It began over 46 years ago with five inner tubes and a front yard.
That is when Linda Soride of Fort White, Fla., began renting inner tubes to the visitors of Ichetucknee Springs.
“When I first started out, Ichetucknee was privately owned by an English family who leased the land to cattle farmers and phosphate companies,” Soride said.
The Soride family are the first tube vendors at Ichetucknee Springs.
Today, Linda has expanded her business to accommodate an average of 2,500 visitors a day during peak season. Ichetucknee Tube Center Inc. has four locations and 750 tubes varying in color and size.
Although the growing popularity of the springs has brought along more vendors, Linda’s clients have remained loyal.
“God has blessed me,” Soride said. “Many of our customers have remained loyal to us over the years.”
Memorial Day Weekend marks the reopening of the north entrance of Ichetucknee Springs .
During the off-season, this entrance is closed to allow the spring to return to its natural state.The north entrance will remain open through September. Guests can lazily tube the river on a three and half hour ride down the crystal clear waters.
At Ichetucknee Tube Center, rentals start at $5 per tube per day. Also available for rent are small and large rafts, lounges, life jackets, snorkel sets and canoes.
Besides tubing, park guests are free to picnic, canoe, kayak, snorkel and swim. Alcohol is not permitted at Ichetucknee.
“We expect to have around 4,000 guest because it’s a holiday weekend,” said Penny Raulerson, administrative assistant at the state park.
Although the springs has other activities besides tubing, Raulerson suggests arriving when the park opens at 8 a.m. if plan on floating down the north entrance, which maxes out at 750 guests.
Raulerson, who has worked for Ichetucknee the last 15 years, said that there is more to the park than meets the eye.
She suggests taking a walk down a 15-minute trail to Blue Hole Spring, the largest of the springs at the state park.
“Guests will experience 72 degree, crystal clear water at Blue Hole,” she said.
The spring is 40 feet deep and suggested only for experienced swimmers only. Blue Hole opens up to a flooded cave that licensed divers explore during the off-season.
“The best part about the park is its beauty,” Raulerson said. “It’s a gorgeous place to work and we meet some of the nicest people from all over the world.”
Raulerson said that people from places including England, Italy and the Netherlands travel to Fort White during peak season to enjoy the natural springs.
Taylor Shasha, 23, will be traveling from Jacksonville Beach to Fort White on Monday morning to spend the day at Ichetucknee Springs with her friends.
“The park is a great place to relax and meditate,” said Shasha, who practices yoga on a regular basis.