Discover the Magic of Paddleboarding at Blue Spring State Park

Do you love to paddle on clear, cool waters? Want to see turtles and unique fish while you float above a spring flowing at 70 million gallons per day? 

Then Blue Spring State Park is for you! It’s an excellent place for a first paddle but has enough nearby areas to challenge you as your ability grows. It’s one of those places you can visit repeatedly and have a different but still stunning experience each time.  

I have been visiting Blue Spring State Park since I was a kid. My first canoe experience as a child was here. In 2011, we kayaked with our two-year-old, and I was pregnant with my second. Our first paddleboarding trip was here (thanks Ella!); since then, Robert and I have returned many times. 

I’ll share route options for beginner, intermediate, and expert paddleboarders. I also offer suggestions for apps, gear, and the best times to visit. Please note that the Blue Spring Run is closed to water activity effective April 2024. I have modified the routes to skip the spring run.

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Table of Contents

Where is Blue Spring State Park?

The scenic Blue Spring State Park is one of Central Florida’s seven state parks. It is renowned for its consistently 72℉ waters, and the park serves as a winter haven for Florida manatees. 

It is located just: 

  • 45 minutes north of Orlando
  • 40 minutes west of Daytona Beach 
  • 2 hours Northeast of Tampa

The address is 2100 W. French Ave. Orange City, FL 32763

Jessica Meinhofer, owner of Walk and Paddle, happily poses with a mosaic manatee statue on the boardwalk at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida.
Make sure to get your own photo with this iconic statue.

Brief History of Blue Spring State Park

The Timucuan, original inhabitants in the area, utilized the spring and the run for everything from clothing and shelters to weaponry and tools. They consumed snails, disposing of their shells across the landscape, forming distinct mounds (aka middens).

The arrival of European settlers in the 1700s brought profound changes, leading to the decline of the Timucuan peoples in the area. 

Fast forward to the 1800s, when Louis Thursby left his mark. He moved into the area and built his family home atop the historic Timucuan shell mounds. Though they cultivated citrus groves, the Thursby family pivoted to tourism after a devastating freeze in the 1890s.

Collage of the Thursby House and an informative display about the house at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida.

The evolution continued, and Blue Spring earned its status as a state park in 1972, preserving the history of those that came before.  

Today, it is a refuge for wintering manatees and an enchanting destination for those seeking to immerse themselves in the natural wonders of this captivating spring. Find out more about the history on the Blue Spring State Park website.

Is Blue Spring State Park Good for Paddleboarders?


There are plenty of routes for paddlers to choose from, some of them as short as a mile. 

Paddlers have a high chance of seeing: 

  • manatees 
  • fish
  • turtles
  • birds
  • alligators 
Paddleboard at sunset on a clear October day out on the Blue Spring Run at Blue Spring State park.

Potential Cons

Motorized Boats

The St. Johns River is open to motorized boats, but the launch point areas are no-wake zones, so they should be going slowly. 

However, paddling around motorized boats, especially larger ones, can be nerve-wracking for some.


The waters from the springhead travel down the Blue Spring Run and merge with those of the St. Johns River. 

Gators are likely to be in the St. Johns River. Remember, alligators avoid humans. They do not actively hunt people. Find out more about alligator safety from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. 

I haven’t seen any gators while paddleboarding. People I’ve gone with have, but I never have. Maybe I only see what I want to see, which is also known as motivated perception


Blue Spring State Park closes when it reaches capacity, which is most likely to happen during the summer, holidays, and winter. 

In the winter, manatees seek refuge from cold temperatures in the 72℉ spring waters, and the spring run is closed then to protect them. 

For these reasons, it’s best to go early or later in the day when the crowds are likely to be smaller.

A manatee and her calf swim in the spring run at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida.
A typical sight during winter and a special treat out of season. This was taken in October!

Can You Rent Paddleboards at Blue Spring State Park?

Yes, Blue Spring Adventures offers on-site paddleboard rentals and eco-tours. You can make reservations online for 60-minute, 4-hour, and 6-hour rentals. 

No other companies operate in the park, so make sure you reach out to them well in advance. 

Blue Spring State Park Launch Details

There are two launch points for Blue Spring State Park. Both are in a no-wake/idle speed zone on the St. Johns River.

Inside Blue Spring

Blue Spring Adventures, a canoe, kayak, and paddleboard rental company, manages the launch point inside Blue Spring State Park. You can bring your vessels and use their launch.

Enter the park and pay the entrance fee. Then, drive and park in the lot closest to the St. Johns River. Follow the signs. They will point you to the correct lot.

From the parking lot, you must walk (~200 feet) to the launch point with all your gear (GPS Coordinates 28.942123163114548, -81.34225053577185).


  • You are inside the park, so if you want to explore the area after paddling, you’re already there.
  • There are bathrooms, trash cans, food, and drinks.
  • The launch area is specifically for canoe, kayak, and paddleboard launches.


  • You have to pay.
  • The park can reach capacity, and then you can’t get in.
  • You have to carry your gear from the parking lot to the launch point.
The paddleboard and kayak launch point at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida.
Blue Spring State Park Launch Point. Can you see the vultures?

French Landing

The boat ramp and kayak launch at French Landing is part of Blue Spring State Park, but you don’t have to enter the park (GPS coordinates 28.946791886568715, -81.34409360868851) to get there.

Launching from French Landing is free, but there are no amenities and the entire area is unpaved, including the road leading to it. 

The kayak launch is a short walk from where you park; if needed, you can use the boat ramp. You can pull up to the area and unload right there. Be quick, though! Motorized boats can only launch at boat ramps and need the space. Check out this article for more: Paddling Etiquette Around Boat Ramps.


  • It is free and open even when Blue Spring State Park has reached capacity.
  • You park and launch from the same area.


  • There are no amenities here.
  • Motorized boats launch here, too.

Easy and Beginner SUP Routes

Launch Point to Launch Point

Start your adventure from either French Landing or inside Blue Spring State Park and design your own loop, covering approximately 0.5 miles one-way.

If you opt to begin at French Landing, head south on the St. Johns River. As you paddle, you’ll see the Blue Spring Run to your left/east, marked by ropes and buoys.

Continue past the metal docks at Blue Spring State Park, which are situated on the left/east shore of the St. Johns River. Shortly after the docks, you’ll find the Blue Spring launch for kayaks, paddleboards, and canoes on the left/east side.

At this point, you have a choice: either enter the park (note there’s an entrance fee) or turn back towards French Landing.

When you paddle back to French Landing, simply follow the reverse of these directions.

Important Notes

Although this is a straightforward and short route, it’s on a wide river with motorized boat traffic. So make sure you plan your paddle carefully. You will want to go on a day without much boat traffic and little to no wind.

The river is also dark, so you will not be able to see the bottom.

Blue Spring Run – Closed Effective April 2024 – Skip to the next section for additional routes

Start on the easiest and most relaxed route at Blue Spring – the Blue Spring Run! It demands the least effort but delivers maximum beauty and peace!

French Landing Route

When Blue Spring Run Opens again launch from French Landing to the Blue Spring Run is 0.7 miles one way, making an almost 1.5 miles out-and-back round-trip. 

Launching from French Landing puts you on the St. Johns River a little longer, but not by much. You may encounter more boats since there’s a boat ramp here.

Paddle south (left) on the St. Johns River towards the Blue Spring Run. You’ll know when you’ve reached the spring run when you see roped buoys on your left (east). Don’t worry. You have plenty of time to adjust your course once you see the entrance to the spring run.  

Navigate up the Blue Spring Run against the current and towards the spring head. Although there is a current, it’s not very strong. 

Although paddling is allowed from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 5 p.m. until sunset, swimmers, divers, and snorkelers are still allowed in designated areas of the run. 

Once you get to the springhead, you can ride the current back and only use your paddle for stirring.

If you paddle quickly, it can be about 30 to 40 minutes, but I recommend not rushing. Enjoy the tranquility of the run and the wildness all around you.

Paddle route at Blue Spring Run at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida.
Click here for the interactive map created by

Blue Spring State Park Launch Route

When the Blue Spring Run reopens, you can launch from inside Blue Spring State Park. Your paddle from here is slightly shorter: 0.5 miles one-way and 1 mile round-trip.

You still launch onto the St. Johns River but you will spend less time there.

Launch and head north (right) until you get to the spring run. You’ll see the buoy ropes that separate the river and spring run.  

Turn right (east), cross over the ropes, and you’re in the run. Follow it to the boil (spring source). You’ll paddle against the current, but it’s not strong. 

Keep an eye out for swimmers, snorkelers, and divers. They are allowed in the designated areas of the run whenever the park is open.

After the boil, ride the current back. Enjoy coasting on the run and looking for wildlife from your unique vantage point.

Navigating takes about 30 minutes, but you can extend that time by going back and forth on the run.

A smiling man stands on a paddleboard at the spring source (boil) at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida.
My Robert is having a great time while checking out the springhead.

Intermediate Paddleboard Route: The Lagoon at Blue Spring

While the Blue Spring Run is closed, you can paddleboard to The Lagoon for something more challenging. Paddling The Lagoon and along its edges in a loop adds almost one mile. 

A Bit About The Lagoon

The Lagoon is a beautiful and broad lake. Unlike the spring run, you can’t see to the bottom, and the area is completely untouched, with overgrown shores.

Alligators, water birds, and other wildlife are commonplace here. We didn’t see any gators the last time we were there, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t see us. 

It was definitely a wonderful and worthwhile experience that I recommend.

Route One: French Landing to The Lagoon

Launch from French Landing, steer south (left), then DON’T turn east (left) into the Blue Spring Run, easily identified by roped-off buoys. Instead, continue to The Lagoon. 

You’ll pass the Blue Spring launch and then see a split in the river. The Lagoon will be on your left. 

See the map below for the route from the Blue Spring Run/St Johns River intersection to The Lagoon.

Map showing paddle routes (The Lagoon, Snake Creek Cutoff, and Starks Cutoff) from the Spring Run at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida.
Click the map for the interactive version.

Route Two: Inside Blue Spring to The Lagoon

Launch inside the park from Blue Spring Adventures and steer north (right) along the St. Johns River. Next, DON’T turn east (right) into the spring run. Instead, head straight to The Lagoon. You won’t accidentally enter the run – it is clearly marked and roped off with buoys. 

Once you’ve completed the run, float to the intersection of the run and the St. Johns River. Next, head south (left) on the St. Johns River past the Blue Spring Adventures launch point. You’ll see where the St. Johns River splits; take the waterway to your left. 

Don’t worry – it’s hard to miss The Lagoon!

Bonus Routes: St. Johns River & Cutoffs

I have also found some other route options in the area. You can choose to launch from French Landing or inside the park and then explore sections of the St. Johns River, Snake Creek Cutoff, or Starks Cutoff. 

Combine any of these waterways and make the route your own. 

The paddling distance from the intersection of Blue Spring Run and St. Johns River to Snake Creek Cutoff is around 1.8 miles and almost 1 mile for Starks Cutoff.

A kayaker in a white Oru Lake kayak on a perfect October day at The Lagoon at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida
Out on The Lagoon. And yes, we have a kayak too!

Expert Paddling Route at Blue Spring State Park

For those looking for a real challenge, consider the 10-mile round-trip recommended on’s blog

This route begins at either the Blue Spring or French Landing launch points. 

Head north (right) on the St. Johns River from the launch and follow it to Hontoon Island. There is an area along the way where the St. Johns River opens up at Lake Beresford. Unless you want to add to your paddle, steer away from the lake and continue to follow the river. 

Go south (left) past Hontoon Island and onto the Hontoon Dead River. 

There will be an area where the waterway splits; one part is Hontoon Dead River, and the other is Snake Creek. Follow the narrow Snake Creek, on your left, as it twists and turns back to the St. Johns River. 

Head north and return to your launch point. 

You’ll want a good GPS tracker so you don’t take any off-shoots unintentionally. If you are looking for suggestions for a good tracker, keep reading.

Map from Paddle Florida showing the paddle route loop from Blue Spring Run to Hontoon Island and back.
Click here for the interactive version created by

Best Apps for Paddleboarding Blue Spring State Park

There are a lot of variables that go into paddling, and apps can help make it more predictable. I’m listing some of my favorites. 

Florida State Parks does not have an app to download, so visit the Blue Spring State Park website before you head out. The site will have the most current information on closures, warnings, and other things you need to know before you go. 

Launch Point Research App

The Go Paddling app is a great starting point when researching locations. It shows launch points worldwide. 

Users can share their experiences about the launches, but the information sometimes needs to be updated. I recommend verifying the information before heading out. 

Preview of the Go Paddling App at the Blue Spring State Park paddleboard and kayak launch point.

GPS Tracker

I like the Strava app because it records your GPS routes on a map. 

The Blue Spring area is straightforward, but there are a few off-shoots from the St. Johns River. It’s possible to take a wrong turn if you’re not careful. 

With the app, you can track your paddles, connect with friends, and share your activities.

Weather App

I love using my iPhone Weather App and the My Radar App. I check the temperature first and then check the radar second. Together, they give me a good overview of what to expect during my paddle. 

Other paddleboarders I’ve spoken to recommend the WeatherBug app, which includes:  

  • live radar
  • humidity
  • air quality
  • lightning map
  • highs and lows for the day
  • info on wind

You always want to check the weather before you begin your paddle.

Wind App

Although Blue Spring Run is mainly sheltered from winds, the St. Johns River and The Lagoon are not. We’ve paddled here on semi-windy days, and although we loved it and had a great time, there was a notable difference between going on a windy day and a not-windy day. 

I recommend using Windy. It is more than just a cute app name; it provides accurate wind speed and direction data for your location. Knowing wind conditions is necessary whether you are paddling on a lake, river, tidal waters, or the ocean.

Gear for Paddling Blue Spring State Park

Sun Protection

There’s no shade out on the St. Johns River or The Lagoon. You’ll need to create your own. 

There is some shade in the Blue Spring Run, depending on the season and how close you are to shore.

Jessica Meinhofer, owner of Walk and Paddle, on a paddleboard with her son on the St Johns River on a sunny October day.
My oldest (who refuses sunglasses or hats) and I on the St Johns River on our way to the spring run at Blue Spring State Park.

Here are the basics:

  • A rash guard is a great way to protect your skin from the effects of wind and sun. I recommend a long-sleeved version with thumb holes. 
  • Reef-safe and waterproof sunblock to keep your skin from burning. 
  • A snug-fitting baseball cap works, or a wide-brim hat with a strap. You don’t want to lose it during your paddle.
  • Polarized sunglasses (with a strap) because in the Blue Spring Run, you’ll want to look into the water and past that glare to see manatees and other wildlife.


Bring your reusable bottle with fresh water. I add electrolytes to my water to make the water taste better and avoid muscle cramps


There is no way around it: your feet will get wet. Even if only during launch.

Water shoes are a good choice if you don’t want to ruin your other shoes. They are made to protect the soles of your feet and are not affected by wet-dry cycles.

I recommend removing them once you are securely on your board. The grip from the shoes will make proper foot placement difficult when you stand. 

Legally Required Gear for Paddleboarding

Paddleboards are vessels per the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). By law, you must have a personal flotation device (PFD) and whistle on your board in Florida unless you are in a swimming area. 

Kids under the age of 6 must wear a PFD while paddleboarding. I recommend that paddlers of all ages wear them as much as possible. 

The USCG regulations say you should have a “sound-producing device” – a whistle is the easiest choice. Whistles are small, can attach to your PFD or body, and are reasonably cheap. 

I also recommend a leash to keep you and your paddleboard together if you fall.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission lists the legal requirements for Florida here

Jessica Meinhofer, owner of Walk and Paddle, with her husband Robert launching their paddleboard and kayak at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida.
Robert and I, at the launch point inside Blue Spring State Park, wearing our PFDs and baseball caps.

Best Times to Paddleboard Blue Spring State Park

Weather Matters at Blue Spring

Blue Spring State Park is a good paddle unless it’s windy, stormy, or extreme temperatures like in peak summer. Avoiding bad weather is a basic rule when you are on the water.

Best Months and Times of Day to Paddle

The St. Johns River, The Lagoon, and surrounding waterways are open year-round and all hours.

The park reaches capacity and closes often, especially in the summer, holidays, and winter when manatees seek refuge from cold temperatures in the (relatively) warm spring waters. 

The spring run at Blue Spring is closed for all of 2024 and potentially into 2025, but The Lagoon and St Johns River are still open. Refer to the Blue Spring State Park websites for updates. 

Typically, the Blue Spring Run is closed to paddlers between November 15th and March 15th. In those months, the run is a designated manatee refuge.

The yellow and white sign at the intersection of Blue Spring Run and the St Johns River notifying paddlers that the area is closed for manatee season.
Photo of spring closure sign for manatee season.

The swim area is currently closed, but when it opens up again, it will only be open to paddlers from:

  • 8 am to 11 am
  • 5 pm to sundown

Do Tides Matter at Blue Spring?

No, there are no tides at Blue Spring. However, you will want to research the water levels of the St. Johns River. If there has been substantial rain, launch areas might be affected. 

Can You Swim After a Paddle?

The swim area at Blue Spring State Park is closed for 2024 and potentially for 2025 for a stabilization project. Check the official website for updates.

When the Blue Spring Run is open, you can swim in Blue Spring, but you can’t get off your board to do so. You have to return to your launch point, leave your board there, and then enter the swim area. 

The swim hours, when the spring run is open, are any time the park is open. 

If you launched from French Landing, you have to pay the entrance fee. 

Happy Paddling!

Pinnable photo collage of paddleboarding at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida.
Don’t forget to pin me!

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