It’s summertime in Florida, which means swimming, sailing and soaking up the sun are on the agenda.
One of the best perks of being a homeowner in Alachua County is living in close proximity to numerous lakes, rivers, and springs where you can enjoy a variety of outdoor recreation. Whether you’re in the mood for a peaceful river for an afternoon of sunbathing and relaxation or you prefer a refreshing watering hole where you can take a dip, there are plenty of options within the Gainesville area.
Springs Near Gainesville, FL
Looking for a freshwater spring to play in this summer? You’re in luck. North Florida is home to over 1,000 freshwater springs, including several in Alachua County and surrounding region. Here are a few to consider:
At the Ichetucknee Springs State Park, you can float on the crystalline waters of the spring-fed Ichetucknee River on a tube, relax beneath lush canopies of trees, and enjoy sightings of birds, turtles, and other wildlife. Of the several springs located in the park, Blue Hole Spring is the largest.
Poe Springs Park—which encapsulates roughly 202 acres of scenic woodlands and rolling fields—includes Poe Springs, the largest spring in Alachua County. It pumps about 45 million gallons of fresh, cool water on a daily basis and your family can go swimming, kayaking, or tubing. The park also features nature trails, volleyball courts, picnic areas, and a playground.
Rum Island Springs
Rum Island Park, in Columbia County, gives you easy access to the dazzling, clear freshwater of Rum Island Spring, one of the many springs located on the Santa Fe River. The park is open year-round and you can enjoy not only swimming, but also canoeing, boating, snorkeling, fishing, and more. There are also picnic tables and public bathrooms at this family friendly park.
Gilchrist Blue Springs
At the Ruth B. Kirby Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park, in High Springs, family fun and pristine waters await. The park encompasses a collection of natural springs, including the Gilchrist Blue Spring, which produces an average of 44 million gallons of water per day and has remarkable water clarity. You can also recreate at other scenic springs in the park, including Little Blue Spring, Naked Spring, Kiefer Spring and Johnson Spring.
Rivers in Florida
If you’re in the mood for water-tubing, canoeing, kayaking, or sailing, there are several rivers near Gainesville to visit, and often the rivers and springs go hand-in-hand. Some of the popular rivers for recreation around Alachua County include:
The Ichetucknee River is a scenic, spring-fed river in North Central Florida. The river is about 6 miles long and most of it lies within the boundaries of the Ichetucknee Springs State Park, connected by its eight major crystalline springs. The rest of the river is located to the south of U.S. Highway 27. The river averages about 20 feet wide and 5 feet deep. Once you’re done with your water adventure, get out on the land via three nature trails that wind through lush park forest and a majestic sandhill environment.
You don’t have to travel far from your home in Gainesville to experience Hogtown Creek, which has several tributaries including Possum, Rattlesnake, Elizabeth, and Springstead creeks. You can view and enjoy the creek at several different City of Gainesville Parks, including Alfred A. Ring Park, Loblolly Woods Nature Park, 29th Road Nature Park, Green Acres Park, Westside Park, John Mahon Nature Park, Coffrin Nature Park and Split Rock Conservation Area. There's also a new park to enjoy: Hogtown Creek Headwaters.
Santa Fe River
The Santa Fe River in Florida begins at Lake Santa Fe, Lake Alto and their respective swamps to the northeast of Gainesville. From there, it flow west approximately 44 miles. About a half-mile mile downstream from the main parking area at O’Leno State Park, the Santa Fe disappears—or rather flows for little more than 3 miles into a sink in the underlying karst limestone formation known as the Cody Scarp. The river resurfaces at River Rise Preserve State Park.
Lochloosa Creek, the largest tributary to Lochloosa Lake and longest creek in Alachua County, doesn’t get as much attention as the major rivers but it is a good source for summer fun. The lake itself, located 5 miles south of Hawthorne near the town of Lochloosa, is designated as a Fish Management Area. There is public access to the water in a couple locations, as well as a public pier south of Lochloosa on Burnt Island.
Lakes in North Florida
While springs are a big draw for families in Gainesville, there are also several welcoming and refreshing lakes in North Florida. This summer, consider a visit to these popular sites:
Newnans Lake, just east of Gainesville, is a freshwater fishing paradise. The 5,800-acre lake, designated as a Fish Management Area, is stocked with catfish, bream, black crappies, and some largemouth bass. Newnans isn’t the best spot for swimming, but you can boat or canoe on the water. Additionally, Newnans Lake State Forest is great for other recreational activities, such as hiking, mountain biking, nature study, and wildlife viewing.
Lake Santa Fe
Looking for one of the best swimming lakes in Florida? Lake Santa Fe has got you covered. Located in Melrose, about 20 minutes northeast of Gainesville along State Route 26, the spring-fed lake is divided into two bodies of water that are connected by a narrow pass. Besides swimming, locals and visitors use the lake for water skiing, tubing, paddling, and fishing.
Lake Wauburg is a special outdoor recreation site reserved for University of Florida students, faculty and staff, although they can bring up to four guests. The lake and its associated park offer opportunities for swimming, boating, volleyball, and other athletics. There are also picnic tables and grills for day-users to enjoy.
Lake Alice, a small scenic lake on the University of Florida campus, is primarily a wildlife area that is used by students as a sort of outdoor classroom. However, there is also a boardwalk on Lake Alice's northern side that takes you through the woods and swamp to a viewing platform. Since the lake is home to alligators, turtles, and birds, however, you can’t enter the water.
Living in Alachua County
Water recreation is a way of life in Central Florida. With the myriad of lakes, rivers, and springs in the area, there is ample opportunity for swimming, fishing, and recreating on a daily basis. This summer, save yourself time to do the things you love by working with Robinson Renovation and Custom Homes on any residential renovation projects or new construction in Alachua County.