(Review added 08/19/13, last update 05/11/17)
The Ichetucknee (pronounced itch – uh – TUCK – nee and known locally as The Ich) is a pristine, clear, spring run located primarily within a Florida State Park. The headspring was declared a National Natural Landmark in 1972. Rising from the headspring at the north end of the state park it flows 6 miles to the Santa Fe River. The north end of the park is accessed from SR 238. The south end (the main entrance) of the park is accessed from US 27. There is no public road within the park that connects the north and south end of the park so you have to drive around outside of the park to get from one end to the other. Note that the US 27 takeout is NOT accessed via the main entrance to the park. The takeout parking area is west of the main park entrance, just a few hundred feet east of the highway bridge.
Between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend there is a tram that runs between the top and bottom of the run for tubers. The “Last Takeout” (which is usually the bottom takeout for kayakers at US 27) is closed to personal vehicles during tubing season and you MUST use the trailers provided by the park concessionaire to transport your kayaks back up to the top (or paddle back upstream.) Since the shuttle trailer bars are pretty rough, the concessionaire is using to throwing their plastic rental kayaks around and the river is crowded sometimes literally from bank to bank with tubers, we strongly recommend that you avoid the “tubing season” and kayak the run during the remainder of the year. Canoeing and kayaking are allowed year round, and tubing is allowed during the “off season” from the middle of the run to the “Last Takeout” at the south end, but since the shuttle does not run there are generally only a few people on the river. Especially during the week you may well have the run virtually to yourself and even the weekends are not bad from late October through April, especially if you get on the river before 10 am.
Update 05/16. The park concessionaire now offers a transport service from the “Last Takeout” to the north entrance launch area. It costs $5 per person and an additional $7 per boat. This can be a great service not only for renters but also for people bringing their own boats. For $5 (arrrange it with the concessionaire before you launch at the north end) you can be picked up at the south end and driven back to your vehicle. Then drive your vehicle around to the south end, load up and go. At least one employee is always located at the “Last Take-out” so we feel secure leaving our boats and gear there at the top of the walkway near the loading loop. However, we have experienced hull cracks, gouges and deep scratches to our thermoform boats due to their rough handling during loading and transport, so we can not recommend using them to haul your personal boat back unless it’s an old beater thick plastic boat.
Update 06/16. The State Park is now starting to run their tuber shuttle tram service from the Last Take-out to the middle of the run on weekends during the year, not only in the summer. On warm weekends, you may run into wall-to-wall tubers from the half-way point to the “Last Take-out”.
Update 05/11/17 – The South Take-out parking area is now closed to personal vehicles on the weekends year-round. This closure used to occur only during the summer tubing season between Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend, but it has recently been extended to weekends the entire year. What this means is that on weekends, if you are taking out within the State Park, you must use the park concessionaire to transport both you and your kayak from the South Take-out back to the North launch. Again, we can not recommend that you use their service to transport your kayak if it is anything other than an old beater plastic boat due to damage to our boats that we have experienced. Unfortunately, this effectively eliminates kayaking with your own boat within the State Park on weekends throughout the year. So we can only recommend kayaking with your own boat there on week days between the middle of September through the middle of May. If you want to experience the Ich on the weekends we suggest renting.
The top of the run is just outside the main spring vent. There is a circular drive for unloading then a brief carry to the steps leading down to the launch. State park entrance fees apply. There is generally no one on duty at the north entrance fee station, so bring cash (in exact change) or your state park pass.
After dropping your boats and moving your vehicles to the main parking area, use the walking path back down to the launch and you will pass both the restrooms and the head spring. There is short boardwalk trail out to Blue Hole Spring, well known to SCUBA divers, that is well worth the 1/2 hour walk out and back. There are also a number of good interpretive signs about the spring that are very interesting near the restrooms .
Except at high water levels (when the river spreads into the surrounding low areas) the current runs swiftly and the 3.2 miles to the bottom of the park can pass pretty quickly. However we suggest you just float with the flow using your paddles only to steer. There are turtles and water birds everywhere as well as little springs to check out along the way. So just relax and enjoy the show. If you want a more strenuous trip, put in at the south end and paddle upstream, then float back down.
If it’s been cool the week you paddle, when you get to the “marshy” area about 1/2 way down, keep your eyes and ears peeled for manatee within the vegetation. Listen for short, sharp exhalations of breath and watch for small areas of vegetation moving up and down as the manatee nibble. We have also seen otters in this area.
NOTE: No disposable containers are allowed on the Ich within the state park. This rule is primarily enforced for the tubers since frequently people in kayaks and canoes continue outside the park onto the Santa Fe which has no such restrictions, but we advise you to use non-disposables anyway, just in case a ranger decides to check.
0.0 North launch
0.3 To left, short trip up to view of Blue Hole
0.6 To left, spring run up to Singing and Roaring Springs (no access)
0.8 To right, Devils Eye Spring
1.2 To left, Grassy Hole Spring
1.3 To left, Mill Pond Spring
1.5 Mid-Point Dock
2.1 Dampier’s Landing – nice place to stretch your legs, lunch, and/or regroup
2.3 On right, Coffee Spring
2.9 Transmission Line crossing
3.0 Transmission Line crossing
3.2 South Launch and tubing exit (the “Last Takeout”, accessed from US 27)
From the “Last Takeout” area you can continue on down to the confluence with the Santa Fe River and then down the Santa Fe to Lemmon Memorial Park boat ramp on US 129. The stream is lined with many homes and private property, so there is no public access until US 129, but it still makes a nice paddle with plenty of birds and turtles and the occasional manatee. On weekends there may be substantial power boat traffic, but during the week you’ll probably only run into a few fishing boats.
Note: As you pass under the US 27 bridge the river bends in an S-curve and passes under an old railroad bridge (now a rather poorly maintained paved bicycle trail). The current will sweep you way to the right at the RR bridge, so it’s important to keep to the left as you round the bend from US 27 and prepare to enter the “tunnel” or you may end up kissing bricks. We’ve had to bail out some boats playing here. It’s not really difficult and can be a lot of fun – if you are ready for it.
Continuation down the Ichetucknee and Sante Fe River
03.2 South Launch (“Last Takeout”) and tubing exit
03.5 Pass under US 27
03.6 Pass through railroad/bike trail tunnel
05.8 Confluence with Santa Fe River
08.9 Betty Spring river right
09.2 Troop Spring river left
10.3 Lemmon Memorial Park ramp off US 129
Click HERE to download Ichetucknee Fact Sheet with mileage chart and directions to launch sites.
Click HERE to download Ichetucknee River gpx file for your GPS unit.
Double-click to zoom in or use mouse scroll to zoom in and out. Drag to change location. Click on icons or river route for more info.