The Ichetucknee River is a spring-fed river that runs 6 miles from Ichetucknee Springs State Park to the Santa Fe River. The river flows through the State Park in North Central Florida, near the community of Fort White, for the most part. The Ichetucknee, with its crystal clear water and chilly (no, make that COLD) year-round 72-degree water, is a favorite tubing site in the summer months — and for good reason! On this Ichetucknee springs tubing guide, we are going to share more details with you on how to get the most out of your experience
How to go tubing at Ichetucknee
The State Park does an excellent job of handling thousands of tourists each year but understanding their laws and processes – as well as some helpful hints – can make your voyage down the Ichetucknee River a comfortable day to remember. The first decision you must make while tubing the Ichetucknee is how you will get your tubes.
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1. Bring Your Own Tubes
You’re in luck if you already have tubes that can be used to float down a river. You just need to bring your tubes and air pump and with life jackets for the kids to the State Park. Remember that your tubes should be more durable than a regular pool float the plastic is too thin and will burst if you travel over a stick or bang against a tree – ask me how I know.
When shopping in shops or on Amazon, seek for “river tubes” (not pool floats). Tubes like this or these are quite common and inexpensive.
The first is practical since the tube has a mesh bottom that provides a comfortable seat and prevents river vegetation from tickling your booty while you float. It also has a headrest for a more pleasant float. The second (bottom photo) is your typical vinyl tube. We have tubes for the adults that look like the top photo, and the kids all have tubes that look like the second picture (they enjoy to pop in and out of the tube hole), and they’ve always worked out great for us.
The benefit of having your own tubes is that you will not only save time arranging for rentals, but you will also make your money back in only a few journeys down the river! To float down the river safely, all tubes must be less than 5-feet in diameter. So, forget about the floating island or the party barge. We usually arrive with our tubes deflated and rapidly inflate them using this van-mounted pump.
2. Rent tubes
If you don’t have your own tubes, you may rent them outside the park. Simple old-school tire tubes, ordinary vinyl tubes, transparent vinyl tubes (you can see the river through the tube! ), vinyl tubes with mesh bottoms and headrests (as above), double tubes, and tiny rafts are all available from most outfitters. Tubes normally cost $5 to $10, with tiny rafts costing an extra $5 to $10.
Simply inform the outfitter the tubes you want to hire, and they will generally assist you with loading/tying the tubes into your car. Then simply figure out which tube entrance you want to use and get going!
We’ve had pleasant experiences with the Ichetucknee Tube Center while entering via the North Entrance.
3. Tube Rentals in the Park
Ichetucknee Springs State Park currently rents tubes within the park, which is a new addition to the tubing possibilities. You park at the South Entrance, rent tubes, and either join the river from one of the South Entrance launches. Midpoint Launch or Dampier’s Landing or ride the tram up to the North Entrance launch.
While this is a fantastic new option, if you have a big family, paying a tram price for each person (plus the State Park entry fee and tube rental costs becomes prohibitively expensive if you want to tube from the North Entrance.
The next option to make after hiring your tubes is how long you want to spend on the river. The Ichetucknee River flows through Ichetucknee Springs State Park from north to south. As a result, the longest float starts at the North Entrance (and ends at the South Entrance Take Out). Exiting the river before the South Entrance or beginning at one of the South Entrance landings are also shorter alternatives.
Keep in mind that tubing is only permitted at the North Entrance from Memorial Day to Labor Day. You may only tube from the South Entrance landings between Labor Day and Memorial Day.
1. The North Door
Start at the North Entrance and float all the way down to the South Take Out for a relaxed float with spectacular views over 3.5 hours on the Ichetucknee River (covering 3.5 miles of river). While this is the longest and most biologically varied float, it requires some planning since you cannot keep your car at the North Entrance for the day.
Keep in mind that the North Entrance of the State Park only permits 750 tubers to enter, and these sites fill up quickly on weekends. I definitely suggest visiting on a weekday when the crowds are lower to have a decent chance of being able to float from the North Entrance. However, if you must go on a weekend, arrive early (and understand it will be busy). You must first bring your complete group to the State Park’s North Entrance if you are carrying your own tubes from home or from an outside vendor.
After arriving at the North Entrance, the driver will leave the passengers and tubes there and go to the South Entrance, which is 7 miles distant (see map below). The motorist will then park at the South Entrance Parking Lot, which is bigger. The driver then purchases a shuttle band from the Concession Stand and returns the shuttle to the passengers and tubes at the North Entrance.
If the party intends to take the tram from the South Take Out back to the South Entrance Parking Lot, the driver may buy the other passengers tram bands ($5.50+tax in 2018) while at the South Entrance Concession Stand. Other choices include walking the approximately.55 mile route from the South Take Out to the South Entrance Parking Lot, or quitting the river earlier at Dampier’s Landing and walking the 1/4 mile trail back to the parking lot if the party does not want to acquire tram passes.
2. Ichetucknee Springs State Park’s Blue Hole Spring
Take the walk to Blue Hole Spring at Ichetucknee Springs State Park while you’re waiting at the North Entrance!
The other passengers are free to tour the North Entrance while the driver heads to the South Entrance to park the car and take the tram back! There’s a beautiful walk to Blue Hole, where you can swim or scuba dive, or you can swim at Head Spring, which is closer to the parking lot. Restrooms and picnic tables are also provided. The trek down to the South Entrance and back for the driver isn’t usually the shortest, so make the most of your time waiting and take in the beautiful North Entrance area!
3. River Head Springs, Ichetucknee
Check out the Ichetucknee River Head Spring before releasing your tube at the North Entrance! Beautiful blue water! Instead of heading to the North Entrance, drive to the South Entrance, park your car, and go to the Concession Stand area to rent tubes from the on-site outfitter. After that, each member of your group must buy a shuttle band and take the shuttle up to the North Entrance.
After everyone in your party has arrived at the North Entrance (either by car or by shuttle), the group is finally free to enter the water! Simply go a little distance from the parking lot to the launch, toss the tubes in the water, and try not to get wet since the water is cold. You just sit back and relax, allowing the water to carry you down the river!
4. Lower Ichetucknee River
While most people recommend paddling the river all the way to the South Take Out, if you need to get off the river sooner, you may leave at Dampier’s Landing and walk 1/4 mile back to the South Parking Lot. On your float down the river, you’ll reach Midpoint Landing, however the State Park does not utilize it as a take-out location.
If you have hired tubes either from an outside outfitter or from an on-site vendor, you will deposit them in the location marked for your rental business once you arrive at the South Take Out. If you brought your own tubes, we usually deflate them after we’re out of the river to make them simpler to transport.
You meet the tram at the South Take Out and it will bring you back to the South Entrance Parking Lot if you have already bought either a shuttle band or a tram band at the South Entrance Concession Stand. If you did not buy the bands, you may walk back to the South Entrance Parking Lot along a.55 mile route. While not very picturesque and somewhat exhausting after a long day on the river, it saves you $5.50+tax per person, so you decide.
5. South Entrance
Head to the South Entrance if you don’t arrive to the park early enough to reach the North Entrance cut-off, or if you simply want a shorter float on the river. Because you’ll be floating back to this parking lot, the journey will be a bit less complex than using the shuttle from the North Entrance.
You have two float possibilities from the South Entrance. You may launch your tubes from Midpoint Launch and float down to the South Take Out for a peaceful 1 3/4 hour trip along the river. You may get to the Midpoint Launch by:
- Take the tram with your tubes to the launch ($5.50 + VAT per person),
- trek to the Midpoint Launch via the Midpoint Trail. The Midpoint Trail is approximately.65 miles long and consists of a level dirt and tiny rock trail.
- Walk to the Midpoint Launch via the tram line. If you don’t want to take the forested Midpoint Trail, you may walk to Midpoint Launch for about 3/4 mile by following the road that the tram follows.
Simply float down to the South Take Out once you’re on the river. You may either deposit your rental tubes at the take-out (there are distinct places for each business) or take your own tubes and ride the tram back to the South Entrance Parking Lot if you’ve already bought tram bands.
Lower Portion of the Ichetucknee River A shadier, more southern section of the Ichetucknee River. This section of the river is well-shaded, and there are plenty of possibilities to watch turtles, fish, and birds. On one stretch of the river, we even observed an otter swimming along the beach!
If you don’t want to buy tram bands, there’s a.55-mile route that runs back to the South Entrance Parking Lot beside the tram road. It’s a simple track that isn’t especially picturesque, but it takes you to your destination. You may depart at Dampier’s Landing and travel a 1/4 mile route back to the South Entrance Parking Lot if you put in at Midpoint Launch and need/want to get off the river before the South Take Out. Exiting the river at Midpoint Launch is prohibited by the park (though I’m not sure how they would police this). It takes around 45 minutes to an hour to float from Midpoint Launch to Dampier’s Landing.
Be careful that the State Park only allows 2250 tubers to access Midpoint Launch. Yes, it seems to be a large crowd, but it may and does fill up on summer weekends (have I mentioned how popular this park is during the summer?). If that’s the case, your only other choice is to put in at Dampier’s Landing, which isn’t a terrible alternative but makes for a lot shorter journey (though you can always go down again, which we’ve done previously when we’re not quite ready to get off the river).
6. Dampier’s Landing
You may launch from Dampier’s Landing for a still-relaxing 45-minute float to the South Take Out if it’s late in the day and you missed the cut-offs for the North Entrance and Midpoint Launch, or if you simply want to see how the kids perform on their first float.
You may arrive to Dampier’s Landing by walking your tubes down a 1/4 mile route from the South Entrance Parking Lot. South Take Out is your only takeout choice at this time.
You may either leave your rented tubes in the place indicated for your rental business or carry your own tubes back with you after you depart at the South Take Out. You’ll jump on the tram and be taken back to the South Entrance Parking Lot if you bought a tram band at the South Entrance Parking Lot Concession. If you didn’t buy a tram band, there’s a.55-mile dirt route that takes you back to the South Entrance Parking Lot.
You may refer to this article as an excellent guide on Ichetucknee springs tubing guide. Then you will be able to continue with getting the most out of your tubing experience in the springs.