Florida has about 1,000 fresh water springs, more
than any other state in the country.
27 of these are first magnitude springs discharging more than 100 cubic feet of water per second.
At least 14 Florida cities have “springs” in their names, as this is where development typically began.
The largest springs discharge ground water from the Floridan aquifer, a limestone formation underlying much of the state. Most spring water is at a constant temperature of 68 to 72 degrees F.
Many Florida springs support unique ecosystems, and they also flow into streams and rivers that depend on the flow of fresh water.
Springs are one of the few natural areas in Florida where you can encounter a large variety of plants and animals in one compact area.
A visit to a spring can not only give you a wonderful swimming hole, but a place where you can see manatees, alligators, otters, and a large variety of fish, birds, and turtles.
DAY TRIP 1
Alexander Springs Recreational Area
49525 County Road 445, Altoona, Florida. Tel: 352-669-3522
Alexander Springs and the recreation area named for it is in the Ocala National Forest, the southernmost and oldest national forest east of the Mississippi River. The recreation area offers camping, swimming, canoeing, scuba diving, hiking, birding and wildlife viewing. Alexander Springs is among 27 first-magnitude springs in Florida and is one of the easiest for visitors to enjoy. A first magnitude spring discharges at least 100 cubic feet of water per second. The water is a constant 72 degrees and extraordinarily clear with a sandy bottom.
DAY TRIP 2
Blue Spring State Park
2100 W. French Ave, Orange City, FL 32763. Tel: 383-775-3663
This park is a favorite place to watch the West Indian Manatee. Hundreds of these gentle animals make the springs their winter home. There are plenty of overlooks and observation points in the park, but it becomes very crowded with people all year round and it is best to visit the park early in the day. The springs constant 72-degree water temperature attracts not only manatees, but scores of humans enjoying swimming, snorkeling, fishing, and canoeing in the clear unspoiled waters.
DAY TRIP 3
Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
1502 SE Kings Bay Dr, Crystal River, FL 34429.Tel: 352-563-2088
Crystal River is one of several wildlife refuges in the area managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. It is the only refuge created specifically for the protection of the threatened Florida Manatee. This unique refuge preserves the last unspoiled and undeveloped spring habitat in Kings Bay, which forms the headwaters of the Crystal River. Nearly 600 manatees spend winters in Kings Bay. The most popular wildlife viewing opportunity the refuge offers is manatee viewing from a boardwalk. There are also dozens of commercial ventures in the surrounding area that offer guided tours, kayak, rentals, and educational opportunities.
DAY TRIP 4
De Leon Springs State Park
601 Ponce de Leon Blvd
De Leon Springs, FL 32130. Tel: 386-985-4212
De Leon Springs State Park is known for its swimming area and restaurant, but is also a rich source for the cultural history of the area. The visitor’s center and other displays offer a look back into the park’s 6,000 years of human history. An eco-history boat tour is conducted from the park where you may see gators, bald eagles, otters, and wading birds. An unusual and popular feature is the pancake breakfast or lunch at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant where you prepare your own pancakes. You can also walk a four-mile trail through the oak forests and cypress swamps and sometimes see wild deer, turkeys, and maybe even a black bear.
DAY TRIP 5
Ichetucknee Springs State Park
12087 SW US Hwy 27, Fort White, FL 32038. Tel: 386-497-4690
Tubing on the Ichetucknee River is a generations old Florida tradition. The crystal-clear spring-fed river flows 6 miles through shaded hammocks and wetlands before it joins the Santa Fe River. You will enjoy a refreshing trip down this unique river. Most native Floridians know that this river is the real Florida, the way it used to be. It is always cool under the lush tree canopy that shades this stream. From the end of May until early September, tubing down the river is the premier activity in the area. You can also picnic, snorkel, canoe, hike, or just chill out.
DAY TRIP 6
Rainbow Springs State Park
19158 Southwest 81st Place Road
Dunnellon, Florida 34432. Tel: 352-465-8555https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/rainbow-springs-state-park
Rainbow Springs forms the headwaters of the river of the same name. At the park’s main entrance at the headsprings, you can swim in the freshwater Rainbow River, rent canoes and kayaks, view waterfalls and gardens and enjoy a picnic area with grills, and pavilions. There are also camp sites. Rainbow Springs is Florida's fourth largest spring and, from the 1930s through the 1970s, was the site of a popular, privately-owned attraction until it finally became a Florida State Park. Tubes are available further down the river for floating down stream.
DAY TRIP 7
Silver Springs State Park
1425 Northeast 58th Ave, Ocala, FL 34470. Tel: 352-236-7148
For many years Silver Springs was Florida’s most popular commercial tourist attraction. It was famous for its glass-bottomed boats and the clarity of the spring-fed Silver River. Many movies were filmed here back in the day. Lloyd Bridges filmed 100 episodes of the Sea Hunt television series here. In recent years the springs and attraction became a Florida State Park. You can still enjoy riding on the glass-bottomed boats, paddling in a kayak, or just staring in amazement at the crystal-clear blue depths of Silver Springs. You can camp here, visit the museum, or eat in the restaurant. Birds and flowers are abundant, and every now and then a monkey appears, descendants of escaped movie stars of long ago.
DAY TRIP 8
Wakulla Springs State Park
465 Wakulla Park Drive
Wakulla Springs, FL 32327. Tel: 850-561-7276
The official name of this park is Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, named after the Florida financier who had a home here and donated his land for the park. Mr. Ball’s historic home is in the park, and elegant reminder of early Florida. Many movies were made in these springs, including a Tarzan film starring Johnny Weissmuller. The constant 70-degree waters are a wonderful retreat on hot summer days. You can also take a 45-minute riverboat tour where you will usually see alligators, an occasional manatee, and many bird species. You can book a stay at Mr. Ball’s historic Wakulla Springs Lodge. The magnificence of the lodge is worth a trip to this park all by itself.
Warm Mineral Springs
DAY TRIP 9
Warm Mineral Springs
12200 San Servando Ave
North Port, FL 34287. Tel: 941-426-1692
Warm Mineral Springs is unique among Florida springs because it has a year-round temperature of 85 degrees F., much warmer than the most Florida springs. It is estimated that the spring waters contain 51 minerals, one of the highest mineral contents of any natural spring in the United States. The springs have been a city park since 2014, but for many years before that a steady stream of visitors came from around the world for the alleged therapeutic effects of the spring water. You can either swim in the water or just sit and soak it up. There is an old motel on the property, but it’s best to bring you own snacks and drinks. A local legend has it that Ponce de Leon visited it and it was the basis for his legendary “Fountain of Youth”.
DAY TRIP 10
Wekiwa Springs State Park
1800 Wekiwa Circle, Apopka, FL 32712. Tel: 407-884-2009
Wekiwa Springs has been a popular recreational spot for Orlando area residents and tourists for more than 100 years. It is so popular that on many days from May through October they have to close it when the maximum capacity of 250 cars has been reached. The clear cool springs feed the Wekiwa River, and in addition to a large swimming area there are miles of trails for hiking, biking, or horse backing. Canoes and kayaks can be rented from a concession in the park and you can paddle along the Wekiwa River and Rock Springs Run. A full facility campground is also located in a quiet section of the park.
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