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Whether it’s dipping into their crystal clear waters, swimming with wildlife or just paddling around, these five springs in Florida are begging to be discovered.
Rainbow Springs State Park
At the main headsprings entrance, visitors to Rainbow Springs State Park can swim in the freshwater headsprings of the Rainbow River, rent canoes and kayaks, view waterfalls and gardens, and enjoy a picnic area with grills, and pavilions. About 9 miles away, at the tubing entrance, visitors can rent tubes and use a shuttle service to float down the river back to their vehicles. You won’t be first to enjoy this park; archaeological evidence indicates that people have been using this spring for nearly 10,000 years.
Noted as the first official tourist attraction in the state of Florida, Silver Springs and its accompanying state park have been drawing visitors since the 1870s. Silver Springs is perhaps most famous for its glass-bottom boats, which allow wildlife enthusiasts to float right over the crystalline waters for a look at the creatures that call it home. In addition to bragging rights as one of the largest artesian springs in the world and as the location for several Tarzan movies, Silver Springs is also the gateway to Ocala National Forest. If you're an animal lover or a family in the mood for an adventure, this spring is for you.
Tubing down the Ichetucknee River and into Ichetucknee Spring is practically a rite of passage for most Florida residents, especially from May through September. Though technically home to nine different springs, the two most popular within Ichetucknee Springs State Park are Ichtecucknee Spring (also known as the headspring) and the Blue Hole Spring, an equally popular spot for snorkeling and diving. One of the best ways to see them all in one go is to float along the river. Tubes are available for rent at the south entrance of the park. Visitors can also rent paddle boards, kayaks or canoes at other entrances. No matter how you decide to adventure down the river, you're virtually guaranteed a cool, inviting oasis.
One of the most visited springs in Florida, Ginnie Springs' clear blue waters, underwater caves and camping grounds are a real-life paradise. There are four springs to dive at Ginnie, each offering natural beauty and aw-worthy views. While you need to be scuba-certified to enjoy certain cave experiences, Ginnie also offers dive training for first timers. All you have to do is make sure to call well in advance to secure an instructor and appropriate training time and have a buddy with you. If that doesn't work out for you, you can still enjoy snorkeling, free swimming, or tubing experiences.
While the springs are awfully beautiful, manatees are the primary attraction at Homosassa Springs, which serve as a wildlife rehabilitation center for the beautiful animals. The peaceful "sea cows" can be seen enjoying the waters of Homosassa Springs throughout the year, and the park hosts special manatee programs at least three times a day so visitors can better learn about them.