When I was told I’d jump in some really cold water and love it, I laughed. In fact, I said no way I’d take that jump. I’m more a hot tub girl myself. The first splash into Blue Spring added a new dimension to the word CHILL. Never in my 60 plus years have I felt so relaxed as floating in my tube, pushed by millions of gallons of water rushing upstream from the aquifer to the St. John’s River.
Florida has more “first magnitude” springs than anywhere in the world—31 at last count. First magnitude means a single spring can push more than 64 million gallons a day. Blue Spring lets loose of more than 100 million gallons a day! Blue Spring State Park was a great first experience for me because we were able to camp right there and walk to the springs a couple of times a day.
The park had just reopened in August and was limited at 50 percent capacity. Perfect! Social distancing was not an issue. Free divers and snorkelers moved in and around the boil. As an observer on the edge, my tube was a perfect perch.
The gentle giant’s starring role
In winter, hundreds of Manatee’s snowbird in Blue Spring, and visitors line walkways to watch our lazy mascot. I was lucky on my first day to see a cow and her baby swim under my tube in invisible water. An official manatee counter told us she’d seen six that day—a good number for late summer’s heat.
Overhead, trees lean above the spring reaching for the sun. Most of the area is a dense “hammock” of native trees. I did not know hammock is an Indian word for shady place. It’s easy to picture Tarzan swinging from the trees like he did at Florida’s largest Silver Springs, where they filmed from the 30s to the 50s.
Jacques Cousteau’s “The Forgotten Mermaids” was filmed at Blue Spring in ’71. His documentary, explaining the importance of the spring as a manatee hideaway, persuaded the state to purchase the tract.
Myths and legends of Blue Spring
Archeologists at Blue Spring discovered Indians lived there 6000 years before the Europeans arrived. The first house built on the property still stands high on a “midden,” where Indians dumped their daily debris leaving clues to a long history.
A Gold Rush prospector named Louis Thursby bought and built the house on the midden in 1856 to try his hand at growing oranges. Steamboats stopped at his landing which became a shipping hub until the railroad rolled south in the 1880s.
The Indians told Ponce de Leon the Fountain of Youth was in Bimini when he arrived in Florida in 1513. I doubt they wanted him sharing their water and food source and refreshing places to bath. Ponce de Leon anchored off the east coast in April, Easter season or Pascua Florida in Spanish. La Florida was named before he decided if she was an island or a peninsula.
While Ponce didn’t find his Fountain of Youth at Blue Spring, I did. I’ve had many wonderful vacations in my years, but this one goes on the replay list. Trust me, even if you’re a tub girl like me, that 72-degree spa did wonders for my skin and my spirit.
We’re so lucky to enjoy rich natural wonders right here in our own state. Reconnecting with nature is one of the best ways to beat the pandemic blues. Just what the doctor ordered!
Photos from Richard Glaspy