I went to visit Amy and Tripp down in Tallahassee this weekend. I was not thrilled when they informed me that we’d be taking a 2 hour car ride at 5:30 the next morning, especially after my 5 hour drive, but I trusted them that the Ichetucknee Springs really would be that fantastic. And they really were–but I’m going to start this story from the beginning, so that you get the full scope of how the day went. It was a much longer day than we had intended, and according to all of the people who worked in and around the park, it had never been that crowded before. Ever.
So basically we won the bad timing lottery. It was still worth it, don’t get me wrong, but we were in for a lot of waiting–and were not at all prepared for it.
If you want to get into the North entrance of the springs (the longest route), they suggest showing up super duper early…like 8 am…or before…because they only let 750 people in to this entrance. We were there at maybe 7:50, and we were the second to last car allowed in. Tripp was kind enough to be the driver so that Amy and I could hang out for a while.
See that picture? We literally sat in the parking lot for 3 hours waiting. Poor Tripp, on the other hand, spent about two hours trying to drop the car off, buy wrist bands, and take the shuttle back. Only one person is allowed to shuttle back…so there were a million of us (a figurative million, but it really was a lot) sitting on tubes in the parking lot praying for our missing people to appear. We were soooo excited when Tripp (and sandwiches) showed up. In our heads, we all figured we’d be done tubing and heading home by 1/2:00. In reality, we didn’t get our tubes in the water untill 1:00.
But again, the North entrance was totally worth it. Why?
Firstly the water was the cleanest, the clearest, and the downright prettiest at the very beginning. This is Blue Hole Spring where you can scuba dive down into underwater caves (somehow). It’s deep, blue and beautiful. It’s also freezing, but we all dove in anyway…and then promptly swam back out…we were brave and determined…just not THAT brave and determined.
Second, and this sounds silly, but you get to see a lot more nature coming down from the North entrance than you do once you’ve hit the midpoint. My theory is that the large crowds scare off the birds/fish/turtles in the area.
We saw quite a few of these little guys (are they herons?) preening themselves and fishing for their lunch.
We didn’t really see much of anything once we got to the midpoint. No turtles. No birds…a few fish, but not really. The beginning two hours were the most exciting.
Lastly, and possibly least importantly, starting at the high point gave us a bit more elbow room. Which really does sound silly. But we were able to move around more easily before the crowds showed up and find things like the funky abandoned snail shell.
Also we were able to take nice photos without random strangers showing up in the background. Which is awesome in my book.
If you’re interested in the parks, you can find more info here.
Before this, the only “river” I had ever been tubing on were various parts of the Chattahoochee (shudder); Ichitucknee put those trips to shame. I’d highly recommend it, waiting and all.
P.S. For those wondering how I managed to bring a camera with me (maybe no one, but we were debating whether we should bring something or not and I’m glad we did) …well…I used my lovely waterproof phone…I stored it in my swimsuit. Which was both awkward and insanely effective. I could swim without having to worry about losing it, and take pictures when I wanted to…so…for all of you girls in rather useless string bikinis (thinking you’re all fancy), hah! How impractical!
P.S.S. They say that weekdays are the best days to go! Saturdays are the busiest.