Little Blue Springs: Florida’s Lost Swimming Hole
Florida’s big blue springs receive all the attention and fame. And with over 1,000 named natural springs in the sunshine state, it’s easy to lose track of a few here and there, like Little Blue- Florida’s lost swimming hole. Located in Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park in High Springs, Little Blue Springs is a short stroll away from the popular Blue Springs swimming area, and it has always been over-shadowed by the inviting turquoise waters of it’s 2nd magnitude big brother. But hidden beneath a thick canopy of cypress trees, this little swimming hole is a world apart.
The History of Gilchrist County’s Little Blue Springs
Fondly called ‘L’il Blue’, swimmers have been cooling off in the spring-fed watering hole for years. Before Blue Springs Park became the 175th Florida state park in 2017, the 407 acre parcel of Gilchrist County land adjacent to the Santa Fe River was privately owned & maintained since 1958. The private park owners named the isolated spring and built a boardwalk so that visitors could have a chance to enjoy a quieter dip away from the main swimming area.
Little Blue Springs faced much competition from the siren call of the diving platform over the main Blue Springs, which has since been removed (2019) and the more photogenic Naked Springs, also located on the park land, but Little Blue had its share of renegade die-hard spring-fans. It was a place to escape the crowds. A little blue oasis in the jungle. An old-style Florida swimming hole.
Little Blue Lost- Little Blue Found
The Florida park service took down the boardwalk and removed the old sign that pointed the way down a sandy footpath to Little Blue (you can see them in the video below). Little Blue is still an eye-catching blue and crystal clear, a testament to the ever-flowing fresh water spring, despite being encircled by cypress trees. But the shade from the trees and leaf debris on the bed of the watering hole makes it appear dark and unfriendly, especially when compared to the glittering turquoise waters of the main big spring.
There is no swimming allowed at Little Blue now. A ring of cypress trees, cypress knees, and thick black mud surrounds the spring pond- nature’s way of keeping humans at bay. Deer tracks in the rich wet earth tell tales of night time parties- of the four-legged variety. The park’s human visitors may have lost another Florida swimming hole, but mother nature has welcomed it back with loving arms. Little Blue has been released to the wild once more.
Things to Know Before You Go:
- Little Blue Springs is located in Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park at 7450 NE 60th St, High Springs, FL 32643.
- Entry fee for this park is $6 per vehicle for 2 to 8 persons or $4 for single occupant vehicle/single entry.
- When you come to the main spring swimming area, take the sandy track to the left. It will lead you to Little Blue.
- There is no swimming allowed in Little Blue, but you can swim in the main swimming area of Blue Springs. There are showers & changing facilities on-site*
*Due to our Florida 2020 lock down and slow reopening, there are limited facilities available. Call ahead before you go 386-454-1369. Plan a weekday visit early in the day to avoid any crowds.
About this post:
Before writing this post, I talked to a local who grew up swimming in all of the springs in this area. He had fond memories of swimming in Little Blue. As did many people who grew up swimming there. As someone who grew up roaming the wilds in a time and place before walls, fences, and restraining laws, I can understand the sadness in seeing a piece of your favorite childhood memories fade away.
I heard of the DEP’s desire to restore the area when they purchased Blue Springs Park in 2017. Although Little Blue wasn’t mentioned, erosion on the banks of the main spring was a major concern of theirs at the time, and I remember getting a lump in my throat at the thought of my children not being able to experience swimming there. They had their hands full replacing the old main spring boardwalk that was damaged by Hurricane Irma. The sign for Little Blue vanished to all but memory.
In 2019 they removed the diving platform over the main Big Blue. It was reported there was structural damage to the concrete platform. Later they prohibited swimming in Naked Springs. Gilchrist Blue has seen many changes since the 2017 acquisition.
I do understand that one of the ways to revive a natural spring’s health is by limiting (human) access to it- wear and tear. And here lies the dilemma- which I offer in a hypothetical question to you: Would you give up your favorite swimming spring or river you love to paddle- to view only from afar for an undetermined amount of time- possibly even forever- if that was the price for restoration?
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