year from 8 a.m. until sundown at the park’s north entrance. You may swim and snorkel at either Ichetucknee Spring (head spring) or Blue Hole Spring.
Possibly the park’s most notorious day for swimming is its annual “Iche Nippy Day” on the first Saturday after the New Year. Start your new year by taking a “nippy dip” in the beautiful, clear 72-degree waters of the Ichetucknee Head Spring, then gather around the campfire with some hot chocolate to warm up!
Ranging from a half mile to two miles, the park offers three lovely hiking trails that meander through forests and cypress flood plains and offer beautiful views of the river and springs. Access trail maps here.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park is a part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. Bird enthusiasts can expect to see a variety of a variety of water birds, American kestrels, northern bobwhite, wild turkeys, barred owls, red-headed woodpecker, Bachman’s sparrows, and many more.
Park rangers regularly lead guided tours throughout the park, highlighting various flora and fauna as the seasons dictate. Click on the events tab of the park’s website for a schedule of guided hiking tours.