Ichetucknee Springs State Park offers a beautiful and peaceful place to gently float down the Ichetucknee River! There is no camping within this park so we spent just the afternoon here while we camped at O'Leno State Park, which is only about 15 minutes away.
We weren't entirely sure yet whether we wanted to go tubing so we took the short 5-minute walk on a lovely trail from the parking lot to the Dock so we could catch a glimpse of the river before making a decision. This was the view:
Needless to say, we didn't take much convincing that this would be a great adventure so we headed back to the parking lot. We had brought our own tubes but unfortunately there was no available electrical outlet to use our inflator so Andrew headed back out to the nearest tube rental place to pick up 5 tubes. The rest of us waited (and played tag) in the parking lot area, which was nearly deserted. We were there in March as we were on Spring Break, but judging by the sheer size of the parking lot, I'm guessing this is a super popular place in the summer!
Andrew returned with four pink tubes tied all over our Suburban, much to the kids' delight, and one stuffed inside. We then carried our tubes along a trail for about 15 minutes to Midpoint, where we bravely set off from the dock. Well, some of us were maybe not so brave at first but we did it anyway. Not mentioning any names....
It was beautiful. The river held us gently in its grasp as it led us through the lush green forest. We spied yellow-bellied turtles basking on the logs along the banks, we witnessed great white egrets flying low over the water toward us, and we heard the distinct call of the barred owl, to which my kids of course responded. The owl seemed to call back, repeatedly, which led to hilarity and creative stories about "Jerry the Owl" who wasn't very bright. Maybe you had to be there.
Eventually, of course, it occurred to someone to get out of their tube and swim-float down the river in just their life jacket. What fun! We soon had three kids doing this and they loved it! Andrew had FierceGirl on his tube and had lashed two empty tubes to his own, while I had just one extra tube and a dry bag with everyone's shoes. The kids, meanwhile, entertained us (perhaps unwittingly) by jumping anytime their toes accidentally brushed against some river vegetation or they bumped into a submerged log. Worth every penny for those tubes, hahahaha!
Unfortunately, my camera battery had died by this point so I have no photos of the kids swimming in the Ichetucknee. Hmmm, did it really happen.....?
We floated down the river for about 90 minutes and that was really just about a perfect amount of time. We climbed out, dropped our tubes at the return center, and strolled back for some 20 minutes to the parking lot. All in all, it was gorgeous - the weather was warm, the owls were calling, the river was almost empty of people, and the float was gentle and beautiful.
As I mentioned, we were there in March, at the very start of the season, so there were very few others on the river - we shared the water with no more than 12 people! - and we saw them paddleboard, snorkel and kayak their way down to the well-sign-posted exit. So there are lots of ways to enjoy the beauty of this space in Florida.
Verdict: Fantastic place to go tubing in Florida, with clear water and beautiful scenery!