|Blue Spring State Park
Florida’s premier manatee refuge.
Blue Spring is a first magnitude spring that discharges 104 million gallons of water daily into the St. Johns River.
When British “Colonial” botanist John Bartram paddled into Blue Spring in 1774, he appreciated the “admirable fountain” but objected to the water’s “most disagreeable taste.” Gold Rush prospector turned orange-grower Louis Thursby purchased Blue Spring in 1856. He built his three story house atop a large Indian midden in 1872.
Before the railroad rolled through in the 1880s, Thursby’s Blue Spring Landing was a hotbed of steamboat activity, shipping tourists and goods to Jacksonville and beyond. Mrs. Thursby was Orange City’s first postmistress.
Years later, in 1971, “The Forgotten Mermaids” episode of the Underwater World of Jacques Cousteau was filmed here. The documentary brought attention to the manatee and the importance of Blue Spring as a winter refuge, greatly influencing the state’s decision to purchase the land.
Blue Spring is the habitat for at least 15 threatened or endangered plants and animals.
The clear spring run displays the flashing scales of gar and sunfish, while swimming turtles can be seen from 50 feet away. Listen for frog calls, gaze at a basking alligator or catch a glimpse of elusive migratory birds.
The park is the winter refuge for the West Indian manatee, home to the Florida scrub jay, gopher tortoise, black bear and one of only two known locations for the Okeechobee gourd. Look for herons and other wading birds near the water.
Visitors staying in the Sand Pine Scrub campground or a cabin can bicycle or walk to the spring, or take a long hike through the woods. There are 51 campsites equipped with water, electricity, a picnic table and a fire ring There are centralized restrooms with showers. Six fully-equipped cabins are available for rent. A primitive campsite is located near the St. Johns River at the end of the 4.5 mile one-way Pine Island hiking trail.
- Hours are 8 a.m. until sunset, 365 days a year.
- Pets are permitted in designated areas only. Pets must be kept on a hand-held leash no longer than 6 feet and be well behaved at all times. Pets are not allowed in the primitive camping area.
- Florida’s state parks are committed to providing equal access to all facilities and programs. Should you need assistance to enable your participation, please contact the ranger station.
Blue Spring State Park is the winter home to more than 200 manatees. Tucked within 2,643 acres are 15 natural communities, a lagoon, a north-flowing river and a first-magnitude spring. Blue Spring State Park literally overflows with diversity.
Stroll along the one-third mile boardwalk that follows the flowing Blue Spring run through a shady hardwood hammock. In the winter watch manatees swim, rest and play in the warm 72-degree waters. Enjoy a short interpretive video about the manatees of Blue Spring.
In the summer join the fun: swim, tube, snorkel or dive in the crisp 72-degree spring waters. Sunbathe on the lawn, picnic or barbeque with friends. Reserve any of our three covered pavilions for family reunions, school groups and private functions.
To explore the river further, rent a canoe or kayak, take a kayak tour or experience native plants and wildlife on a 2-hour river cruise.
Take a self-guided tour through the historical Louis Thursby House (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays).
Rentals, a gift shop, food and beverages are located at the park concession.
210 West French Avenue
Orange City, Florida 32763
Learn more about this park and book your reservation online