Today we spent seven hours at Fanning Springs State Park. What a great day it was!
Fanning Springs State Park is located in Fanning Springs, which is about 10 minutes from Chiefland. We rented a hotel room at the Days Inn (very affordable, minutes from a couple of springs, and the hotel is not bad at all). Tomorrow we plan to go to Manatee Springs, which is also about 10 minutes down the road from the hotel in Chiefland. The third day we plan to go to Hart Springs, which is 20 minutes from the hotel.
The fee at this time to get into Fanning Springs State Park is $6 per car. It's important to note that the GPS is not accurate and does not take you to the park entrance. It takes you down Old Fanning Road, which around the corner from where the entrance is, but the entrance is not on that road. The entrance to Fanning Springs State Park is actually on US 19. The entrance is on the main road, not on the smaller road (Old Fanning Road) that the GPS takes you to. The park ranger said many people have trouble finding it because the GPS takes to the wrong place (a half a mile around the corner).
The park offers a hiking trail that is .75 miles and is a loop trail. We started out taking that trail, which didn't take long at all, and it's a beautiful trail. The trees provide a canopy shade and there was plenty to see. I love to look at the many varieties of mushrooms growing out in nature, and I saw many different ones on this trail. We also saw five deer, which was great. We stood for about five minutes watching them and they in turn stood and watched us. They were just as curious about us as we were of them. This is also a great short hike for seeing sink holes (where the caverns have given way below the surface). Along the hike you will pass three good size sink holes.
Following the short hike we went to the restrooms to get changed into our swimsuits. At Fanning Springs you don't set up your things right down at the water. There is a short walk from the springs to the picnic table area. There were quite a few picnic tables available and even though it was a Sunday the park wasn't overly busy. We had no problem getting one and there were still plenty others left available. We ate lunch I had brought from home and left our belongings at the table to head down to the springs to snorkel.
The springs are all 72 degrees year-round, including this one. Some people find this really cold, but I'm someone who loves it! The best thing to do is immediately go under the water to get acclimated. If you go slowly that makes it like torture. Just dive in and get it over with. That's my motto!
There are areas near the bigger dock that are pretty shallow and perfect if you have smaller kids. There are also shallow areas up near the bank. The middle and heading over to the spring head is deep. There is a diving platform, but it was closed for repairs. I personally was glad it was closed, because if people were jumping off of it then it would make snorkeling over the springs a bit dangerous and tricky, as they would be jumping right into that area. Without people diving, we were able to spend a lot of time snorkeling over the springs, which was beautiful! You could see the water bubbling up from the caverns below, as well as plenty of fish.
Fanning Springs leads into the Suwannee River. Boats that are out in the river can dock at the springs and swim. There is a charge for the boaters to swim, which is $2 per person over the age of six. During the time we were there we saw many boats come and go. They would usually stay an hour or so and then head back out to the Suwannee River.
There are no lifeguards on duty at the springs. They do have restrooms, grills, a children's playground, pavilions, a food stand, and a conference type of center where events can be held. They do also offer things like tube rental, although most people just used tubes they brought from home. Most people left their things on picnic tables as they swam, but a few brought their things down to the water and put it on benches near the water, or set it on the cement dock. They do also have camping (tent and cabin) at the park. We checked and the cabins were all booked, as I'm sure you have to reserve them far in advance.
As you walk down the wood dock there is a beautiful huge cypress tree on the left. You have to look for it. What a beautiful tree! I asked someone working there if they knew how old the tree was, but they didn't know. There is also another beautiful one that is in the water across from where you get in.
Fanning Springs State Park is beautiful! Even with it being a Sunday it was not overly crowded as some of the springs get, and the water was wonderful. Very clear and clean, many fish to see while snorkeling, and there are shallow areas for those with younger kids.
If you don't live real close to the spring (as we don't), then you may want to do as we have planned. Book a hotel room and do Fanning Springs one day and Manatee Springs the next day. Both of these springs are each about 10 minutes from staying in a hotel in Cheifland (unless you are lucky enough to book camping). The hotel we stayed at is Days Inn and it was only $100 for a two-night stay. For about the last two hours we had family (my sister and brother-in-law) that also stopped by, as they were making their way up the state back home to Tallahassee. That was a nice treat!
Two thumbs up for Fanning Springs! We loved it!
- Jacqueline Bodnar
Get more info at the website here. Here are pictures and a video of Fanning Springs State Park: