Florida Finds: Gilchrist County springs 

Blue Springs State Park sign in High Springs
Blue Springs State Park sign in High Springs.

Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series spotlighting museums, parks and other opportunities for excursions around North Florida—all within a day trip of Gainesville. To see other Florida Finds stories, click here.

A dip or a dive in the springs is just a short drive away in nearby Gilchrist County, which offers plenty of choices for the outdoor enthusiast, seeking a break from city life. 

Five springs, two nature trails, an RV campground, fishing, and boating are among the choices nature offers visitors and residents of the rural 355-square mile county less than an hour away from Gainesville.   

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“In Gilchrist County we pride ourselves on being the springs capital of the world,” said Donna Creamer, executive director of the county’s Tourism Development Council and a county film commissioner. “We do invite folks to come and discover why our springs must be on their bucket list.” 

Creamer reeled off a list of springs to be found in Gilchrist County, including family-friendly Hart Springs, which has one of the largest spring-fed swimming areas in the state. It is near the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail and the Gilchrist Blueway Trail, both excellent venue for hikers and bikers as well as those who just want to enjoy a day out in nature.  

Bathers frolicking along the Suwannee River.
Photo by Ronnie Lovler Bathers frolicking along the Suwannee River.

The trails highlight what’s on the ground, such as the old train depots in Trenton, Chiefland and Cross City.  

“There’s an old railroad trestle that crosses the river, and that’s definitely worth it,” Creamer said. “Some people just walk out there “ 

Creamer said another family-friendly spot is Otter Springs, also county operated, which includes a campground with 100 campsites for those who might want to spend a few days communing with nature.   

Ginnie Springs, just outside High Springs, is closer to Gainesville, although it might not be the best location for those seeking a quieter getaway.  

“It gets really busy there during the summer and it appeals to the younger crowd, mostly University of Florida students,” Creamer said.

There are five springs on site at Blue Springs State Park, also not far from High Springs. The main spring is known for its diversity of wildlife species that include turtles, fish, and invertebrates.  

But there’s more along the water. Creamer mentioned Ellie Ray’s RV resort, which tries to help travelers organize a “day-cation somewhere…on the Santa Fe River.” Anderson’s Outdoor Adventures offers guided tours that take kayakers and canoers to see eight springs in eight miles.  

“I think I think what makes us unique is that we are so nature-based outdoors,” Creamer said. “We have no big supermarkets. We have no hotel. We are a more rural area with everything that nature has to offer.”

With parts of both the Santa Fe and Suwannee River beckoning and the temperatures still hot, a day near or in the springs of Gilchrist County could be well worth your time. 

Suwannee River in Gilchrist County
Photo by Ronnie Lovler Part of the Suwannee River in Gilchrist County.

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