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Looking at Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park from above reveals a sliver of turquoise in a sea of green. Located just under 30 miles northwest of Gainesville and 90 miles east of the state capital of Jacksonville, this small, secluded state park is only 407 acres, but contains six springs and a mile of Sante Fe River shoreline.
Privately owned since 1958, Blue Spring Park was purchased by the state of Florida in 2017 and was renamed Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park shortly thereafter. This state park is packed with dense tropical greenery broken only by the blue springs and streams leading to the bustling Sante Fe River and the cities beyond.
Camping at Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park gives guests the opportunity to spend more time taking in the natural wonders that Florida is known for. With six springs to explore, including Kiefer Spring, Johnson Spring, Little Blue Spring, and Naked Spring, water sports are the order of the day. Rentals are available on-site for those motorhome camping enthusiasts who don’t have extra room in their campers for canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, inner tubes, or snorkel gear.
Gilchrist Blue, the main spring for which the park is named, produces around 44 million gallons of water daily, keeping the surrounding bodies of water crystal clear for snorkelers and swimmers. The streams and springs are so pure that even those above water are able to take in the diverse wildlife from stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, and even the shoreline.
For those campers looking for drier activities, there's a vibrant geocaching community. Hidden treasures of the natural variety can be found along the walkways that line the spring run and floodplain and the few paths that venture into the surrounding woodland. Right next to the campgrounds and parking lot is a picnic area with covered pavilions, grills, and restrooms, the perfect place to take a break before hitting the water and trails again.
Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park is a quiet respite for those campers looking to explore one of Florida’s natural wonders or those motorhome travelers looking to make a stop on the way to their final campsite further down the long peninsula. Reservations are encouraged as the park only hosts 17 RV spots, with limits ranging from 25 to 40 feet, and only two pull-through sites.
Sharing is caring at Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park, as all the amenities and attractions are also used by day-trippers looking to chill out in the cool waters. The campsite is right next door to the parking lot, so this RV camping area is for the more social travelers and their pets. Each extra-wide site comes with 30-amp electricity and water hookups at the far end of the space, so bring your longest cords and gear. There's no dump station on site, but your camping pass can be used to enter O'Leno State Park free of charge.
If Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park has no vacancy or if you would prefer a more private place to park your camper, there are KOAs an hour drive in almost every direction. Starke / Gainesville N.E. KOA is to the east, right off the old 301, while Perry KOA is to the west. A little over an hour north sits Jennings KOA Holiday. The pristine waters are a welcome stop even if you do choose to stay outside of Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park; just note that there's an entrance fee for day-trippers, and alcohol is not allowed.
Florida campers who like options should add Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park to their itinerary as there are seven other state parks to explore within a 50-mile radius, including Devil's Millhopper Geological State Park and its impressive sinkhole. Osceola National Forest sits to the north, and to the west sits the Mallory Swamp Wildlife Management Area, showcasing the diversity of the northwestern Florida landscape.
The road to Gainesville, the closest major city, contains many attractions along the way. Kanapaha Botanical Gardens is a great place to check out the wonders for Florida’s plant life, and for those more interest in fauna than flora, the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo offers a rare behind-the-scenes look at zoo management.
There are plenty of opportunities to fuel up and stock up on supplies around the park, so a trip into the big city isn't necessary. Restaurants are also plentiful with a mixture of unique eateries and chain restaurants nearby. In a state with 175 state parks and countless natural wonders, Florida is a great place to camp in an RV. If you don't have your own rig, rent a camper near Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park and cool off in the crystal clear springs before checking out what else the Sunshine State has to offer.