Picture it: Walking down a set of wooden stairs toward a lagoon, surrounded by tall trees and Spanish moss. The water is calm, with an aquamarine tone that echoes that only ever seen in a gemstone. There's a warm breeze coming through the trees and overall it's not too hot, although these tranquil waters do appear to be calling one to take a hiatus from Florida's sunshine. Peering into these crystal-clear waters, small schools of fish float by, and the sandy bottom is clear as day. It could be considered the most perfect swimming hole in the state, let alone in the country.
Believe it or not, this place actually exists, and it's an easy drive for those vacationing or living in Northern Florida.
Visiting Madison Blue Spring, Florida's Best Swimming Hole
The picturesque forest that surrounds Madison Blue Spring is undoubtedly Florida's best swimming hole and was also hailed as being one of the best in the U.S. One visit to this park and it's easy to see why - it's not every day that one has the chance to wade through crystal-clear waters in a 25-foot-deep lagoon. Madison Blue Spring can be found inland, at the point where a natural spring and the nearby Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers merge together. The basin of the lagoon is limestone, which makes it a pristine natural pool with gently-sloping sides and plenty of shallow and deep areas. The surrounding woods are filled with pine and hardwood trees, which provide a bit of shelter and privacy for those spending the day wading and swimming.
- Fun Fact: USA Today did name Madison Blue Spring the best swimming hole in the U.S.
Originally, Madison Blue Spring was used by the local people as a source of fresh water. This lagoon also hides a cavern deep below, which also accounts for the currents that constantly refresh that water found in Madison Blue Spring. Many sinkholes can also be found around the spring, which is a testament to the karst topography of the landscape, responsible for creating Madison Blue Spring. Between these natural depths, the currents, and the freshwater spring source, it has become a swimming hole that attracts many during Florida's unbearably hot summer days.
What Can You Do At Madison Blue Spring?
There are a number of activities that visitors can engage in at Madison Blue Spring. For those who aren't ready to take a dip in its crystal-clear waters, there's plenty of time to explore Madison Blue Spring State Park. There are many birds and plenty of wildlife to be found surrounding the spring, so visitors should get their cameras ready and keep an eye out. Additionally, picnics are another way to enjoy the scenery surrounding Madison Blue Spring. Grills can be found throughout the park with plenty of shade from large oak trees, and tables are spaciously spread out, making for the perfect summertime lunch spot. Remember to dispose of trash in the proper receptacle, or remember to carry-in and carry out!
For those eager to get into the water, there are a number of options for this, as well. The first, obviously, is swimming. The spring's shallow waters can be found at the end of the stairs leading down to its shore, which is great for those who aren't keen on deeper water. For those looking to dive right in, there's a large set of stairs leading to deeper depths - just remember to stay within the swimming boundaries.
- Swimming is from 8 AM to sunset
- Diving, climbing, or jumping from rocks is prohibited
- Note that there is no lifeguard on duty
Snorkeling and diving are two additional activities one can partake in. Snorkeling is great for the shallower parts of Madison Blue Spring, and snorkelers will be able to explore the small-species fish that also call the spring their home. Additionally, this is a fun way to see what the limestone basin looks like underwater - including its unique rock features and the entrance to the larger caverns that exist below.
For those planning on diving, they need to be cavern certified. Cave diving is very different from regular diving, and all who plan on doing so will need to present verified proof of their credentials. Dives must also be done in pairs, as solo diving is not permitted. Since the spring is home to one of the largest underwater cave systems in Florida, it's a big draw for adventurous divers.
Tubing is also permitted at Madison Blue Spring, and floats can be purchased by the visiting vendor on weekends from May through September. A hand-launch makes it easy to use small floating devices such as this which are not limited to floats. Kayaks and canoes are also permitted in this waterway for those wishing to explore the Withlacoochee River. Note that the launch is only available on the river side, and it is approximately a 175-yard walk from the main spring.
Madison Blue Spring continues to be a destination that delights and impresses its visitors during hot Florida summers. While it's a great place to cool off, the nature surrounding is also what makes it such an incredible destination to visit.