Exploring Florida Parks

We like to visit and camp in as many of the Florida state parks whenever we get the opportunity. The Florida state parks are heavily booked and we were lucky that an opening came up. We camped at O’leno State park for 5 days.

O’leno State Park

Oleno

O’leno is located in north central Florida. Although the weather was cool in the 50’s and 60’s, we were happy to be out of the frigid weather in Pennsylvania.

O’leno is known for the Santa Fe River’s unique disappearance and re-emergence 3 miles away at River Rise State Park. The Santa Fe River is a tributary of the Suwannee River which we visited last year.

The campground sites were very rustic.

Our campsite

This was a pretty rock formation at the entrance to the campground.


The Santa Fe river has flooded numerous times over the years. This marker indicates the flood levels. The water was high when we were there, but no where near record levels!



The two areas are known as the River Sink and the River Rise. This video shows the end of the river before it sinks underground for 3 miles. The water swirls down into limestone caves. The early settlers actually were able to cross the river over the land bridge.

River Sink

It was a 3 mile hike to see the river rise.
River Rise

Unlike the River Sink, the River Rise was calm. We sat and had a picnic before heading back to the car. It was a nice day!


Ichetucknee Springs State Park

We took a day trip to Ichetucknee Springs State Park. It was a very nice park and was beautiful. The main activity here is tubing down the Ichetucknee River. There are two entrances to the park – if you want to tube or kayak, enter at the north entrance. At this park there was a really nice spring called Blue Hole.

Hike to Blue Hole

We took a couple of hikes here and really liked the trails. The hike to Blue Hole was along boardwalks and sandy paths.

Blue Hole Springs
It was exciting to see these turtles sunning on a log.

Algae at Blue Hole Spring
Blue Hole Spring

The southern entrance had a beautiful area to end the tubing or kayak ride with a general store and walkways.

Boardwalk at South Take Out

There was a lot of vegetation and we saw lots of fish in the clear water. There was lush vegetation in the water even though most of the leaves were off the trees.

Heavy vegetation growing on the water was interesting.

Blue Spring State Park

We had reservations for Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park for two nights. We arrived at Blue Spring State Park and found out that we were at the wrong park! The ranger told us that it happens quite often. There are four FL state parks that have the words Blue Spring in them. Luckily they had an opening for one night so we got to enjoy viewing the manatees in the 72 degree spring waters.

Blue Spring

Bird Resting in the Early Morning Mist

We saw several manatees and had much better luck at viewing them the next morning rather than the afternoon we got there. Shortly after daylight, we went over to the viewing area and had the park pretty much to ourselves. It was a special time. We hope that you enjoy this family of manatees! What an awesome experience to watch them a they each came up for a breath of air!

Family of manatees

Next we will be heading southwest to get closer to the Gulf Coast. We will keep you posted on our fun trip!

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6 Responses to Exploring Florida Parks

  1. Gordon l Sedgwick says:

    Nice….loved the two short videos. What a great adventurous life style.

  2. Lisa M. Nassief says:

    Thank you for sharing!

  3. Laura Hawkins says:

    Hello ladies!
    I’ve been to that Blue Spring park to see the manatees 3 different times! You indeed had a great opportunity to see a manatee family.

    • lkhearts says:

      Oh so you love the manatees too. Getting up early was the key to seeing the manatees and families. It was quiet and serene and the manatees were just lazing around. You would have loved it.

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