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Latest update: April 2016

Blue Spring Run and St. Johns River...

Kayaking with Manatees at Blue Spring State Park

Blue Spring, at Blue Spring State Park near Deland, Florida, feeds Blue Spring Run to the St. Johns River. The spring run is a designated manatee refuge and is closed to paddlers during the winter months. During extreme cold weather, over 300 manatee have been counted in the short run. The river on either side of the run is designated as a "No Wake Zone," making this area of the St. Johns great for kayaking and canoeing. (Detailed map and photos below.)

paddle Blue Springs, St. Johns River, kayak, canoe

Blue Spring Area Paddling Map
St. Johns River, FL

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Distance: Varies. The spring run itself is less than a half mile; 3.5 miles to Hontoon Island. Oxbow and Snake Creek are options.
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)
Nearby points of interest: City of Deland, Stetson University


Blue Spring Adventures (park concessionaire; rentals, tours)

Support and Advocacy:

Friends of Blue Spring State Park

Friends of Hontoon Island

 Page Summary:

  1. Paddling on St. Johns Rivere and Blue Spring Run
    - French Landing to Blue Spring Run
    - Blue Spring Run
    - Downriver from the Run
    - Oxbow (route to Hontoon Island)
    - An Alternate Paddling Route
  2. Wildlife
  3. Visiting Blue Spring State Park
  4. More Information and Resources

Paddling on St. Johns River and Blue Spring Run... Comments and Photos

We brought our own kayaks, and started from the public launch at French Landing - rentals and a launch for private vessels are also available at the State Park. From the Landing, we paddled downstream on the St. Johns River to Blue Spring Run, and then up the run into Blue Spring State Park. Returning to the river, we continued downstream. The river is popular for fishing and boating so motor traffic can be heavy. "No wake zones" plus several oxbows and creeks off the river are a respite from the motorboat traffic - we visited The Lagoon and circled an oxbow before heading back to launch.

French Landing to Blue Spring Run

French Landing, located on the St. Johns River at the end of W. French Ave. in Orange City, has parking, a public boat ramp, and kayak/canoe launch area. From here, it's about a quarter-mile paddle to Blue Spring Run and the park entrance. There are many motorboats along the river here, but the "No Wake Zone" allows for good paddling. Kayak/canoe rentals and a river cruise are located at the park entrance (juncture with Rock Springs Run).

Blue Spring Run

The spring run is a short (less than a half mile) paddle, but a must-visit for the manatees and other wildlife, as well as for its beauty. The Run is closed to all vessels during the winter manatee season, November 15 - March 1. When the run is open, the section past the swimming area to the springhead can be paddled before 11 a.m. and after 5 p.m. The springhead area is popular for snorkeling, swimming, tubing. Swimming or diving near manatees is prohibited. See more about the Blue Spring State Park below.

Downriver from the Run

Just past the juncture with Blue Spring Run, The Lagoon is a quiet paddling area off the river. Then continuing downriver, turn off at the oxbow to avoid the busy motorboat traffic.

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.

An Alternate Paddling Route: Our focus this trip was Blue Spring Run so we did an out-and-back paddle, but much more is available on the St. Johns in this area. An alternate route is to paddle the St. Johns upstream from the State Park to Hontoon Island - about 3.5 miles. Follow the Hontoon Dead River to Snake Creek and return through the oxbow to the St. Johns for a 10-mile round-trip. Hontoon Island is accessible by boat or ferry only, activities include camping, boating, bicycling, and picnicking.

Wildlife on the St. Johns and Blue Spring Run

The Run is like a giant aquarium, easy to see everything in the crystal clear water. Fishing is not allowed on the Run. During the winter season, visit the State Park and view manatees from the Boardwalk.



Visiting Blue Spring State Park

Blue Spring State Park has a concession plus camping, cabins, picnicking, swimming, snorkeling, boardwalk, hiking, fishing, boating, and of course paddling. The boardwalk provides great views of manatee along the run, especially in the cooler months, and ends at the spring. River boat tours are available. The Thursby House dates from 1872, built by Louis Thursby who constructed one of the first steamboat landings on the upper St. Johns River here. The family lived here until 1910, the property was acquired by the State in 1972.

More Information and Resources

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