A year ago we visited Cousin Rob, Colleen, and the twins in Gainesville on our way out of Florida. We stayed one night at O’leno State Park and River Rise: It was fine, but the water and swimming conditions were… not great. Rob told us we should try to stay at Gilchrist Blue Springs, Florida’s newest state park, and we made a mental note of that for our next swing through the region. It was a fantastic recommendation; we absolutely loved our stay there in October as we re-entered Florida.
While Bahia Honda State Park is probably our favorite in the state, and Wekiva Springs is our go to location in Central Florida, Gilchrist has become our favorite freshwater based park in Florida. Don’t get me wrong, it is quite difficult to secure a weekend stay; even with our “check the website every day multiple times a day for cancellations” method, which usually works, we were unable to get our preferred days. We settled for three nights, Sunday through Tuesday, with Rob and the twins able to join us on Sunday.
The main spring is a beautiful swimming and snorkeling hole, crystal clear, shallow in most spots but with a 20′ deep section for those inclined. Not thrilled with the crowds, especially on weekends? Take a stroll a hundred yards down a trail to the secondary spring, which most visitors apparently don’t know about. There are a few other even smaller springs on the property, but they are less accessible and not at all “swim friendly.”
The Florida State Park system continues to make changes to this formerly private attraction, with most of them aimed at reducing liability rather than improving things, I am afraid to say. Rather than repair it, they removed a large section of the boardwalk (it used to go all the way down to where the spring run dumps into the Santa Fe River) and since our last stay the likewise took out the 8′ “jumping” platform over the main boil. I wish they would focus on making the two mile entry road less bumpy, the campground loop less rutted, and the sites a bit easier to maneuver into rather than taking the fun things out, but c’est la vie, and regardless of these changes the place is still fantastic.
The nearby small town of High Springs provided us a bit of distraction as well, particularly the one Mexican restaurant in town, El Patio. We did our traditional Cinco de Mayo meal and margaritas there, and it was quite decent and affordable.
I am going to start putting exactly how many days behind we are on this blog at the end of each post in the hopes that it will motivate me to keep pushing until we catch up. As of now, counting from when we left Gilchrist until when we arrived at our current location: 4 1/2 weeks. Closing that gap! Next up: our plans for the rest of 2019.