About This Episode
Blue Spring State Park is a state park located west of Orange City, Florida, in the United States. The park is a popular tourist destination; available activities include canoeing, SCUBA diving, kayaking, fishing, camping, hiking, wildlife watching, and swimming. The spring in the park (Volusia Blue Spring) is the largest on the St. Johns River. Due to its relatively warm temperature of 73 °F (23 °C), the spring attracts many Florida manatees during the winter. About 102 million US gallons of water flow out of Blue Spring into the St. Johns River every day.
Blue Spring State Park has 51 campsites and six cabins that can be rented. The camping area is pet friendly.
The spring runs a few miles long and features a boardwalk that stretches 1/3 of a mile from the St. Johns River to the headspring. All water-related activities are prohibited during manatee season (mid November–March). Qualified SCUBA divers can descend into the spring cave in season. Picnicking is a popular pastime, with multiple pavilions available for groups and scattered picnic tables around the entire park. The park also features volleyball courts and a playground, as well as canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. The old Thursby plantation house is being maintained and has historical displays that visitors can explore. Various wildlife besides manatees can be seen also, including alligators, bears, raccoons, and various species of birds. Hontoon Island State Park is a short paddle down the St. Johns River. Food-service, stores, and a water-activity rental station are available for supplies.
Gold Rush prospector turned orange-grower Louis Thursby purchased Blue Spring in 1856. Before the railroad rolled through in the 1880s, Thursby’s Blue Spring Landing was a hotbed of steamboat activity, shipping tourists and goods to Jacksonville and beyond. Mrs. Thursby was Orange City’s first postmistress.
‘The Forgotten Mermaids,’ an episode of the Underwater World of Jacques Cousteau, was filmed here in 1971. The documentary brought attention to the manatee and the importance of Blue Spring as a winter refuge, greatly influencing the state’s decision to purchase the land. Conservation measures can produce astounding results. In 1970, two years before Blue Spring State Park was established, researchers tracked 14 manatees in the spring run. By 2005, after years of park improvements and manatee protection efforts, wintering manatee numbers exceeded 200, and by 2018 that number skyrocketed to a record 485.
I don’t know about you, but I feel like it’s time to get outdoors. I feel like I’ve been cooped up inside for far too long.
Thankfully, there is a place not too far from Orlando where one can find some balance enjoying some of the most beautiful scenery in Central Florida, just up the road in the town of Orange City.
Blue Spring State Park is not your ordinary state park. Join me on this episode to discover why this park is one of Central Florida’s most popular.
Blue Spring State Park was at one time, a hotbed of steamboat activity. Louis Thursby, whos home still stands in the park, purchased this land when Orlando was still known as Jernigan. It was a landing where goods and tourists made the trip to and from Jacksonville on the St. Johns River.
In 1971, conservationist and filmmaker, Jacques Cousteau filmed an episode of his critically acclaimed program right here entitled “The Forgotten Mermaids.” So named, because of the yearly migration of Manatee that spend the winter in these waters which stay a constant 73 degrees year-round.
During the Summer months; however, Blue Spring State Park is one of the most popular parks in all of Florida. As always, I’ll just let the park speak for itself.
Isn’t it a wonder, that places like this exist in the world? Make plans to visit Blue Spring State Park, the next time you visit Orlando.