Matt J. Harris
Perhaps the most striking feature of Columbia County is the abundance of natural fresh water springs and crystalline spring-fed chain of pools. The limestone-filtered water collects into surface ponds and streams that form a playground for swimmers and nature lovers. The Ichetucknee Springs of Columbia County are truly the crown jewel of Florida’s gateway.
The crystalline Ichetucknee River flows six miles through shaded hammocks and wetlands before it merges with the Santa Fe River. In 1972, the head spring of the river was declared a National Natural Landmark by the U. S. Department of the Interior. From the end of May until early September, at the north and south entrance, tubing down the river is the primary activity. In addition to tubing, visitors can enjoy picnicking, snorkeling, canoeing, swimming, hiking, and wildlife viewing year round. October through March scuba diving is available in the Blue Hole only. Picnic areas, equipped with tables and grills, are available throughout the park. Tubes, kayaks, paddle boards, plus snorkeling gear, and equipment can be rented from Paddling Adventures inside the park! Tubes and equipment can also be rented from private vendors located outside the park entrance. Shuttles for launch and pickup points on the Ichetucknee River are also available through Paddling Adventures.