The newest Florida State Park is Ruth B. Kirby Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park. It’s located 20 miles northwest of Gainesville, just under a two hour drive from Jacksonville. While it is the newest Florida State Park, the clear springs have long been a swimming destination for locals as a privately owned park until 2017 when Ruth B. Kirby’s family sold the property to the state of Florida.
One of Many Amazing State Parks
Don’t get confused, Florida has three different state parks with blue springs in the name. Blue Springs State Park near Orlando is known for their manatees that visit in the winter. Gilchrist Blue is located in High Springs. Known for its turquoise waters this spring is definitely worthy of its name.
Within the park there are multiple springs; Little Blue Spring, Naked Spring, Kiefer Spring and Johnson Spring. A few are scattered along a short nature trail within the park and all provide stunning scenery for photos. Along the nature trail look for a geocache, and a 350 year old cypress tree, as well as countless birds and other wildlife that make this park home.
Go for a Swim at Gilchrist Blue Springs
The mainspring is home to the Gilchrist Blue spring, a second magnitude spring pumping out 44 million gallons of water daily. The clear water is a refreshing 72 degrees year round. Here in the mainspring is where you can swim and snorkel as well as access the spring run to kayak, canoe or SUP.
The entrance to the swimming area is walk-in, a bit slippery and shallow with plenty of areas for children to play. The spring hole itself is deep, a great spot to explore with a snorkel! While we were visiting, visitors to the park were swimming, tubing, snorkeling, and playing football in the water.
Before the state purchased the park there was a diving platform and a boardwalk that wrapped around the swimming hole and extended out towards the spring run. Many photos of the park feature those elements and often people are disappointed to not see those within the park. A park ranger at Gilchrist Blue informed us that they were taken down to help promote regrowth of the spring and the natural areas surrounding the spring and spring run. Currently there is no swimming allowed in the spring run but paddling is encouraged.
Rent Kayaks or Bring Your Own
Gilchrist Blue Springs offers rentals on site for paddling the spring run. The spring run is a quarter mile long, flowing to the Santa Fe River. The park also offers concessions. The picnic area surrounds the spring under a canopy of trees. There are a few picnic tables scattered throughout but bring a blanket as this park reaches capacity often; especially during the weekends.
We enjoyed this park for the Real Florida feel; the water is refreshing and beautifully clear. My family brought tubes and spent the day swimming, snorkeling and floating. We walked the nature trail, and enjoyed a picnic under the trees near the spring. There are showers and a bathhouse located in the picnic area.
Plan a Visit to Gilchrist Blue Springs with the Kids
Ruth B. Kirby Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park is open 8am to sunset and closes at capacity. There is also camping on site. The campground facilities are in close proximity to the swimming area. There is a small fee to enter the park but there are a few days a year when you can enter for free. Whether you spend a leisurely night or day Gilchrist Blue springs is a must visit Florida state park to explore.
If you’re interested in learning more about springs in Florida, we recommend Touring the Springs of Florida: A Guide to the State’s Best Springs. It’s a great resource for day trips that your family is sure to love!
Jillian Gishler is a New Englander at heart. Born in Jacksonville Beach, she grew up in Massachusetts but was beckoned back to Florida by Mickey Mouse for a Disney World Internship. She returned to the beach in 2005 after graduating from Florida State. Ten years ago she opened her handmade & vintage collective shop, Sew Vicious, in Neptune Beach. Jillian raises chickens, is a passionate gardener, a DIYer, a thrift store junkie, a deal loving mama, and has several inspirational travel journals available on Amazon. She leads her daughters Girl Scout Troop, teaches sewing at a local Montessori School, and is a Parents Who Lead Alumni. She loves surprising her husband and daughters with mini-vacations around the Sunshine State.