Take a look around and you'll see signs of spring everywhere.
Florida dogwoods are blooming and swallow-tailed kites are flying overhead. The mornings are cool, but by afternoon things are usually nice and toasty – so toasty, in fact, that trips to some of Florida's freshwater springs are in order. Here are five you should add to your spring adventure list:
Ichetucknee Springs State Park – A favorite North Florida gem for generations of Floridians, Ichetucknee Springs State Park is where you want to be when the weather's warm. Take a tube trip (this is a must-do), kayak or canoe the spring-fed Ichetucknee River or just splash down in the headsprings. Blue Hole Spring is another cool spot in the park, and is only a short walk from the main spring area. www.floridastateparks.org/ichetuckneesprings
Juniper Springs - The Ocala National Forest is a wonderland for springs lovers, but if you have to choose just one, Juniper Springs is where you want to be. Spend time at the headsprings or take a paddling trip down Juniper Run, one of the most scenic kayak or canoe trips in the country. Canoes are available for rent, and there's a shuttle service to get you back to the park. Take a stroll down the nature trail back to Fern Hammock Springs where you might catch a glimpse of otters playing. http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/ocala/recarea/?recid=34064
Rainbow Springs State Park - Another old favorite swimming hole, Rainbow Springs offers tons of springtime enjoyment. Swimming in the headsprings is incredible, of course, but so is the walk around the park. See waterfalls (manmade, but very cool, just the same) and tons of blooming azaleas. Tubing? Oh yes, tubing on the Rainbow River is the real deal. The tubing entrance is located away from the park's main entrance, so check the website for directions. www.floridastateparks.org/rainbowsprings
Silver Springs State Park - Yep, one of Florida's old-time attractions is now a state park. All the goodies next door at Silver River State Park are now part of Silver Springs State Park, which means that you are going to need a few days to cover all the ground at this one. Set up camp or rent a cabin, take a glass bottom boat tour, paddle the Silver River (look for monkeys) or stroll around the pioneer cracker village. It's all good here. www.floridastateparks.org/silversprings
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park - Mermaids. If that's not enough to get you here, you can also take a scenic boat tour, rent kayaks or enjoy a wildlife show. And if that's not enough, Buccaneer Bay is open for the season, with a sandy beach and watersides to splash down right into the headsprings. You are probably already in your car headed there now. www.floridastateparks.org/weekiwachee
Of course, this is but a small sampling of Florida's incredible freshwater springs. What's your favorite spot for springtime fun? Let me know over on the VISIT FLORIDA Outdoors and Nature Facebook Page, or on Twitter.