After a not so pleasant start to our new adventure we finally made it to Gilchrist Blue Springs where we were able to secure a camping spot for the night. The sky remained overcast, but the rain had finally stopped.
Although we are both native Floridians this is a park neither had visited in the past. The first thing we noticed was a mature doe quietly grazing along the side of the road leading into the park. Other than a few sea birds that braved the earlier winds and rain, this was the first wildlife we had seen all day. We took this as a sign of good things to come.
We spoke to the ranger, let him know how we’d be camping, and he must have misunderstood us because he assigned us one of the 17 spots inside the RV hookup area. We later learned that there are also 8 primitive tent camping sites that would have suited us better. At any rate it was getting late, the park was about half full, it started to rain again, and we were simply happy to have a place to stay for the night.
The rain subsided long enough for us to prepare the SUV before taking a short walk along the main spring areas. The rains continued cycling on and off, so we left the rest of our exploring for the next morning when we hoped for better weather.
When we returned to our campsite we were serenaded by a large gathering a few sites away who played the guitar and sang gospel hymns until the quiet hours set in. Unlike most campfire performances, this was a well practiced group and we felt as if we were attending a private concert.
The next morning we went through our usual routine and then set out to explore the park further.
There are several springs located at this park. The largest is a second magnitude spring that produces around 44 million gallons of water per day which travels along a 1/4 mile run before meeting up with the Santa Fe river. The sandy beach area and crystal blue water offered a great place to swim and was very popular with the kids.
We walked along the boardwalk and spotted several largemouth bass and panfish swimming without fear. Fishing is not allowed at this park, but paddling is available and rentals are provided on site.
Next we set out on the nature trail that was just short of a mile long (not counting the spurs). We had the trail to ourselves and it was a peaceful and enjoyable walk through the floodplain surrounding the spring run and higher hammock areas. We spotted deer, marsh rabbits and several bird species.
We learned that the park was a private park from 1958 until 2017 when it was acquisitioned by the state making it the 175th and youngest in the Florida State Park system. This explained why neither of us knew it existed before we purchased our current state park passport.
Overall we enjoyed our stay and this put us at peace that our trip was going to continue to get better. After soaking in the sights, smells, and sounds we loaded up and headed to Clear Springs Campground in Mississippi for a quick overnight before reaching our intended destination.
We tried the second campground loop this time and found a great campsite that overlooked a little babbling brook. Neither stay at this national forest campground has been disappointing.
We started the new day with a walk and a nice long hot shower before setting out toward the southern terminal of the Natchez Trace Parkway, but not before making a stop for the best darn tamales we have ever tasted!
More on that next week! Until then….
For more information on this state park see the website below.
Ruth B. Kirby Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park 7450 NE 60th St High Springs FL 32643 386-454-1369 website
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