Beating The Heat


With the arrival of the sweltering heat, along with its faithful sidekick humidity, we start looking for ways to cool off! Sure, staying inside with the air conditioner blasting is one option. But do you really want to stay cooped up for months? There’s another way to cool off during our heat-wave season—visiting one of Florida’s springs or lakes!


Obviously, we can’t cover all of Florida’s natural watering holes, but we can take a look at a few of the most popular ones, and maybe even a few you’ve never heard of. Any would be a great choice to jump in and cool off!


Ichetucknee Springs State Park


The upper 3.5-mile section of the Ichetucknee River, which includes eight major springs, is a protected state park. The Ichetucknee River continues on for 2.5 more miles and joins the Santa Fe River. The main spring of the river was designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1972. No motorized boats are allowed on this part of the river, which is Florida’s most popular tubing destination. There is also scuba diving in Blue Hole Spring and the Ichetucknee River. Wildlife abounds along the river, including beavers, otters, turtles, wild turkeys, wood ducks, egrets and, of course, alligators. Tubes, snorkeling and diving equipment can be rented from private vendors just outside the park. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, there is a full-service concession area inside the park, offering food, refreshments and outdoor products.


COOL FACTOR
Swimming, tubing, scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, canoeing


FYI
Entrance fee, hiking, picnic area, no on-site camping, dogs allowed


LOCATION
Fort White, FL


CONTACT
(386) 497-4690 / floridastateparks.org/ichetuckneesprings

K.P. Hole Park


Part of the Marion County Parks and Recreation Department, K.P. Hole is not technically a spring. Only a mile and a half south of Rainbow Springs and on the Rainbow River, the K.P. Hole benefits from its ideal location with cool, spring-fed water. The protected swimming area has been a local favorite for decades, and legend has it that in the early years, there were designated days for men and women to swim separately. And just to make sure no peeping toms snuck a peek at women in their scandalous full-length swimsuits, a sheriff was on guard. Makes you wonder who was watching the sheriff, huh? The Rainbow River is ideal for kayaking, tubing and canoeing, with the average tubing trip taking about four and a half hours. Rentals are available at the park.


COOL FACTOR
Swimming, kayaking, canoeing, tubing


FYI
Entrance fee, picnic areas, full bathroom facilities, public boat ramp, no pets


LOCATION
Dunnellon, FL


CONTACT
(352) 489-3055 / kphole.com

Rainbow Springs State Park


Measuring 250 feet wide, the Rainbow Springs pool is the fourth largest spring in the state. Seven openings in the aquifer feed the main spring bowl, which is surrounded by five smaller springs and combined with hundreds of sand boils to create the Rainbow River. The river flows for about 5.6 miles and then joins with the Withlacoochee River. Rainbow Springs is designated as a National Natural Landmark, and there’s archaeological evidence dating back 12,000 years that the area was important to prehistoric people for clean water, food, making stone tools and, dare we say, cooling off!


COOL FACTOR
Swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, canoeing, tubing


FYI
Entrance fee, on-site camping, picnic area, hiking, formal gardens, dogs allowed


LOCATION
Dunnellon, FL


CONTACT
(352) 465-8555 / floridastateparks.org/rainbowsprings


Ginnie Springs


Located along the Santa Fe River, the Ginnie Springs Recreation Area is a popular kayaking, canoeing and tubing destination. This series of clear, blue springs and extensive cave systems also attract open-water divers (scuba & snorkeling) and cave divers. Privately operated, there is a campground store that rents recreational gear and sells supplies. There is also a dive shop that offers dive training and Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) certification.


COOL FACTOR
Swimming, scuba diving, cave diving, snorkeling, kayaking, canoeing


FYI
Entrance fee, on-site camping, picnic areas, children’s playground, volleyball, no dogs


LOCATION
High Springs, FL


CONTACT
(386) 454-7188 / ginniespringsoutdoors.com


Wakulla Springs State Park


Recognized as one of the largest springs in the world, Wakulla Springs discharges an amazing 260 million gallons of water per day! Following Tropical Storm Fay in 2008, there was a record spring flow water discharge of 1.5 billion gallons a day. The spring pool is 315 feet in diameter, and the aquifer vent that feeds it, about 185 feet deep beneath a limestone ledge, is estimated to be 82 feet wide and 50 feet high. This opening extends into a network of caves, 280 to 300 feet deep, which to date measures 28.6 miles, making it the fourth-longest explored aquatic cave system in the world. Wakulla Springs is a National Natural Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There is an on-site 1937 lodge, offering 27 guest rooms, a dining room, a gift shop, a snack bar and meeting facilities. Also, don’t miss the two-story dive platform in the swimming area!


COOL FACTOR
Swimming and snorkeling


FYI
Entrance fee, river boat tours, hiking, picnic areas, playground, horse trail, dogs allowed


LOCATION
Wakulla Springs, FL


CONTACT
(850) 926-0700 / floridastateparks.org/wakullasprings

Juniper Springs


Constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and located in the Ocala National Forest, the Juniper Springs Recreation Area is one of the oldest on the East Coast. Juniper Springs consists of large and small limestone vents discharging millions of gallons of water a day. One of the unique qualities about Juniper Springs is the limestone wall surrounding it, giving the spring an almost backyard pool appearance. The ancient live oaks scattered throughout the property only add to the springs’ character. The Old Millhouse spillway separates Juniper Creek and the spring pool. Juniper Creek, which flows for seven miles through the Juniper Prairie Wilderness Area and then meets up with Lake George, is popular for canoeing.


COOL FACTOR
Swimming, kayaking, canoeing


FYI
Entrance fee, on-site camping, hiking, picnic areas, dogs allowed on leash


LOCATION
Ocala National Forest/Silver Springs, FL


CONTACT
(352) 625-3147 / floridasprings.org


Alexander Springs


Located on the eastern side of the Ocala National Forest, Alexander Springs is the only first magnitude spring within the forest. Multiple spring vents beneath a limerock ledge supply a constant flow of cool spring water, perfect for swimming at a nearly constant 72 degrees. On one side of the large pool’s shoreline is a sand beach and stairs leading down into the spring pool. The remainder of the shoreline is a native floodplain of sweetgum, maples and cabbage plants. The Timucuan Trail has two boardwalk overlooks along the spring run, which flows eight miles until joining the St. Johns River and is popular for kayaking and canoeing. A nearby concession offers rentals for the latter.


COOL FACTOR
Swimming, kayaking, canoeing, scuba diving with certification


FYI
Entrance fee, on-site camping, picnic areas, hiking, dogs allowed on leash


LOCATION
Ocala National Forest/Altoona, FL


CONTACT
(352) 669-3522 / floridasprings.org

Silver Glen Springs


Comprised of two spring vents, some 65 million gallons of water flows from Silver Glen daily to Lake George in the Ocala National Forest—nearly a one-mile trek. Boats are allowed to travel on the spring run but are prohibited from entering the spring itself. This protected spring is a favorite with swimmers and snorkelers in the summer and manatees, which come from the St. Johns River, in the winter. Canoe rentals are available year-round. The Spring Boils Trail leads to Jody’s Spring, named after the main character and a spring in Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ The Yearling.


COOL FACTOR
Swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, canoeing


FYI
Entrance fee, fishing, hiking, picnic areas, no on-site camping, no dogs allowed


LOCATION
Ocala National Forest/Ft. McCoy, FL


CONTACT
(352) 236-0288 / floridasprings.org

Salt Springs


Named for the presence of potassium, magnesium and sodium in the water, Salt Springs is the headwater of the four-mile-long Salt Springs Run. Fed by several spring vertical vents, the large spring pool is shallow and surrounded by concrete walls and sidewalks. The average 74-degree water is perfect for swimming or snorkeling. From Lake George, motorized boats can travel up Salt Spring Run but, of course, are not allowed in the spring pool. Fishing is also prohibited in the spring pool.


COOL FACTOR
Swimming, snorkeling, boating


FYI
Entrance fee, on-site camping, hiking, picnic areas, dogs allowed on leash


LOCATION
Ocala National Forest/Salt Springs, FL


CONTACT
(352) 685-2048 / floridasprings.org


Carney Island Recreation & Conservation Area


Famous for its large swimming area on the beach of Lake Weir and Little Lake Weir, the park, which is operated by Marion County Parks and Recreation, also offers a boat ramp, personal watercraft area, concession stands, canoeing and kayaking, playgrounds and outdoor showers. Located in Ocklawaha, the property was historically used for agriculture dating back to the 1600s and was named after Captain John L. Carney and his brother E.L. Carney, who purchased the land in 1875. The park, which spans more than 750 acres, was acquired by Marion County in 1990 to protect its ecology and provide a recreation area for residents based on the land’s natural resources.


COOL FACTOR
Swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing


FYI
Entrance fee, hiking, picnic areas, fishing


LOCATION
Lake Weir/Ocklawaha, FL


CONTACT (352) 671-8560 / marioncountyfl.org/Parks/Pr_Directory/Park_Carney.aspx

Splashing Around Town


Want to stay cool without traveling outside city limits? Try one of Ocala’s public pools.


Jervey Gantt Aquatic FUN Center2390 SE 36th Ave.
(352) 624-2410


Hampton Aquatic FUN Center255 NW Martin Luther King Blvd.
(352) 622-6803

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