Blue Spring State Park, FL: A Visitor’s Guide

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Where is Blue Spring State Park?

Blue Springs State Park is located north of Orlando and inland from New Smyrna Beach, just West of Orange City, Florida. The park sits next to two other parks along the Saint Johns River.

summer view of Blue Springs State Park in Florida with clear river waters. Blue Spring State Park FL A Visitor's Guide

How to get to Blue Spring SP from Orlando

From Orlando, you’ll want to head Northbound on I-4. Take this interstate and follow I-4 E to US-17 N/US-92 E in Seminole County. Take exit 104 from I-4 E, where you’ll continue to Blue Springs State Park.

In Orange City, you turn left onto French Avenue, left onto Becker Boulevard, and then turn right into the park. The trip is about 33.5 miles and takes a little over forty minutes.

How to get to Blue Spring SP from Tampa

The trip from Tampa, Florida, takes you right to Orlando and then follows the same route to the park.

You’ll want to take I-275 N to get to I-4 E. You stay on I-4 E through Orlando, get off at exit 104, and continue with US-17 N/US-92 E to the park. In Orange City, you turn left onto French Avenue, left onto Becker Boulevard, and then turn right into the park. The trip is about 117 miles and takes just under two hours.

About the park

The history of the park

Blue Springs used to be privately owned and a bustling fish camp. The park was founded in 1972 to protect the manatees living in the Saint John’s River. Before being designated a park, the area was so busy the manatees rarely visited and had essentially lost their winter home. Now, around 500 manatees make the park and river their home.

Logging became big business in the area, with steamboats taking the cypress and pine logs up the river to Jacksonville. A large plantation house built in 1872 by the Thursby family still stands on the property and has been restored as a historical landmark. The area was a busy riverboat landing, like the Wild West if it was a Florida swamp.

Indigenous people history

Blue Springs was originally a Timucuan Indian village, and this tribe lived in the area for over 3,000 years.

Huge piles of snail shells were found on the east end of the spring. They were a staple food for the tribe, and the piles of shells were believed to be used to protect their homes from seasonal flooding and acted as a barrier.

Wildlife in Blue Spring State Park

Are the manatees at Blue Springs?

manatees enjoying the water at Blue Springs State Park

Manatees frequent Blue Springs, and though they show up in larger numbers in the winter, are always around. Blue Springs is one of the only places in the world that you can dependably stand on the shore and watch manatees.

You are not allowed to approach the manatees and should only swim in designated areas. That being said, if manatees do decide to approach you in those areas, you are allowed to swim with them.

Are there alligators at Blue Spring State Park?

Like most freshwater areas in central Florida, there are alligators in the water. The park provides them a safe home alongside the manatees with plenty of fish and birds to feed on. They prefer quieter areas away from people most of the time, but you should always be aware that they make their home there and you should only swim in designated areas.

Other animals you can see in Blue Spring State Park

other animals in the park perched on a driftwood in the river

Plenty of other animals make the park their home as well. You can see plenty of birds, including kingfishers, wading birds, ospreys, and eagles. A few black bears can be found in the wooded areas around the springs, as well as gopher tortoises.

In the water, gar, sunfish, and turtles can be seen swimming through the crystal clear waters.

Things to do in Blue Spring State Park

Can you swim in the park?

You can swim in the park, but only in designated areas. Sometimes there are closures, so check the park’s website before you get there, so there aren’t any surprises. You can check for swimming regulations here. The water temperature is a constant 72 degrees Fahrenheit thanks to being spring-fed, and this stays constant year-round.

Tubing

Tubing is available through Blue Spring Adventures. You enter the water and float back to the main boat dock. The total trip runs for about an eighth of a mile.

Kayaking

Kayaking is also available through Blue Spring Adventures. Seasonal closures occur every year, so call ahead for availability, closure, and reservations.

Hiking

There are a couple of self-guided nature walks available in the park. A boardwalk trail is a short walk, allowing visitors to enjoy the spring’s pristine beauty on their way to the spring.

Pine Island trail is a more challenging, 3.6 miles (one way) trail that goes through the scrub brush, first, and along the blackwater river of St. John’s. Trail condition updates are posted at the trailhead.

What facilities are there in the park?

The park provides quite a few camping options as well as plenty of amenities for guests. They do offer accessibility options to help those with disabilities enjoy the park as well. For camping options, the park has both cabins, a campground, and an RV park. Showers, bathrooms, and concession facilities are available. There are also educational events and a playground for the kids.

landscape view of Blue Springs State Park in Florida. Blue Spring State Park, FL A Visitor's Guide

When’s the best time to visit Blue Spring State Park, FL?

The park’s peak seasons are in the summer and winter, with summer having the best weather and winter having the largest number of manatees in the park. Fall and spring are offseasons with fewer people, but these are the times the park does maintenance and construction projects, so fewer amenities are available.

If you want to see the most manatees, you’ll want to visit the park during the winter months.

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