HIGH SPRINGS, FL — Looking for a great place to cool down as the weather heats up? Why not head to High Springs, Florida? After a morning of shopping for crafts and antiques in the historic downtown, you can spend the afternoon at one of several parks along the scenic Santa Fe River. Here’s a sampling of the outdoor opportunities in the area:
Take a Plunge in Poe Springs
If you’re looking for a quick dip and a picnic lunch, try Poe Springs Park. Poe Springs is one of the largest boasts of the largest spring in the county, which generates about 45 million gallons of water a day. A scenic boardwalk meanders through a cypress forest to one of the most attractive swimming holes in the vicinity. A sandy beach has been added on one side of the spring — the other has been left untouched. A day trip to the park offers something for the family and all the kids — including fishing, kayaking, canoeing, tubing, swimming, hiking a playground and more. Poe Springs Park also offers canoe rentals, a boat launch, camping and hiking.
Poe Springs Park is located three miles west of High Springs on County Road 340 ( 28800 NW 182nd Ave., High Springs, FL 32643). Phone: (386) 454-1992. The park is open daily 9 a.m. till dusk except New Year’s Even and Christmas Day. Admission is $5 per person, but free for children 4 and under. Canoe and kayak rentals are $20.00 for two hours and $40.00 for a full day. Tube rentals are $10.00 for the day.
1, Hike the Santa Fe River
The Santa Fe River takes an unusual turn at O’Leno State Park, where it disappears underground for three miles. But it doesn’t vanish without a clue: the landscape is marked by a series of narrow sinks that connect to the river below. The trails that criss-cross this “natural bridge” are great for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.
O’Leno State Park is located 6 miles north of High Springs on U.S. 441. Open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset. Admission fee is $5 per vehicle (up to 8 people). Canoe and kayak rentals cost $3 an hour or $15 a day. Campsites are $18 per night including water and electricity. Cabins and pavilions are also available. For information, call (386) 454-1853.
2. Go Tubing at Ichetucknee Springs
Tired of swimming against the current? At Ichetucknee Springs, most folks like to go with the flow. Grab an inner tube at a nearby vendor and float downstream along the Ichetucknee River, which merges with the Santa Fe River in six miles. Until Memorial Day weekend, only a short tubing trip of a mile and a half is available at the south entrance. During the summer, you can also take a longer run of 3 1/2 miles beginning at the north entrance.
This hugely popular summer activity draws large weekend crowds, and only 750 people are allowed to take the trip from the north entrance. Plan on arriving at 8 a.m. to get a spot, or take the shorter run at the south entrance which is open to 2250 people daily.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park is located four miles northwest of Fort White, off State Road 47 and 238. Open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset. Admission is $6 per vehicle for general admission, or $5 or $6 per person for river use depending on the season and entrance. The season for both the north and south entrances begins the Saturday before Memorial Day through Labor Day. The off season at the south entrance is from the Tuesday after Labor day through the Friday before Memorial day. Tube rentals are available at concession areas outside the park. For more information, call the state park at (386) 497-4690.
3. Try Cave Diving at Ginnie Springs
Interested in going a little deeper? Ginnie Springs Resort is the most popular spot in the area for snorkeling and scuba diving. A full-service diving operation offers equipment rentals and instruction. A one-hour inner tube ride is also available.$
Ginnie Springs Resort is located west of High Springs on County Road 340. General admission is$12.00 for adults, $3 for children ages 7-14. Scuba admission is $22 to $30 a day. Mask, snorkel & fins cost $5. Diving classes are offered daily, including a four-day certification course that runs between $175 to $425, including equipment. A one day “scuba experience” costs $99. Reservations for classes are required: Call (386) 454-7188.