Florida just opened their 175th state park: Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park. Located in High Springs, just north of Gainesville, Gilchrist Blue Springs has been a favorite local swimming hole for many, with a 2nd magnitude spring, complete with diving platform, two other spring head swimming holes and a winding clear run out to the Santa Fe River.
History of Blue Springs Park
Though there are many Blue Spring parks in Florida, this one was known to be one of the prettiest. Gilchrist County’s Blue Springs Park had been privately owned and maintained since 1958, and referred to by many as simply ‘Gilchrist Blue.’ The owners kept the private park in good condition and were known to curb the rowdy behavior that was acceptable at other parks. The owners decided to sell this past summer, and in June, the state of Florida stepped in, wanting to preserve the unique ecological habitats and springs at Blue Springs. They used their Forever Florida fund, for preserving Florida’s natural resources, in order to purchase the magnificent 407 acres of land along the Santa Fe River in Gilchrist County.
Swimming at Gilchrist Blue Springs
The 2nd magnitude Gilchrist Blue spews out 44 million gallons of cool water daily, at an average 72°. There’s a smaller swimming hole, Little Blue Springs, under a cypress canopy, and also the picturesque Naked Springs, accessible by the nature trail or following Naked Run from the main Blue Spring Run.
Paddling at Gilchrist Blue
The clear waters of Gilchrist Blue begin at the head springs and twist and turn for a quarter mile before joining the dark tannin waters of the Santa Fe River. Though a busy swimming and snorkeling spot during the warmer months, in the winter manatees have been known to come up the run for the warmer spring water temperatures, and traversing the run is easier without the crowds.
Camping at Gilchrist Blue
Camping is not available yet in the park, a former favorite fall camping spot for many, but the park officials are working on it! Looking for a decent place to pitch your tent? Try Ginnie Springs down the road- it’s a first come, first serve privately owned campground with several springs for swimming and diving (certified divers).
Paddling on the Santa Fe River
There are several springs and parks along the Santa Fe River waiting for the adventurous. Upriver from Gilchrist Blue, you can find Rum Island County Park with Rum Island Springs- a nice little park for fishing and swimming. Farther upriver from Rum Island you’ll find Poe Island County Park- another quiet gem and a good place to stretch your legs. Both Rum Island and Poe Springs are fee-free parks. Heading downstream from Gilchrist Blue, you will find Ginnie Springs Outdoors- a giant campground/outdoors complex, with several freshwater springs, like Dogwood Springs, Deer Springs and the Devil’s Spring System. Ginnie Springs is privately owned and if you land on their land- you pay their fees. That said, it’s a good place for camping and they have a little country store too!
Gilchrist Blue Springs Video
This video was taken last year- before Hurricane Irma and the state park acquistion of the property.
Things to Know Before You Go:
- Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park is located at 7450 NE 60th St, High Springs, FL 32643
- Their contact number is (386) 454-1369
- Entry fee for this park is $6 per vehicle for 2 to 8 persons or $4 for single occupant vehicle/single entry
- You can swim and snorkel in the springs, and they do have changing facilities on site.
- Fishing is allowed on the Santa Fe River, but not in the spring runs.
Since the state opened the park, they have restricted swimming to the main spring to help the environment recover from years of heavy human impact. They have also prevented watercraft from entering the main spring area. The legendary boardwalk suffered a hit from the post-hurricane rising waters of the Santa Fe, but they will build again! Many people who know and love this place are cringing at the state park changes, however, we should try and remember that the State Park Service wants to preserve Gilchrist Blue Springs for future generations. It could have been bought by a private contractor and turned into a condimimum complex, like so many other areas of natural Florida, but it wasn’t. It will be interesting to see what the DEP and State Park Service have in store for Gilchrist Blue!