Located in Orange City in Volusia County, you will find Blue Spring State Park, located at 2100 W French Ave. The park is beautiful, offering the opportunity to swim in the spring during the summer, see hundreds of manatees during the winter, and camp and hike all year long. Plus, right outside the park entrance you will find the Spring-to-Spring paved bike trail. There's lots to do at this great state park!
If you visit the spring on a cold winter morning you will be able to see hundreds of manatees. When it's cold outside they huddle into the spring to keep warm. I've been there on days when there are over 400 of them in the spring at one time. It's quite an amazing thing to see. The water is crystal clear, giving you a great view of them all.
If you visit Blue Spring State Park during the summer, you will be able to go into the spring area. The main spring head is tucked away in a very natural setting that is a ways away from where you enter the water. The park has a wooden boardwalk that starts near the picnic tables and leads quite a ways back to where you have an overlook view of the main spring head. It's a great walk (and if you go there during the spring they offer firefly tours!). There are picnic tables where you can leave your belongings, but if they are taken then you may want to take a chair and leave your items on there. Don't take a lot of valuables, because you will not have a view at all of your belongings when you are in the water. You will be away from that area.
From the first entrance point you can get in and make your way all the way down toward the head spring, but the current pushing you back is very strong. This first spot is good for people who want to just swim around right there, or for those who have floated back down from the main spring head (they can exit there). If you walk down more to the second entrance that will save you some energy of trying to fight the current to get back to the spring head.
The current that pushes you back is challenging! In some areas you may be able to walk it, and if you keep to the side near the bank you may be able to walk it back. Swimming it is challenging because the current is very strong. Once you make it back to the main spring head area you will see how beautiful it is. People swim around in that area, which has a very natural setting. When you are ready to leave, this is where it gets really fun. The current pushes you right back to the first entrance I mentioned earlier. It's about a 15 minute float back. You can tube it, swim it, etc. It's quite nice!
There are manatees that will visit the spring swimming area while there are swimmers in there. This week, I was swimming in there when a large male manatee hung out in the swim area, playing in over the spring head. He spotted me and was very interested in me. He began to follow me around, go under me, swim with me, and when I stood up he used his snout to go up and down my leg (gathering info or giving me manatee kisses). I was glad there was a state park employee there in a kayak so they could ensure nobody harassed the manatee. In years past, I had seen people chase after the manatees that would come into the spring area (illegal and not cool!). What an amazing day it was... I got to swim with a manatee, because he picked me and made it happen.
The state park charges $6 per vehicle to enter. They do offer camping (RV, tent, and they have cabins). There is also a small store, kayak rental, and a kayak launch area. Kayaks are not allowed into the spring area, but you can launch from this park to go into the river.
This is a beautiful spring to swim at, snorkel, maybe spot a manatee, and take a 15-minute float back. There are also hiking trails and there's an historical house you can tour. If you camp there, be sure to take bikes so you can use the Spring-to-Spring trail to visit Green Springs and Gemini Springs.
I don't have a lot of pictures inside the swimming area, because it's far back and I don't have a GoPro, but it's beautiful. For those who love a spring with a nature setting you can't beat Blue Spring State Park.
Other springs not far from this one (if you want to hit a couple in the same day), include Gemini Springs and Green Springs (no swimming at either, but they are beautiful), and DeLeon Springs State Park.