We arrived around 11am on a Wednesday. We had rented tubes at the bar & grill as I had heard about through reading other reviews ($5/tube). It cost us $5 to get into the park for our party of six in one vehicle. Not knowing the layout or the "system", we parked, left everything in the car except our tubes and walked to the spring area behind the concession stand. Turns out, this is not the beginning, so we asked where it started and were directed up an easily accessible path, about a 5 minute walk, to the beginning, where the spring bubbles out of a cave and rocks. Just beautiful. We all got in tubes and floated down. Turns out the water is shallow enough for even the 5 year olds to touch bottom. The boys wanted to snorkel the whole way so we ended up with their tubes as well. We floated by the main area where the concession stand was, then further on down for another 15 minutes, to a sandy area where the float ends. We exited and walked back to the main area along a nice paved trail. About a 8-10 minute walk. The entire float takes about 30 minutes or less. At this point, I went back to get the car, pulled up to the unloading area and we unloaded all our stuff to take down to the lawn surrounding the main area. It's perfect for beach chairs, umbrellas (there is some shade), picnic blankets and coolers. I re-parked the car and we set up for the day. The kids snorkeled, caught little fish in buckets with their dip nets and of course we did the float several more times. We saw deer upon entering the park, tons of fish, turtles and young alligators while we were in the spring. Quite nice to see this wildlife considering the amount of traffic this place sees. The park, including the float was small enough that I felt comfortable letting the boys (8-9yo) head out on their own to dip net and float. There are life guards posted at the beginning, middle and end also. The concession stand is very well stocked, so if you do not pack your own stuff, they have a complete menu, and bug spray, sunscreen, etc. We didn't have much of a bug problem and never used bug spray. It was a perfect day and we can't wait to go back.
What I wish I had known:
Bring your own float (no larger than 5 feet). The $3 ones at Target work great and are easier for the kids to carry. The rentals are sturdy, large and bulky, not necessary for such a mild run.
You can unload all your stuff at the concession area to set up "camp", then go park your car.
Bring sand toys for the beach area.
Bring dip nets and buckets, masks and snorkles.
Get there early to get a spot.
Water shoes are recommended, mostly sandy, but gravel and rocks too!
Stay all day.
We will definitely be back and can't wait to actually camp at the campground too!
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