Famed for its mineral spring spa at the turn of the last century, Worthington Springs is now a quiet hamlet along SR 121 between Alachua and Lake Butler.
In 2002, the town council established Chastain-Seay Park on the former site of the hotel and spa complex at the springs.
While the third-magnitude spring is off-limits, the park offers swimmers and anglers access to the Santa Fe River.
A picnic grove and pavilions are tucked in the forest near the main entrance, from which the extensive Riverwalk Nature Trail winds out to the river.
Mostly a boardwalk over a series of river floodplains and the forests between them, the nature trail provides a unique perspective on riverine landscapes.
Resources for exploring the area
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Location: Worthington Springs
Length: 0.8 mile loop
Trailhead: 29.92650, -82.42571
Address: 3300 SW 118th Rd, Worthington Springs
Restroom: Near the picnic pavilions
Land manager: Town of Worthington Springs
Open 8 AM to sundown. No alcohol permitted. The park floods when the Santa Fe River is high. Do not attempt to drive into the park or hike this trail when flooded.
From Interstate 75 exit 404, High Springs, take CR 236 east for 5.4 miles to CR 239. Turn left and drive north 3.1 miles to SR 121. Turn left and continue 0.7 mile, crossing the Santa Fe Ridge bridge. Keep alert for the park turnoff on the left at SW 118 Rd. The entrance road curves downhill inside the gates.
The Riverwalk Nature Trail starts in the forest across from the restrooms, the boardwalk a prominent feature with its nature trail sign.
Built above the sloping landscape of the picnic area, it makes a jog under the oaks before crossing the outflow of Worthington Spring.
In springtime, the pink blooms of pinxter azaleas and white tassles of Florida fringe trees stand out against the soft new green growth.
Paralleling an oxbow floodplain of the Santa Fe River, the boardwalk provides views of reflections in the dark water.
A straightaway in the riverine forest immerses you beneath a canopy of older oaks as the trail reaches a clearing.
A picnic pavilion and swingset are deeply shaded by the forest canopy, with the first access point to the river just beyond them.
Another boardwalk leads from this clearing into the riverfront floodplain, where an old swimming hole has rope swings attached to the trees.
At the boardwalk junction, turn right to continue along the riverfront.
A panorama opens up across the floodplain channel as the boardwalk approaches the riverfront recreation area.
While this collection of picnic pavilions and a fishing pier on a grassy plateau can be reached by car along the road past the trailhead, it is halfway along this hike at 0.4 mile.
After a loop of the recreation area to savor the Santa Fe River up close, return to the boardwalk that brought you here.
At its junction, turn right. Crossing the floodplain again, this boardwalk ends at a different clearing under the oaks.
Although we saw no information about doing so at the park, the clearing includes what looks like hookups for camping
Central to the clearing is a playground and a picnic pavilion.
One last boardwalk leads over another portion of the tannic oxbow floodplain.
It ends near where you started the hike, with initial boardwalk and restrooms in sight at 0.8 mile.
If you walk beyond your starting point towards the large picnic pavilion and look to the left, you will find a chain-link fence in the forest.
It surrounds Worthington Spring. Fifty years ago, the spring’s flow was nearly a quarter million gallons a day. Today, it appears very minor.
See our photos of Chastain-Seay Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Santa Fe River Preserve
A relaxed hike in a wooded preserve, the Blue Trail at Santa Fe River Preserve crosses sandhills and shady oak hammocks to reach the bluffs of its namesake river.
Santa Fe River Preserve Gracy Trail
Peaceful pathways wind alongside a tranquil creek through shady woodlands, offering a quiet hike among the timid wildlife that call the Santa Fe River Basin home.
Mill Creek Preserve
Mill Creek Preserve encompasses 5-plus miles of hiking on nearly 1,200 acres of unexpected delights in an area well-known for its sinkholes and disappearing streams.
Cellon Oak Park
The largest live oak tree in Florida, the Cellon Oak north of Gainesville is more than 30 feet in diameter and shades a space that puts most other oaks to shame.