Florida Springs Bike Tour
Camping fifth night:
Manatee Springs State Park, Route 2, Box 617, Chiefland, FL 32626, (352) 493-6072. Reservations recommendedup to 60 days in advance with credit card.
The fifth day's ride of this loop is a 58-mile trip exploring the springs regions of the Santa Fe and Suwannee Rivers. From O'Leno State Park, the route goes south to High Springs, a neat little town with fine eateries and a good variety of antique and gift shops.
From High Springs the route goes west, near the Santa Fe River and very close to several springs: Poe, Blue, and Ginnie. These springs lie one to two miles from the route and have entrance fees. All have spectacular crystalline, blue water bubbling from underground caverns and feed the Santa Fe River with 72-degree pure water year-round.
From the Santa Fe springs region, the route continues westward over Wacasassa Flats, identifiable by all the cypress stands, swamp gums, and very flat terrain.
Just before crossing the Suwannee River, the route turns south and passes close to several more springs: Sun, Hart, and Otter. Continuing south, the route touches the northwest corner of Chiefland, then heads west to Manatee Springs State Park. The first magnitude spring at the park is a delight as is the boardwalk to the Suwannee River lookout where occasionally manatees can be seen.
Most miles are over rural roads. Exceptions include the first seven miles south from O'Leno State Park to High Springs that are on US 441. The highway has a shoulder for most of the distance. Use extra caution crossing the bridge over the Santa Fe River and riding the last miles into town, as the shoulder disappears. This section of highway is part of the designated "DeSoto Trail." Watch for interpretative signs.
One mile of unpaved road is included on the route to avoid a longer distance on the very narrow and busy SR 26, east of the town of Fanning Springs. This unpaved mile has a hard-packed sand surface with only a thin layer of loose sand and should be rideable. It is a pleasant walk if you are unable to ride. The road is canopied by cedar and oak.
You will still encounter 0.5 mile on SR 26 between county roads. Use caution and wait for a good break in traffic to make the distance between the byways. If you find the traffic unnerving, walking well off the roadway is a good alternative for this short distance.
Approaching Chiefland, the traffic increases, even on the county roads. Be attentive. Use caution crossing US ALT 27, a four-lane, divided highway and the nearby railroad tracks.
The final six miles into Manatee Springs State Park are also becoming more congested. Stay alert to traffic.
The route is over mostly rural roads with few stores available. High Springs and Chiefland are the biggest towns. Numerous restaurants including vegetarian, grocery, and hardware stores are in High Springs. Convenience store locations are at the intersection with SR 47 and between Chiefland and the state park. The route does go directly behind the Chiefland Regional Shopping Center, just before heading toward Manatee Springs.
Directions from O'Leno State Park to Manatee Springs State Park
0.0 Park Entrance Station.
0.3 Turn left onto frontage road.
0.5 Turn left onto US 441.
4.4 DeSoto Trail Exhibit.
4.8 Santa Fe River.
6.7 Enter High Springs.
7.5 Turn right onto Main St.
7.8 Cross US 27 & SR 20.
8.3 Turn right onto CR 340.
11.4 Poe Springs County Park.
11.7 Enter Gilchrist County.
12.7 Blue Springs.
14.7 Ginnie Springs.
16.7 Cross SR 47.
19.5 Begin traverse of Wacasassa Flats.
25.0 Cross US 129.
27.6 Turn left onto CR 341A (unsigned, just before sign for agricultural inspection station, last paved road to left before Suwannee River bridge).
33.7 Pass Sun Springs Rd.
34.7 Turn right onto CR 232 (unsigned).
35.7 Road curves left.
37.2 Hart Springs County Park.
39.8 Turn left onto CR 334 (unsigned, unpaved for mile, Otter Springs left 2.3 miles from route).
40.8 Pavement returns, cross CR 341.
41.3 Pass CR 344A.
42.3 Turn right onto CR 313.
43.8 Turn left onto SR 26.
44.3 Turn right onto CR 341 (unsigned, first paved road on right).
45.7 Enter Levy County.
49.7 Cross CR 346.
51.7 Cross US ALT 27 & US 19/98.
52.0 Chiefland Regional Shopping Center.
52.3 Turn right onto CR 320 (NW 19th Ave).
57.8 Continue straight to Manatee Springs State Park.
58.0 Park Entrance Station.
Total Trip Mileage to date: 264.3
As well as these directions, you should bring along your own map, in case you miss a turn, get lost, a road changes, or for any of the other thousands of reasons that you may need to vary your route.
Many thanks to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for this tour description.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication