Date Visited: 1/6/2020 & 08/03/2022 (Camped)
For hundreds of years, Blue Spring and the surrounding area provided food, clothing, shelter and the materials needed to fabricate tools and weapons to the Timucuan Indians. Later European settlers and pioneers began moving into the area and by the mid-1800s, most of the Indians had been killed or driven from the area.
Above is the home of Gold Rush prospector turned orange-grower Louis Thursby who purchased the land now known as Blue Spring in 1856, building this home in 1872. The home sits gracefully on the top of a shell midden looking down and out over the spring run. This midden was the result of the accumulation of debris by over 6000 years of habitation by Native Americans.
During the time of Thursby’s ownership, the Saint John’s River was an important transportation route, shipping goods and tourist up and down the river by way of steamboat. Later, after the railroad passed through, commercial activity on the river began to decline.
The house is now a museum and interpretive center.
Blue Springs is a first magnitude spring; meaning it is classified as one of the largest springs pumping over 65.6 million US gallons of water a day. The spring comes in as the largest of its kind along the Saint Johns River, pumping approximately 102 million.
The area became a state park in 1972 after Jacques Cousteau’s episode, The Forgotten Mermaids, was filmed at Blue Springs bringing attention to the conservation efforts needed to protect the West Indian Manatees.
With a constant temperature of 72-degree Fahrenheit, the spring has become a winter home to as many as 500+ West Indian Manatees every winter. In fact, November thru March has now become known as “manatee season”. During this time of the year the spring run is off limits to human recreational activities.
But don’t worry, there are plenty of other things to do at the park during the “no swimming” season. There is biking, riverboat, and Segway tours, you can walk along the boardwalk and observe the manatees or take the 4.5-mile Pine Island Trail through pine scrub, pine flatwoods, and freshwater marshes.
This is also a Great Florida Birding Trail Site with 142 known species observed in the park, including the curious and colorful Florida Scrub jay.
During the summer the springs are open to the public for snorkeling, swimming, tubing, and scuba diving if you’re a certified diver with a dive buddy. You can rent a kayak or canoe and even book a guided kayak tour. But don’t bring your fishing gear, because fishing is not permitted.
Camping is permitted in the campground year-round.
Unfortunately, this is one of the busiest units in the Florida State Park System, even the weekdays are busy, and they often reach capacity. Expect to wait unless you arrive really early.
We haven’t camped at this state park, yet, but plan to sometime in the future. We did take an auto-tour of the campground and the sites were pretty nice with all the standard state park campground amenities such as water, electric, fire rings, and tables.
UPDATE: We finally camped at this State Park in 2022. Below is a video of that trip.
Next week we head to Devil’s Millhopper, which is a pretty neat little daytrip that involved some cardio to get up and down the stairs.
Blue Spring State Park 2100 W French Ave. Orange City, FL 32763 386-775-3663 Website
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