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Reported: Nov. 2011; latest update: April 2012

Blue Spring and St. John's River - Paddling with Manatees

Blue Spring, at Blue Spring State Park near Deland, Florida, feeds Blue Spring Run to the St. John's River. Both the Run and river offer good kayaking and canoeing, both north and south of the state park. The spring - largest on the St. John's - is a designated manatee refuge with a large winter population of West Indian Manatee.  (Detailed map and photos below.)



View Larger Map
Distance: The spring run itself is less than a mile; 3.5 miles to Hontoon Island
Location: Volusia County (Orange City)
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Tidal: No
Launch points: French Avenue boat ramp, Blue Spring State Park (admission fee). (See map, left)
Kayak/Canoe Rentals: Blue Spring State Park, Hontoon Island State Park (links, above right)
Nearby points of interest: City of Deland, Stetson University

The river is popular for fishing, paddling, and boating (watch for the motorboat traffic). Several oxbows and creeks off the river are a respite from the motor traffic on the river.

The spring run is a short (less than a half mile) paddle, but a must-visit for the manatees as well as its beauty. Swimming or diving with manatees is prohibited; to protect the manatees during the winter season, the spring and spring run are closed to recreation from November 15 to March 1.

Blue Spring State Park has a concession plus camping, picnicking, swimming, snorkeling, boardwalk, hiking, fishing, boating, and of course paddling. River boat tours are available.

From Blue Spring Park, paddle the St. John's to Hontoon Island (3.5 miles), then up Snake Creek and return to Blue Spring for a 10-mile round-trip. Hontoon Island is accessible by boat or ferry only, activities include camping, boating, bicycling, and picnicking.

Paddling at Blue Spring - St. John's River
(tap or hover over photo for larger view)
St. John's River - French Avenue Launch to Blue Spring Run
On the St. John's, watch for motorboats, and go slow for manatee. French Avenue launch
has parking, a boat ramp, and kayak/canoe launch area.
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Launch at French Avenue Approaching Blue Spring Run
Blue Spring Run
The Run is closed to all vessels during the winter manatee season, November 15-March 1.
When open, the section past the swimming area to the springhead is open to paddling before 11 a.m. and after 5 p.m.
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Entry to Run Kayak/canoe launch Along Blue Spring Run
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Swimming area Springhead area is popular for snorkeling, swimming, tubing
St. John's River - Blue Spring Run Area
Rentals and a river cruise are located at the park entrance. The Lagoon is a quiet paddling area just past the dock area. Continuing downriver, turn off at the oxbow to avoid the busy motor or traffic on the river.
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Leaving the park entrance Tour boat dock Rentals The Lagoon
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Sign warns of the manatee zone Paddling on the St. John's Near the shore,
pretty cypress
Approaching the oxbow
Oxbow off the River
This "oxbow" is about 1/4 mile south of Blue Spring Run. Two side creeks run off this area, one is a manmade canal, the other is Snake Creek that winds up to Hontoon Island.
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Entering the "oxbow" Manmade canal cutoff Pushing through
the lily pads
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On Snake Creek, continuing on the creek
leads to Hontoon Island
Tour boat
on the oxbow
Back to the
St. John's
Wildlife on the St. John's and Blue Spring Run
The Run is like a giant aquarium, easy to see in the crystal clear water. Fishing isn't allowed on the Run, but OK on the river. During the winter season, visit the State Park and view manatees from the Boardwalk.
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Turtles Alligator Great white heron Great blue heron Overlook at the Boardwalk. Those long dark things in the water are huge gar (fish).
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Manatee viewing at Blue Spring State Park

Watch a video along the St. John's River on our Facebook page

Also visit us here: Bicycling on the Spring-to-Spring Trail

More information on paddling on Blue Spring Run/St. John's River (opens in a new window):

- Florida State Parks - Blue Spring State Park
- Florida State Parks - Hontoon Island State Park

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Paddling in Florida - Kayak, Canoe
Blue Spring - St. John's River

Outfitters/Rentals

St. John's River Cruises
Tours

Central Florida Nature Adventures
Tours


Support and Advocacy

Friends of Blue Spring
State Park


Hontoon Island
Foundation



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