Ichetucknee Springs State Park is perhaps the most famous spot for tubing in Florida. Cool, clear water welcomes summertime visitors and provides important habitat for an array of birds, wildlife, and vegetation.
The crystal clear water emerging from a depth of about 30 feet at Ichetucknee Head Spring joins other springs to form the 6 mile-long Ichetucknee River. This clear flowing river contributes close to 233 million gallons of spring water each day to the Santa Fe River, which ultimately flows to the mighty Suwannee River. The Ichetucknee Spring system, one of the largest in Florida, became a state park in 1970 and was declared a National Natural Landmark by the U. S. Department of the Interior in 1972. During the summer, visitors will enjoy a taste of pristine, natural Florida and enjoy a cooling dip in the springs. Fall and winter are ideal times for canoeing and birdwatching along this scenic natural wonder.
Ichetucknee Springs has been a magnet for people and wildlife for more than 10,000 years. Native Timucuans populated the area before the arrival of Europeans. In 1608, Spain built the San Martin de Timucua Mission at the springs, which was later destroyed by a Timucuan uprising. In more recent times, mining operations and a town complete with post office and grist mill occupied the banks of the Ichetucknee River and springs.
The spring-fed Ichetucknee River is characterized by clear, alkaline water that supports a rich plant community dominated by the submerged Sagittaria kurziana (tapegrass) and Vallisneria americana (eelgrass), beds of wild rice, and water milfoil. Wildlife in the springs and river include the protected Ichetucknee siltsnail, crayfish, turtles, manatees, otters, and limpkin.
Numerous sinkholes and swallets typical of karst topography are found within the 300 square mile recharge basin. Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer and animal waste are picked up by stormwater as it flows over fields, lawns, and gardens and can enter the ground water through these sinkholes. Waters of Cannon Creek, Clayhole Creek, Rose Creek, and Alligator Lake drain into sinkholes which connect to the underlying aquifer. Nutrients can also leach through the soil and reach ground water. The ground water within the recharge basin then flows through cave systems and porous sedimentary rock and emerges from Ichetucknee Springs.
A study which involved releasing a special dye into Rose Sink, a large, sinkhole located six miles northeast of the Ichetucknee head spring, found that the dye was detected in six of the seven springs within the Park, and also in the toilets and drinking water of nearby residents a mere 8 days later!
It was scientific proof that foreign substances introduced into Rose Sink, either through illegal dumping or stormwater runoff, would end up in the water flowing from the spring.
Increased nutrient concentration from spring water is linked to increased algae growth in several springs in the Ichetucknee River. Excess nutrients are not the only threat to Ichetucknee Springs. It is one of the most popular spring systems in Florida for recreation and tubing, and the thousands of visitors can impact the water quality and vegetation, often unintentionally. Recreational users can have detrimental effects on submerged aquatic vegetation by trampling and uprooting, and can also cause turbidity in the river water by disturbing bottom sediment. When water quality is disturbed, this creates a challenging environment for the wildlife species that live in the spring waters.
|Flowing forth from this first magnitude headspring, as well as seven other springs, the Ichetucknee river system is one of the most pristine in the state of Florida. © Russell Sparkman|
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Ground Water and Springs Protection
Rick Hicks, PG, PG Administrator
Contact for: General springs information
Ichetucknee Springs Ambassador
Cathy Nagler, Three Rivers Trust
Contact for: Information on the Ichetucknee Trace and local protection efforts
Middle & Lower Suwannee River and Santa Fe River Basin Management Action Plans
Terry Hansen, Basin Coordinator
Phone: (850) 245-8561
Contact for: Information on TMDL and BMAP development and implementation
Local Government and Water Resource Agencies
- City of Lake City
- Columbia County BCC
- Suwannee River Water Management District
- Suwannee River Partnership
- US Geological Survey
- Protecting Our Waters
- Florida Geological Survey
- Suwannee County Extension, Florida Yards
- Florida Department of Agriculture, Office of Agricultural Water Policy
Citizen Stakeholder and Watershed Organizations
- Save our Suwannee
- Our Santa Fe River
- Four Rivers Audubon
- Howard T. Odum Springs Institute
- Florida Native Plant Society
- Save the Manatee Club
Cathy Nagler, Ichetucknee Springs Ambassador
Three Rivers Trust
Contact for: Park volunteer opportunities, information on the Ichetucknee Trace and local protection efforts
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