Ichetucknee Springs State Park, Florida

Back in late March of 2016, Melissa and I drove to Florida again to visit our son and his wife and their newborn twin girls. While we were there, I took the opportunity to do some hiking in a couple of nearby state parks. The first one I visited was Ichetucknee Springs S.P. near Ft. White. I arrived fairly early on a cool, mostly cloudy day and decided to follow the Blue Hole Spring Trail. The first part of the trail crosses a nice long boardwalk and then follows along the heavily wooded edge of the Ichetucknee River. There were many bird species, including Barred Owls and Pileated Woodpeckers.

Blue Hole Spring Trail Boardwalk, Ichetucknee Springs State Park, Florida. Copyright (c) 2017 Robert D. Vickers, Jr.

When I arrived at the Blue Hole Spring¬†I immediately heard several Carolina Wrens making pretty loud agitated calls. Scanning around, I quickly discovered the reason for the ruckus–a Red Shouldered Hawk perched in a nearby tree.

Red Shouldered Hawk, Ichetucknee Springs State Park, Florida. Copyright (c) 2017 Robert D. Vickers, Jr.

I watched for a few minutes until he left his perch, giving his characteristic kee-yer kee-yer call, made a wide circle around the area, and flew away.

26,668 gallons of pure clear 72 degree water pours out of a cave entrance at the bottom of Blue Hole Spring every minute. It is a favorite location for cave divers (including my son.)

Blue Hole Spring, Ichetucknee Springs State Park, Florida. Copyright (c) 2017 Robert D. Vickers, Jr.

A couple of days later I returned to Ichetucknee to hike the Trestle Point and Pine Ridge Trails. Along the western side of the Trestle Point Trail, near some old phosphate mine pits, I thought I was hearing a Northern Parula Warbler. A little later, I met another birder who said he had heard it also. Unfortunately, I never actually saw the bird to confirm it.

The Pine Ridge Trail branches off of the Trestle Point Trail and enters a hardwood hammock of Laural Oaks, Sweetgums, Pignut Hickories, and Southern Magnolias.

Hardwood Hammock, Pine Ridge Trail, Ichetucknee Springs State Park, Florida. Copyright (c) 2017 Robert D. Vickers, Jr.

Shortly, the trail leaves the hammock and crosses an ecotone or habitat boundary and enters a dry sandhill forest of Longleaf Pines and scrubby bushes. Millions of years ago, this area was actually Florida’s coastline. The sand is very deep here and does not hold moisture well.

Sandhill Forest, Pine Ridge Trail, Ichetucknee Springs State Park, Florida. Copyright (c) 2017 Robert D. Vickers, Jr.

After following the loop of trail through the Sandhill Forest I reentered the hardwood hammock where I came across a Barred Owl monitoring my hiking progress.

Barred Owl, Pine Ridge Trail, Ichetucknee Springs State Park, Florida. Copyright (c) 2017 Robert D. Vickers, Jr.

Coming back to the Trestle Point Trail, I took the eastern loop and followed the cool and shady path back along the Ichetucknee River to the parking lot. Looking forward to a return trip sometime in the future.

Ichetucknee River, Trestle Point Trail, Ichetucknee Springs State Park, Florida. Copyright (c) 2017 Robert D. Vickers, Jr.

Category(s): Other Nature Studies

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