Returning to Ichetucknee
fbrogers — Tue, 08/18/2009 - 10:24
I've been to Ichetucknee a great many times, but it's been over a year since I've been down the run on a tube. Since the north end closes after Labor Day, I wanted to hit it up at least once (NOTE: the north launch is really the only reason to tube this spring run).
After much convincing of my friends to drive the 130+ miles from Orlando to the pocket of springs in the High Springs area (and waking them up at 5:30am so we could get a good start), we set off in the Jeep to Ichetucknee Springs.
Dane and Gerret, after grabbing some tubes.
Advice: Don't stop at the first tube store. They know they're the first and they price their tubes accordingly. Wait for the second or third; you'll have much less traffic at the tube shop and a slightly-cheaper price. I frequent the LOWE tube shop.
(More after the break)
Don't want to get too wordy here, so let's cover the basics. We arrived at ~8:30 and the park was already hopping. Dane dropped us off and sped back to the South end to drop off the Jeep, so while we waited for the shuttle to bring him back, Gerret and I hiked down to Blue Hole Spring.
Finally, a nice shot down into the Blue Hole cavern.
Gerret, even being from Michigan (and used to cold water) was pretty excited about the concept of water just pouring from out of the Earth into a pool of clear water. We jumped right in and I snapped all the pictures I could, trying out the D10 underwater for the first time (review to come later). A few others were there, and without a mask/fins/snorkel, I couldn't explore much - so I stuck to the pictures.
An early morning shot of the boil from the dock.
Inside the pool.
I quickly found out that I had nothing to dry off the lens with, so the above-water pictures were going to come out a little bloomy. We strolled back to the main parking lot just in time for Dane to arrive, and the three of us went to the head spring to do a little swimming before the float.
We had left our rented tubes behind the sign to Blue Hole, so we grabbed those to move them closer to the head spring. An old ranger yelled at us for putting them too close to the walkway so we moved them to the other side. It's hard to fault them, but man rangers are a crotchety bunch sometimes.
The main pool is pretty picturesque, and I've seen it used on many springs sites around the net, so I can't pass up an opportunity to grab some more shots of it. It's a little difficult to get into the pool (there's only one defined entrance and the casuals tend to spend hours tip-toeing into the water).
A slightly-saturated shot of the head spring.
A shot of me floating in the cool water.
Dane surprised me and brought his mask and snorkel (anything you bring you have to account for on a tube), so we passed it around and checked out the various areas of the spring. Again, without a pair of fins, it's difficult to combat the strength of the water pouring from the cave, but I tried to dive down a few times.
Before time went by too much, we exited the spring, nabbed our tubes (saying a few words under our breath to the ranger) and took off down the spring run.
The north end of the run is much better for a few reasons:
- It's narrower and more spring-run-like than a river
- The vegetation and scenery is much more lush and plentiful
- Because of the stipulation that you can't park and go, many fewer people travel down the river, resulting in much less noise and congestion
- There are many areas that allow you to stop and explore along the way
Gerret floating under a tree; you won't see this on the south end.
The water on the lens doesn't ruin every shot ;)
The state shuts down the north entrance after Labor Day and it doesn't re-open until Memorial Day. It's a shame you can't do the whole float in the off-season, but it's worth letting nature heal itself from all the tube traffic in the summer.
As for the choice of which entrance to start from, the north end is more than worth it. It takes a little extra time and may not be as open and user-friendly as the south end (read: you will get your feet in the slimey algae and plants. They won't hurt you), but it's really the difference between floating in a man-made ride and experiencing nature. In my opinion, it's not worth floating if you can't go the whole way, period.
Cooling off my head.
Dane found an oar and used it on the tube. Hilarity ensued.
About halfway down the north end, we discovered something I'd never seen before in all my travels down the run: another spring. I called out to the group off to the side of the run, asking if there was a spring. They screamed back, "YES!!", and I was off flailing like a mad man toward the shore.
Turns out it's called Devil's Eye Spring, or Boiling Spring to some of the locals. It's small and impossible to enter, but it has a bonus jumping tree and a deep pool, making for some awesome pictures and a great break from the run to swim. We stayed for about 30 minutes and I shot a number of videos.
Looking at the cave for Devil's Eye Spring.
In the tree over the spring.
We hung our tubes on one of the branches.
We continued down the run, but once we reached the midpoint, it was clear that attendance to the park was picking up dramatically. We stopped to swim at the midpoint dock but there were so many tubers that we had to move on.
Once we reached Dampier's Landing (the parking lot entrance/exit), we decided to get out and satisfy our stomachs rather than continue down the crowded south end (now that I think about it, I don't usually go down past the Landing - perhaps it's better that way). I shot some more video and swam from the outtake to the intake dock a few times, but the crowds prevented it from being as fun as it should have been.
It was Dane and Gerret's first trip, and while I'll let them speak for themselves, I think they thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a great trip to the springs, and I hope to repeat it soon, maybe once more before Labor Day :)