If you are seeking a fun, inexpensive way to cool off during the hot summer months, then tubing at Ichetucknee Springs is the place to go! Nestled up in Fort White, FL, which is about 140 miles northwest of Orlando off of US 27, this is the perfect place to take a relaxing ride in a tube down a crystalline river. Year round 72-degree water is extremely refreshing on one of our sweltering Florida summer days.
There are many offerings at the park, which include tubing, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, snorkeling, and an abundance of wildlife, so be sure to bring your camera. History is rich within the springs, which includes Native American settlers, Phosphate mining, and the Turpentine Industry. If you are interested in reading about the history of Ichetucknee, please visit: http://www.floridastateparks.org/history/parkhistory.cfm?parkid=72
If you plan on tubing, you must first stop by one of the many available tube rental businesses to purchase a tube rental, as tube rental is not available once inside the park. Prices for tubes vary, depending on your preference, whether it be a single tube, double tube or relaxing lounge tube. The tube rental businesses take care of tying your tubes onto your car. When you are finished tubing for the day, simply return your tubes to the specified location from which you rented the tubes that are located within the park. This saves you the hassle of returning the tubes to the business, as they come and retrieve their tubes with a trailer. You may even bring your own tube or floating device. Dogs are also permitted in certain areas of the park, if you decide to bring your family pet.
After you’ve rented your tube, you have two choices of entry into the park, either the North Entrance or the South Entrance. Fees for tubing are $5.00 per person, children 5 and under are free. If you opt for hiking only, the fee is $6.00 per vehicle. The North Entrance is seasonal, so be sure to check their website, http://www.floridastateparks.org/ichetuckneesprings/ to ensure entry into that section, but your best bet will be entry at the South entrance. The South entrance offers two floating options, Mid-point launch and Dampier’s Landing. Tram service is offered to launch at Mid-point. If you enter at Mid-point, you can decide to exit at Dampier’s Landing (which is a 30-minute float) or continue on to the final exit, which is an additional 45 minutes. If you are concerned about your car keys, key hold is available at the concession stand for $2.00, otherwise, many place their personal belongings in a Ziploc bag and pin it to their bathing suits.
We launched at Mid-point, then exited at Dampier’s Landing to take a lunch break. We brought a cooler filled with sandwich fixings, snacks and drinks for everybody, perched ourselves on a nearby picnic bench and ate under the shade of a large oak tree. Additional offerings include grills if you decide to bring hamburgers and hot dogs. There is also a concession stand that offers everything from hamburgers to chicken tenders to ice cream.
After lunch, we opted for the longer float. With full bellies, and the river less crowded, the buoyancy of the water can cause one to close their eyes and listen to the peacefulness of the sounds of nature. Gazing at the shoreline and into the water can offer glimpses of turtles, large catfish, mullet and the occasional deer.
Subsequently floating lazily down the river, we exited and returned our tubes to their designated location, which is simple to locate, as the tube rental names are marked on the tube. Tram service is available for return to the parking area.
I recommend bringing your own food and refreshments, plenty of sunscreen and a good pair of water shoes. This is a fun, affordable way to spend the day with your family or friends.