Blue Spring State Park is located west of Orange City, Florida. It is the largest spring on the St. Johns River and is a designated winter home (mid-November through March) for a growing population of West Indian Manatees.
For centuries, Blue spring area was home for Native Americans. In 1766 it was visited by Colonial American botanist John Bartram, but it wasn’t until 1856 that it was settled by Louis Thursby and his family. The Thursby house, built in 1872, remains standing. The park was later acquired by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in 1972 to kick-start its manatee protection program. You can still visit the main home here, which is now a museum.
The spring pool is circular, with a notable boil in the center and steep sandy banks that rise approximately 15 to 20 feet above water level. The spring run flows about 1,050 feet to the St. Johns River through a dense hardwood and palm forest, with picturesque live oak trees leaning over the run. The cave is a vertical shaft that angles into a room at a depth of 80 to 90 feet, but at 120 to 125 feet, the cave constricts and creates a strong flow, preventing further safe diver access.
The park, in general, is a popular tourist destination; available activities include canoeing, SCUBA diving, kayaking, fishing, camping, hiking, wildlife watching, and swimming. Covered open-air pavilions are available to rent for parties, family reunions or company picnics. Volleyball courts, horseshoe pits, canoe, kayak and tube rentals are available for your enjoyment. River boat tours are also available, along with air-conditioned cabins, a full-facility campground, and primitive campsites for overnight stays.
As for Scuba diving, note that when the manatee are in residence, scuba and swimming is not permitted at Blue Spring state park, so check ahead of time before heading out there. If you get there and find they start showing up, you can always go on the river boat or head over to the museum. Or just wander. It’s nice. Very nice.
Charters: Do you bring divers here?
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