It’s September, and some parts of the United States are starting to cool down for autumn. But we’re Floridians, so we laugh for a while before we collectively sigh and mutter “Man, it’s freaking hot. And what is autumn anyway?”
Fortunately, if you live in Gainesville you don’t have to drive all the way to Alaska to beat the heat. You only have to drive 45 minutes to a paradise in Fort White.
Ichetucknee Springs is a fantastic place to visit on a hot day – it’s got a lazy river for tubing, a secluded piece of lake for snorkeling, a picnic area for eating and an underwater canyon for SCUBA diving
First of all – tubing. Not pulled by a boat, but sitting on an inflatable and drifting on a river. You don’t need to get an inner tube only from the local rentals, so you have a perfect excuse to go to Publix and buy one of their inflatables. Go down that river in a gator or killer whale, as long as it’s smaller than 5 feet in diameter. The water is nice and cool, and the scenery is beautiful. Just be aware – this isn’t a water park lazy river, you are doing this for about 45 minutes. It seems like a long time, but how many of you have lied down outside for an hour to get a tan? Tubing is relaxing, but passing by all sorts of beautiful scenery and even some turtles in cool water is way more exciting than being on a lawn chair by the pool. And yes, you probably will get a tan anyway.
If tubing isn’t your thing, no worries. The most picturesque area of the springs is where you can snorkel and swim – a lake-like area with crystal-clear water and some freshwater fish. As in depth as I’d like to go about this section, I think the picture speaks for itself. It’s absolutely beautiful.
And, of course, the picnic area is adjacent to the snorkeling area. Do I really need to explain this? It’s a place for food. Enough said.
There’s also the Blue Hole. On the surface, it doesn’t look like a big place to swim, but that’s not the point. If you have goggles or a mask, jump into the water and look down – there’s an underwater canyon that goes deep (I even got a little dizzy just beholding it). For most people, that’s all they do before they climb out of water. However, if you like to scuba-dive, you can bring your equipment and actually explore the area. Scuba-diving is permitted October through March, and has to be done before 5 p.m.
So if you want to plan a getaway with your friends or roommates, pack some food and some floaties and head down to the springs, off State Roads 47 and 238. Admission is $6 for a vehicle with two to eight people, and if you want to float on the river, another $6 for the group (that’s the rate until Memorial Day). For more information check out http://www.floridastateparks.org/ichetuckneesprings/ and start planning a vacation.