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From Jacksonville Beach, FL

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Drifting down the Ichetucknee


The spring fed  Ichetucknee River flows 6 miles  to the Santa Fe River in north Florida. 

  One of the best places on a hot, Florida day is the  Ichetucknee River where the water is always a cool 70 degrees.  It is fed by several springs which spew forth 234 million crystal clear gallons of water daily.  Tubing down the river is very popular and many tubing vendors line  the roads leading to the Ichetucknee State Park.  For about $7, you can rent a tube for the day.  I floated the entire 6 miles last weekend with my out of state Florida visitors.  It was relaxing and fun.

                                Tubes are large with a bottom and some with backs like the
                                 ones in this photo.  Here I am impatiently waiting for the return
                                 of the car driver and those who ran into the woods to see a spring.

After renting a tube and lashing it to your car, drive into the park. One of your party must drive the car to a parking lot near the end of the run and get a park provided shuttle back to the starting point ( When your tubing is over, leave the tube at a designated spot and be on your way without having to return the tube to the rental vendor. ) 

Now all you have to do is spend the next few hours floating down nature's paradise.  You'll see much wildlife unless you're traveling with a noisy group that scares all of it away.Turtles, otters, many water birds, deer, raccoons can be glimpsed if you're lucky.  Are there alligators?  Well, yes.  This is wild Florida, but I've never heard of anyone being attacked.
You leave them alone; they leave you alone.  Never feed any of the wildlife.  

The water is clear enough to see bass and catfish, and mullet are constantly jumping above the surface,  the way  mullet do.  People tubing are asked not to swim in the river.  There are some springs near the entrance for that.  The no swimming is to protect the river.  Many people travel down it. The ecosystem is very fragile. The river bottom is covered with grasses that feed fish and birds.  The grasses can't be disturbed.  Eating and drinking are not allowed on the river.  You can imagine the debris of cans and bottles if they were allowed.

Turtles on a log are a common sight.  Unless you get too close 
they don't seem to be afraid.

If you don't want to glide down the whole 6 miles of river, there are several getting off points, but you must plan that ahead, or you'll have a hike to find your car.

Cypress trees line the south end of the river.

Most people tie their tubes together as these two are doing.
Tying them keeps you from drifting from your party and you have
someone to help if you get too close to the water plants on 
the sides.  We were afraid they might harbor snakes or alligators.

Lovely trees, reeds, and other wild Florida plants line the banks and are part of the river's forest.  I noticed that the north part of the river was mostly reeds and other water plants with trees on the banks.  Cypress trees were most noticeable on the south end of the river.  

If you decide to go, check the website for lots of info about costs, hours, rules and regulations.   I highly recommend a little cruise down the river.  It's fun, cool and entertaining.
Young teens especially enjoy it.  

                                   This is a difficult to read map of the river and springs.
                                    The website (link in the paragraph above) has a clear
                                    version.  The river is near Ft. White FL and about 40 
                                    miles from Gainesville, FL.  The website has directions.

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