Blue Springs State Park, where we camped this past Labor Day weekend, has much beauty to offer. Our morning walk was peaceful. The breeze was cool, the sky was blue and the sun was bright. Though its name is Blue Springs, we were immersed in vivid greens along the boardwalk trail leading to the spring head.
Blue Springs is the largest spring on the St. Johns River. Swimming and diving, which are the main attractions in the summer, are not allowed during the winter months (November to March), because as the river’s temperature drops, manatees seek refuge in the spring’s warm (relatively speaking) waters.
Besides swimming and snorkeling, certified scuba divers can dive into the depth of the spring and explore the underwater caves. For those who rather stay dry, there’s canoeing and boating. Fishing can also be enjoyed off the pier which is found at the point where the spring run meets the river.
Before our afternoon walk and swim, we enjoyed a delicious barbecue chicken sandwich at the concession stand near the picnic area, where we also found a gift shop with rafts and floats available to rent.
In the afternoon the air temperature was in the 90’s. It was hot and humid and the spring water was enticing (that is, until I dipped my feet in). The water temperature in the springs remains at 72 degrees throughout the year. Though warm to the manatees, it felt very cold to me! One park ranger suggested we put our feet in first, so we could “acclimate” and our body temperature could drop. This, however, didn’t help. There are no two ways about it, either you jump in or you don’t go in at all.
I was ready to take the second choice – I hate cold water! But, threatened to be thrown in, I decided to jump in on my own. After the initial shock, we swam up river to the spring head, where we found our biggest surprise yet – a manatee which was swimming among the visitors (see pictures here).
After this incredible experience, we happily and lazily floated to the end of the run. Our bodies were numb as we climbed out of the water. The hot air which previously was so uncomfortable embraced us in welcomed warmth. And though I did not initially want to get in the water, I’m very glad I did.