Blue Spring State Park is located in Orange City and is a popular tourist destination. Activities include swimming, canoeing, camping, hiking, boat tours, and SCUBA diving. Yes, that’s right—SCUBA diving. And it’s only 40 minutes from Daytona Beach. Read along as I describe my swim upriver to the spring.
The platform into the spring run was crowded. Sunburnt tourists swam around in the cold water, entering or exiting or sitting on the stairs. Kids squealed and splashed, tubers nonchalantly floated downriver in their crafts. The areas behind the platform looked more like a scene from the beach instead of a state park; with sunbathers reclined in chairs or lying on towels, with lots of laughs and smiles. I heard many foreign accents. I jumped in.
The cold water made me want to yelp; it nearly took my breath away. It washed over my hair and dripped down my face as I found my footing in the mushy river bed. After acclimating myself, I began the swim upriver.
The brackish water lightened in color the further I advanced, after thirty yards or so the water had turned crystal clear and I could see rocks and boulders lying on the riverbed. I tiptoed along them, treading where I couldn’t touch. The laughter from the springs became louder and I knew I was close. I swam around a lazy bend and was greeted by my first glimpse of the Blue Spring.
People were playing and splashing, a fallen tree provided convenient seating for swimmers. The spring area was bowl-shaped, possibly the result of an ancient sinkhole, the sides were shallow and covered in colorful rocks. People were able to stand in those areas in knee-deep water. A boardwalk overhead wrapped halfway around the rim, affording higher views to tourists. The spring itself was located in the back of the pool. Azure blue water flowed out from the underground conduit. People swam across the surface of the spring and SCUBA divers were deep in the spring’s cave.
I caught my breath along the side; the rocks were sharp against my bare feet. A few skin divers bobbed up and down like birds over the spring. A man with tattoos all over his body stood next to me and asked if I’ve ever been here before. I said I hadn’t. He shrugged his shoulders and left. There were other people there with their families. Moms and Dads guided their kids. Kids excitedly pointed at the blue water.
I took a moment to be glad to have come during August, one of the months swimmers are actually allowed in the spring; because during the winter months the manatees move in for the steady spring temperature. When the manatees are there, no swimming is allowed. Although I’m sure there is beauty in watching the creatures from the overhead boardwalk during the winter, and that the other park activities are fun, I’d much rather be swimming.
I plotted my swimming course through the crowded pool, noting the natural and people obstacles to swim around. I gathered myself, took a breath, and dove in. I swam around cones in my way, cut across into the blue water, and stopped myself when I was directly over the spring’s center. SCUBA divers swam around underneath me; I saw the beginnings of the cave.
I cupped my hands on the surface of the water to reduce the glare and looked between them. It was spectacular—the blue water, the cold temperature, the rocks, the divers swimming around. It was something that can be experienced in only a few places. After I had my fill and my lungs burned from my concerted efforts at treading the water, I swam back with the current to the crowded platform and climbed out.
For more information check out http://www.floridastateparks.org/bluespring/
Photos by ebyabe: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Ebyabe