Blue Spring is a first magnitude spring on the St. Johns River. Gold Rush prospector turned orange-grower Louis Thursby purchased Blue Spring in 1856. Before the railroad rolled through in the 1880s, Thursbys Blue Spring Landing was a hotbed of steamboat activity, shipping tourists and goods to Jacksonville and beyond. Mrs. Thursby was Orange City's first postmistress. In 1971, 'The Forgotten Mermaids' episode of the Underwater World of Jacques Cousteau was filmed here. The documentary brought attention to the manatee and the importance of Blue Spring as a winter refuge, greatly influencing the state's decision to purchase the land.
In the late 1960s people could drive their cars right up to the bank of the spring. Unrestrained litter and garbage took away from the beauty and health of the area. When the State of Florida purchased the land, the Florida Park Service began taking steps to clean the spring and make it the healthy and enjoyable resource it is today.
Park staff built boardwalks to keep foot traffic off the ground near the spring. These walkways help preserve the vegetation and prevent erosion.
The original fishing pier was rebuilt twice before it was destroyed by a barge and then replaced by a concrete floating pier.
Joe Kenner, a beloved interpreter and biologist with the Florida Park Service, developed programs for the public throughout Florida's state park system. He initiated the Florida scrub jay habitat restoration program at Blue Spring. This program is now being duplicated and refined by other parks.
The Thursby family settled near Blue Spring in 1856. In 1872, Louis Thursby built a two-story house to replace the clapboard and palmetto thatch house the family had used since they arrived in the area. Hundreds of years before the Thursbys settled here, the land was home to some of Florida¿s native people. In 1766, colonial botanist John Bartram also visited the area.