Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park, located in High Springs, Florida, is a warm spring paradise with RV and tent camping on site. The Gilchrist Blue Springs natural waters are one set of the many warm water springs in the area, but the Blue Springs are some of the more spectacular springs because of their exceptional blue clarity. The park is home to five named pools, the Little Blue Springs, Johnson Spring, Naked Spring, Kiefer Spring, and Gilchrist Blue, or Blue Springs.
The Gilchrist Blue Spring produces approximately 44 million gallons of water a day. It is a second-magnitude spring because of the volume of water expelled daily. The spring water is 72 degrees, and it supports some of Florida’s most important ecological habitats including wildlife species such as invertebrates, turtles, and fish.
Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park is one of Florida’s newest state parks, and on June 14, 2017, Governor Rick Scott approved the purchase of the 407-acre park and returned the once privately owned land to the state to create a state park. The springs have always been a favorite water destination in Florida, and now that the area is a state park, improvements and conservation efforts may continue.
Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park is just under 30 miles northwest of Gainesville and 33 miles south of Lake City, Florida. From High Springs, the park’s entrance is 4.5 miles west from State Highway 236.
All guests must pay a daily entrance fee before entering the park.
A mile-long divided dirt road, bumpy in places, leads to the ranger station, which adjoins the spring and parking area. RVers should drive slowly.
The park is open from 8:00 to sundown. If you plan to arrive after sunset, call the park before 5:00 pm, local time, for the gate combination.
The Gilchrist Blue Springs Campground is a small tent and RV campground that operates year-round. The campground accepts reservations, and any sites not reserved or occupied may be rented on a first-come, first-served basis. Leashed pets are permitted in the camping areas. The camping sites are both pull through and back in with 30-amp electrical hookups and water, and each space has a picnic table and an area for a fire. The driveways accommodate RVs and trailers up to 40 feet in length. The park has a restroom with hot showers, but no dumping station. The park is open from 8:00 to sundown. If you plan to arrive after sunset, call the park before 5:00 pm, local time, for the gate combination. Quiet time is between 11:00 pm and 7:00 am. All noise, including generators, should cease during these hours.
If you’ve ever imagined what it would be like to paddle a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard over some of the deepest blue and turquoise water, you don’t have to imagine any longer. Paddlers may bring their own boats and cruise the river while having transportation back to their starting location, whether it is up or down the river. There are also different pricing options for boat and paddleboard rentals if you don’t have your own. Paddlers have options to paddle inside of the park, or to venture outside of the park to the river. For information on the cost of rentals, transportation, and excursion drop off and pick up times or pricing, contact the park.
Snorkeling in spring water is quite different than snorkeling in the open sea. The water in the Blue Springs is so transparent and blue that it seems otherworldly. Add another layer to your day on the water by bringing along a mask and snorkel set. Seeing the fish, plant life, and even the occasional manatee from under the water brings a new level of adventure. Purchase a mask and a snorkel from the concessions area, or bring your own. Dunk your head into the springs and experience the beauty of the Blue Springs from a new perspective.
The Blue Springs, consisting of five clear-water springs, are what bring people to the park. The largest pool, Blue Springs, is the biggest swimming area. It’s 24 feet deep and has a water temperature of 72 degrees. A jumping platform and a white-sand beach surround the springs, providing swimmers two ways to enter the water. Only one of the smaller springs allows swimming, while the other three are just for viewing. Whether you decide to swim in the springs, tube, paddle, or you prefer to enjoy the shoreline; the scenery is something you won’t want to miss.
Nothing soothes sore muscles like warm spring water. At Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park, guests have the option to get outdoors and exercise, and then later, soothe their skin in the healing mineral waters of the springs. Walkers have different possibilities for strolling around the park. The boardwalk is the perfect place to meander along a scenic pathway. For an official footpath, the Nature Trail is an unmarked trail that starts just past Naked Spring. Depending on where you begin, you have the option for a 1.5-mile loop or a 1.75-mile loop.
Gilchrist Springs's main attraction is the hot springs, so the park's layout supports the water activities in almost every capacity. Guests who want to know more about the springs should visit the concession stand. The concession stand is where visitors go to rent out equipment, purchase snorkel gear, and set up travel for river excursions. The concession stand also has ice, firewood, and food for sale. It’s open year round, so every season is hot springs season! If you don’t feel like going for a dip in the water, then enjoy the day use picnic areas.
Anglers should take advantage of the warm spring-fed Santa Fe River, and try and catch Florida’s native Suwannee bass. The bass is a smaller fish that prefers coastal rivers, and during the colder months, the portions of the river fed by the springs keep the bass warm and happy. There are many public boat launches along the Santa Fe River for anglers to launch small boats, kayaks, and canoes. If you don’t have a boat, there are rental facilities in and around High Springs. The state has bag and length limits on all freshwater bass, so be sure you understand the fishing laws before heading out into the water. Fishing age and license requirement vary in Florida, depending on species, the angler’s age, and what kind of waterway or property you plan to fish. Contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for more information.