Saturday, January 19, 2019

A Hidden Gem: Ginnie Springs


Photos by Jesus Calo

Florida is well known for its beaches and outdoor nature activities. Tucked away from the coastal lines exists a private natural spring park called Ginnie Springs just six miles outside the city of High Springs, Florida. This hidden gem is located along the Santa Fe River and highlights Florida’s northern central nature scene.

Privately owned and operated since 1976, Ginnie Springs Outdoors LLC is considered one of the clearest springs in Florida. The surrounding 250 acres features a group of six springs and over 30,000 feet of passageway cave systems. The nature park attracts locals and tourists from around the world to swim and dive into its cave systems. While it is required to have a scuba diver certification to access the caves, the springs are accessible to the general public. The park website endorses the phrase “visibility forever” coined from Jacques Cousteau’s praise of the clear water.

As you turn into Ginnie Springs, you approach a welcome hut that directs you to the main store, otherwise known as the welcome center. The main store is a one-stop-shop where you purchase your daily parking pass, stock up on food, and pick up rental gear. Throughout the park, there are bathhouses, grills, volleyball courts, playgrounds and picnic areas. Warning signs are strategically placed near each spring entrance, especially near cave entrances, but safety is solely an individual’s responsibility.



When you first enter the crystal-clear water, it feels like you are floating on air. As you swim through one of the six springs, you eventually meet the Santa Fe River. The spring pocket feeds the river, and there is an invisible boundary that divides the river from the spring water. It is night and day as you cross into the river, where the water is slightly warmer. Most guests rent or bring tubes to float on (even one for the cooler!) and start at Beaver Landing. There is a current that drifts you all the way until the last exit point where tubers can access the Tube Trail and walk back to camp.

Quite possibly the most adventurous area, aside from the caves, is halfway through the river where a rope allows guests to swing into the water. Right next to it is another large tree that has multiple branches at various heights to jump from. You will likely encounter young adults and families that offer to help execute the proper jump, and a line typically forms during the process. You can easily spend an hour here with various attempts, and the excitement builds from the crowds that gather to watch and participate.



Suggestions for your trip: arrive early in the morning, bring extra towels and a water protective cell phone pouch. The park works on a first come first serve basis, so the early arrival time promises optimal parking and scenic photo opportunities without a crowd. The extra towels will protect your car seats after a long day of drying off with the same swimming towel. Most phones are water resistant, but the water protective cell phone pouch will act as an added layer of security should your phone fall deep into the water, and some may even float. Lastly, bring swimming goggles to view and experience the world underwater.

Ginnie Springs is open year-round, and the crystal-clear spring waters remain at a brisk 72 degrees. The current summer hours are Monday through Thursday from 8 AM to 7 PM, Friday through Saturday from 8 AM to 10 PM, and Sundays 8 AM to 8 PM. Campers have 24-hour access on the grounds.

Ginnie Springs is an exceptional outdoor nature park. Located at 7300 NE Ginnie Springs Road, High Springs. For more information call 386-454-7188 or www.ginniespringsoutdoors.com.

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