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Saturday, April 17, 2021

If you're not quite ready for summer to be over but don't want to travel more than an hour to get to the nearest beach, cut your drive in half and spend the day at one of the freshwater springs just north of Gainesville.

The popular Ginnie Springs has 500-year-old trees that loom over the blue-green water and create shaded spots for the park's campgrounds and picnic tables.

The 72-degree water is refreshing for swimmers, snorkelers and scuba divers exploring the seven different springs.

"A lot of University of Florida students will come here and chill out for the day," said park employee Cathy Francis.

Inner tubes, kayaks, scuba gear, volleyballs and about anything else you could want to rent for the day are available at the shop near the entrance.

General admission ranges from ,3 to ,12. The park opens at 8 a.m. and closes 30 minutes before sunset, and it is located in High Springs at 7300 NE Ginnie Springs Road.

Next door, Blue Springs Park has a diving dock directly over the spring, where the water is 24 feet deep. White sand beaches span 50 yards around the large swimming area.

There is a quarter-mile-long boardwalk winding under the trees next to the spring, and there is a place to sit at the end that overlooks where the spring runs into the Santa Fe River.

Visitors can swim, snorkel, canoe, tube or kayak. Canoes and floats can be rented at the entrance of the park.

Campgrounds, grills and picnic tables are also available, and there are hiking paths throughout the spring's property. Guests can enjoy a game of volleyball or horseshoes for free with a valid ID.

General admission ranges from ,3 to ,10. The park is located in High Springs at 7450 NE 60th St.

Poe Springs Park offers a more serene atmosphere ideal for students who just want to float along.

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"The park doesn't get as much traffic as the other springs," said Karl Dowda, the director of the park. "Most people come here to read the paper."

It is a family-orientated place and alcohol is not permitted, but grills are located around the park for cooking.

Visitors may see wild turkeys, beavers, red foxes, otters, deer, herons or turtles in the water or along the banks.

The park is 202 acres of hilly woodland and fields, making it Alachua County's largest spring.

Entrance fees range from ,3 to ,5 depending on age. Rental floats are located at the front gate.

The park is open from 9 a.m. to sundown and is located in High Springs at 28800 NW 182nd Ave.

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