Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park, located in High Springs, Florida, is the state's newest state park. The state purchased the property in 2017, and turned it into the state's 175th state park. I had been to the place when it was privately owned and operated and felt it would be much better cared for by the state, so I was thrilled when it went up for sale and the state purchased it for just over $5 million.
We camped for four nights at Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park. The campground is located about 1.15 miles back in the woods on a bumpy dirt road. The area is sparsely populated, but within 15 minutes you can be around gas stations, stores, and a few restaurants. The campground has a small concession stand/store, and offers kayak rentals. You can also take and launch your own kayaks.
There were some things we loved, and some things we didn't care for.
What we loved:
The park has 18 campsites that will accommodate RV's, and then additional ones for tent camping only. We stayed in site number 1. You literally can't get any closer to the bathhouse and spring than staying in site number 1. It's a two minute walk to the main spring from the campsite, and about a one minute walk to the bathhouse. All the RV sites are within a 2-3 minute walk to the main spring (with the bathhouse being even closer). Being that close to the spring was amazing! We could walk down anytime we wanted to cool off. That was great! Plus, in addition to the main spring at Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park, there is another one about a two minute walk from that one. Naked Spring is located inside this same park, and is about a two minute walk from the main spring, and about a three minute walk from the RV campsites. Both springs are gorgeous!
We loved the close proximity to the springs. Plus, the campground is nice and shady, with lots of trees. The campsites are not real big and don't offer privacy, but it worked out just fine. We also loved that while staying there we could leave and explore other nearby springs, such as Little River Springs, Rum Island, and Poe Springs (there are others in the area we'd been to before, too, including Itchetucknee Springs, Troy Springs, and Ginnie Springs).
What we didn't like:
I have a Verizon hotspot on my phone, which has provided me with internet access at every campground we've ever stayed at. Until this one. I couldn't get any internet service to work here. I literally had to leave the dirt road and get back on the main highway before it would start working again. We've never had that happen before. This can be both a blessing and a curse. Being pretty much unplugged for four days is good for relaxation, but not good when you are self employed and need to respond to work-related inquiries that will bring you work when you get back home.
This campground only offers electric and water hook-ups, they do not offer a full hook-up. What's worse, is that they do not yet have a dump station! I didn't know that before we stayed there. They recommend people drive the 8+ miles over to O'Leno State Park to use the dump station upon checking out. That's what we did, because I found no closer dump station. Plus, it was free to use by showing our tag that we had camped at Gilchrist.
The bathhouse is an issue. This is because those camping there share it with all of the day use people. If there are 250 people visiting the spring that day, good luck with the bathhouse. You share it with everyone. The campground really needs its own bathhouse, but at this time it doesn't offer that. The bathhouse was typically a mess, because there are so many people using it. I'm also not so sure how comfortable people will feel showering in there with so much park day use traffic in and out.
Another issue is that the electric hookup and the water hookup are far apart from each other. Usually at campgrounds they are close to each other and on the same side. This was split and far apart. I mention this to warn you that you will need a long hose to hookup. Ours wasn't long enough, so we had to run to Family Dollar and purchase a longer one.
Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park is a great place to visit. The two springs you can go in are wonderful, you can kayak, and it's gorgeous. They do need to put in at least a dump station and a designated campground bathhouse. I imagine that will happen at some point. We had a good time, but wouldn't go back here again to camp unless some things changed. But we would camp somewhere nearby and visit this park to snorkel. The campground at this time (June 2019) is only $18 per night, which is quite affordable. It was really quiet there in the campground, and we saw lots of deer in the park.
Update one year later in June 2020: One year ago, I thought I wouldn't want to go back here and camp due to the cons. But I did! We went again for a week this month. While I don't like that there's not a full hookup, you can't beat how every site is very close to the spring. And it's a beautiful spring! Plus, you do not get any cell service here. However, I actually looked forward to unplugging for the week. It did my mind some good, so I don't mind not having the cell service. But I do still wish there was a full hookup or a dump station on site.
Below are some pictures of the campground and springs:
Pictured below: Facing campsites 1 and 2.