My daughter and I set out on an end of summer expedition- a day of exploration in High Springs, Florida. We had been to the area several times, but Poe Springs had always alluded us. We didn’t paddle far enough upriver on our kayaking trip from Rum Island, and it was closed when we stopped by Gilchrist Blue Springs, Ginnie Springs and that time we headed up to the Ichetucknee River. So Poe had become an elusive mystery, much like the writer, Edgar Allen Poe himself.
They say the best places are the ones that take effort. Whether this is because you feel proud of yourself after accomplishing a hard task, or the fact that very few people are willing to make the effort in the first place, who’s to say, but finding the spring head in this 220-acre Alachua County park takes effort- about a half-mile’s worth, down a winding wooded trail- making it one of the quieter springs in the area.
Located in High Springs along the Santa Fe River, Poe Springs Park only recently extended its open times to 7-days a week. Now visitors can enjoy the park from dawn til dusk Monday through Sunday.
Where’s the Spring?
That was our first question on arrival to the park. We paid our $5 fee in the drop box envelope and turned right to follow the road to the edge of the park. There are a few trees to find shade beneath in the parking lot, and even though school was still out and it was a Friday, there were plenty of empty spaces.
Park up in the parking lot near the building by the trees- there’s toilets there and changing facilities. On the left is a nice little playground. Right behind the building, you can follow the dirt track into the woods. You may think you’ve headed in the wrong direction- we did too, but a park information sign will reassure you’re on the correct path. Keep to the worn trail. Eventually you will come to the beginnings of a boardwalk. It was renovated and repaired in 2018, when the park was closed for 7 months due to damage by Hurricane Irma.
The long boardwalk winds beneath a shady canopy of trees, leading to the hidden freshwater springs, the treasure at the path’s end. There was literally no one around when we were there. On the left, beyond a narrow channel, you can see the Santa Fe River through the trees. It’s surprisingly close and during our visit, seemed extremely high. Beneath the boardwalk cypress knees jut from the rich dark soil- a swamp in the waiting. One more rain and we would be on a swamp walk. And even though we thought we were all alone, as the path turned and the glistening water appeared in our sights, we could hear the sounds of kids playing and splashing at the spring-head.
Swimming Hole on the Santa Fe River
Sunlight streamed into the open meadow of the Poe Springs swimming area. There are picnic tables under the trees and an open pavilion to enjoy a picnic and leave your gear. There’s also a handy restroom as well, just in case you forgot to change- like we did 😉
Concrete steps with shiny aluminum handrails lead into a shallow sandy area. Beyond the shallows, the bottom drops off a limestone shelf into the depths of the main spring vents. A 2nd magnitude spring, Poe pushes out 45 million gallons of fresh water daily. But be warned- there are stumps protruding in the sandy shallows (see the video below)- great for exploring with a snorkel, but not for leaping off tubes or rafts.
Near the covered pavilion are a second set of concrete steps with a railing. We descended these to reach the run- a short creek from the spring basin to the Santa Fe River, where the clear spring water mixes with the tannin stained river. The water in the run was shallow and clear. The limestone bed was pitted with holes, some slippery with algae. It can make crossing the run more like a game of chess- you have to think about where you are stepping next. Of course you can just float on a tube to the river and avoid the chess game completely.
At the far edge of the run, a tree leans over the freshwater/dark water line on the Santa Fe. The trunk has worn smooth from generations of play- a taste of old Florida hidden in the woods.
The banks around the run rise high, as the Santa Fe River often does as well, and we explored the little fishing areas- niches carved out for the knowing. We spotted mullet jumping in the river. Perhaps we’ll bring a pole next time? There was a nature trail beyond the picnic tables, but we decided to take an icy plunge into Poe instead and donned our masks and snorkels for an afternoon of underwater explorations.
Poe Springs is located at 28800 NW 182nd Ave in High Springs, Florida
Contact number: 352.264.6868
Fees: $5 per car. Honor box system, so bring cash.
Hours: 7 days a week, dawn to dusk. However, forget holiday tripping- this county park shuts it’s gates on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day & New Year’s Day.
Bring what you need the first time around- it’s a hike and we did it twice.
Use a mask & snorkel for underwater exploring. Although we did not see any fish here during our visit- though we did see them in the Santa Fe River at the end of the run, there are plenty of pockets of shells and limestone fossils to check out.
Don’t trash where you splash- Use the trash cans for your garbage and take away all the items you brought with you. It was a pretty clean swimming hole and park during our visit- let’s keep it that way 😉
Eager to visit more springs in the area? The Santa Fe River is rich with fresh water springs, stop by Gilchrist Blue Springs, Ginnie Springs or Rum Island for more swimming fun.
Kayaking at Poe Springs
There is a boat ramp at Poe Springs Park. It’s the access to the Santa Fe River. When you pay at the entrance, instead of turning right, go straight and make a left. Follow the road around to the boat ramp. It’s narrow and made of concrete blocks and there’s a dock for fishing or just hanging out as well. You can put in your kayak there and head right, against the current to reach the main springs. The boat ramp closes one hour before dusk.