Dan's Day Trips Part One
I've scoped out the best ofÂ North Central Florida, and I have some incredible places for you to visit. In Part One of Dan's Day Trips we take a dip in one of the most pristine springs around.
Leave the stress of the city behind when you arrive at the Ichetucknee Springs State Park. It's quite a mouthful and quite a trip. Whether by tube, kayak, or canoe, you can't go wrong.
The first thing that hits you is the calm. Here, it's all about nature: turtles, beavers and birds. Though some are a little bit louder than others.
It doesn't take an expert paddler to float down the waterway, but keep your eyes open for the occasional tree stretching across your path. Trust me, it's going to be tough to keep from staring at the bottom.
Only 750 tubers daily are allowed on the north end between Memorial Day and Labor Day, but you can canoe or kayak all year long. The south end of the Ichetucknee has water that is wider and deeper which allows tubers to come here all year long.
"If you come here on weekends or on a holiday, you need to get here early because the limit of 750 people," says Ichetucknee Springs Park Specialist Patty Martin. "The line outside the park can start forming at 7:30 and be three miles long before we open the park at 8 am. so come early and bring lots of sunscreen."
Don't miss the Devil's Eye. It's where the water flows up from the floridian aquifer at a constant 72 degrees year-round.
There's plenty of room for all. Gaze up at the majestic cypress trees which line the sides of the waterway. Keep an eye out for what Martin calls a shell station, where turtles sit in a long line on a tree basking in the sun.
"To me, Ichetucknee is one of the most beautiful places in the world," Martin says. "And if you come here on a stressful day, just the atmosphere itself will make you leave the stress away and you'll forget all about it."
While this brown water snake may give some people chills, Martin says the water is too cold for alligators and poisonous snakes. But before you go, don't forget to visit Sebastian, a 7-foot Eastern Indigo Snake, kept on display at the park's Educational Center. But don't worry, most of the time, he's behind the glass. There's plenty to see at the Center, including exhibits on keeping the springs clean, history of the park and a burned out Native American canoe that's several hundred years old.
Oh yeah, did I forget to mention you can swim in the Blue Hole Spring? I guess, I was trying to keep that secret for myself! It's a great spot to cool off after a couple hours of paddling.
"You will see what the real Florida looks like," Martin says. "We have history here in the park, meet a ranger, get to know the staff and get to know Ichetucknee because the beauty here, it's undescribable."
It costs five dollars per car to get in the park, and a little extra to canoe or tube. But trust me it's worth it.
A special thanks to Patty Martin for guiding me down the springs. On tomorrow night's trip, I'll be heading to a name that most will recognize but few have experienced.
By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV20 News.