Within the boundaries of this 2,241 acre park, a series of springs gives rise to the clear, enticing Ichetucknee River which flows southwest for six miles before it joins the Santa Fe River. The river winds alternately through hammock and swamp. Many kinds of fish, turtles and wading birds may be seen along its course. The quiet canoeist or tuber occasionally is rewarded by the sight of a limpkin, wood duck, otter or beaver.
In 1972, the U.S. Department of the Interior declared the head springs a national natural landmark. The State of Florida purchased the property from the Loncala Phosphate Corporation in 1970 so that one of the state's outstanding natural wonders would be preserved and protected while still being accessible to the public. The name "Ichetucknee" is an Indian word meaning "pond of the beaver."
The stream has served many. Indians hunted and fished here. A Spanish mission was once located on its banks. In the late 1800's, a grist mill was in operation here. Early travelers on the Bellamy Road often stopped at Ichetucknee Springs to quench their thirst. Soon after this century began, phosphate was extracted from small surface mines which are still visible, although now heavily wooded.
Because of phosphate mining, the logging of longleaf pines and other disturbances within the park boundary, hardwoods have inundated a part of what was once an open, grassy upland pine forest that extended almost to the banks of the river. The Florida Park service is attempting to reclaim and preserve this native plant community through active resource management techniques. The natural diversity of the park is increased by the presence of the "sandhill community" on the dry upland above the river. This pine and oak forest is control-burned periodically to maintain its open, sunny character as well as reclaim and preserve the native plant community. The sandhills are the home of fox, squirrels, gopher tortoises, wild turkeys, deer, bobcat and other small animals. There are nine named springs within the Ichetucknee Springs group. Average total flow of all springs is about 233 million gallons of water daily. The water temperature remains a constant 73 degrees Fahrenheit. The "Real Florida" can be found and experienced while enjoying any of the park's recreational opportunities.
Florida state parks are managed to appear (as closely as possible) as they did when the first Europeans arrived. All plant and animal life is protected in state parks. Your assistance in the protection of the limited resources found here is requested. The aquatic vegetation found in the river is of paramount importance in maintaining the stream's natural beauty and wildlife. Hunting, livestock grazing and timber removal are not permitted. Do not remove, deface, mutilate or molest any natural or cultural resources or park facilities. For your safety, do not feed any animals. Intoxicants and firearms are prohibited.
Pets are allowed in picnic areas only. Where pets are allowed, they must be kept on a six-foot, hand-held leash and be well behaved at all times. Guide dogs for the deaf and blind are welcome in all areas of the park.
Florida state parks are in various states of accessibility, and are working to improve access to services and facilitate.
Should you need assistance to enable your fall participation, please contact the individual park office as soon as possible. Sometimes as many as ten business days may be needed to schedule particular accommodations.
Discover and Experience all of the Real Florida at Florida's 133 state parks.
You can enter the park at either the North or South Entrances, where you will find grills and picnic tables for your convenience. From October 1 through April 30, you can also access tables and grills at the Old South Take-out Entrance just east of the US 27 bridge.
The designated swimming areas are located at the North Entrance at either the Head Spring or the Blue Hole Spring. These are natural pools with depths ranging from 1 to 20 feet. The Head Spring is a good area for kids to swim as well as adults.
Two self-guided nature trails are available at the north end of the park. At the South Entrance, there is also a short trail to the Mid-point dock. Ask a Ranger for trail guides, or check in the information booth in the North parking lot.
From after Labor Day through the end of May, tubing is only available through the South Entrance off of US 27. Park in the main parking area and follow the midpoint trail to the launch area (about a 15 minute walk). You can then float ½ hour to Dampier's Landing, or continue floating for 1 hour to the South Take-out. Return to the main parking area via the 20-minute walk along the road. Trams operate everyday May 1 through Labor Day. After Labor Day, the trams run on the weekends.
Memorial Day Weekend - Labor Day
Should you wish to tube the entire river, a 3 hour float, it is suggested that you arrive early, as we have a daily limit of 750 tubers/day at the North Entrance off CR 238. The driver of the vehicle, after paying river fees, will need to drop off all passengers and tubes in the parking lot. Then the driver only takes the vehicle to the main South Entrance to park, boards the shuttle van to return to the north parking lot, and rejoins his/her party to float down the river. You can exit the river at Dampier's Landing (preferred) for a short walk to your car, or exit at the South Take-out, and return to the south parking lot via the tram. Please remember to leave all food, drinks, and tobacco products in the car as they are not allowed on the river.
Tubing Season: May 1 - Early September
Should you decide to float the lower half of the river, access the park through the South Entrance. You will park you vehicle and board the tram that will carry you and your tubes to the mid-point tube launch which has a limit of 2,250 people per day. After you float down the river to the South Take-out, you can return to the main parking are by tram. Dampier's Landing, an hour float, has no limits, but it closes at 5:00pm. Please remember, no food, drink, or tobacco products are allowed on the river.
TUBES OVER 5 FT. IN DIAMETER NOT ALLOWED
Park Food Concession
May thru September (Otter's Crossing)
Instructions are the same for tubing. Remember that the north half of the river is only open for snorkeling and tubing from Memorial Day Weekend- Labor Day.
Note: Tubes and snorkel gear are not available inside park- they may be rented from several local vendors located just outside the park entrances.
Canoeing is available year-round through either entrance, and is a great way to enjoy the beautiful serenity of the river. The best place to begin a trip downstream is at the North Entrance off CR238, as there is a canoe drop-off and launch area here. During the tubing (summer) season, there is an in-park shuttle service available. During the off-season shuttle service transportation must be arranged on your own-either with a local private canoe outfitter, or your own vehicles. Canoes are available from several local vendors outside the park. The one-way trip from the launch to the South Take-out takes about 2 hours. (During the season, canoeing is best on weekdays.)
October 1 through March 31
Diving in Blue Hole Spring is available for CERTIFIED Cave or Cavern Divers Only. You must register at the Ranger Station before you begin your dive. The Ranger will hold your C-Card until the completion of your dive. SCUBA diving is not permitted in the river or other springs.
Note: When park office is closed, place fees in honor envelope, record Certificate number on the envelope, and deposit in drop slot. Complete Registration form at the information booth near the entrance to the Blue Hole.
Florida State Parks...
The Real Florida!
Florida parks are open from 8 a.m. until sundown 365 days a year.