Protecting Nature's Gems
December 24, 2009 6:09 AM   Subscribe

Rising up from deep within the aquifer, cool clear water flows from hundreds of springs that dot the Florida landscape. Florida springs are natural wonders that are threatened constantly.

A team of journalists, filmmakers and researchers documented how water travels through the aquifer, springs and downriver to the Gulf of Mexico.

Located in the Florida Panhandle near Tallahassee, Wakulla Spring is a colossal spring system. On average, more than 250 million gallons of water flow from Wakulla Spring every day forming a nine-mile river that reaches the Gulf of Mexico.

Florida springs database with location and maps by county.
posted by netbros (14 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Wakulla Springs is super neat, I went there in September. Saw two manatees and about a dozen crocodiles, so great. There's some neat cave diving videos online.
posted by sararah at 6:13 AM on December 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Little Salt Spring near St Petersburg is very well known in some circles because it has some of the oldest archaeological remains in the US deep within it, such as a wooden stake from 25 metres below surface, used to kill an extinct tortoise, and dating from 12000 years ago.

The spring also includes some of the world's oldest preserved human brain tissue at about 7000 years old. link, some videos.
posted by Rumple at 6:35 AM on December 24, 2009

Crystal Springs down in Pasco County used to be publically accessibly until the land owner sold out to Nestlé which sells the water under the Zephyrhills Bottled Water label. Closed up now.

That was a favorite & popular childhood swimming hole on visits to see my relatives. People in the area aren't happy about the change at all.
posted by empyrean at 7:17 AM on December 24, 2009

I was so glad to see there was more to link to after the jump! You picked such a great subject to post about, I was afraid it was gonna be a one linker!

Having grown up in Florida (and lived in Tallahassee) I've been in and around these springs for a big chunk of my life. They're almost a local secret!

I recommend a SCUBA trip to Crystal River and it's associated spring - 'crystal' clear water, a constant temp, and some minimal penetration cave diving just to give you a taste.

Great stuff!
posted by matty at 7:40 AM on December 24, 2009

Owners of Blue Grotto spring in Williston have been trying for years to sell it to a bottler, but have been repeatedly blocked by Levy County on the grounds that truck traffic on the limerock road would threaten neighbors' quality of life. The county declined to pay owners' asking price, and at a public auction four years ago, no one else stepped up either.
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:46 AM on December 24, 2009

That cave diving video represents by deepest fear. In my worst nightmares, I am lost/trapped in an underwater cave. Claustrophobia!!!!!
posted by punkfloyd at 8:02 AM on December 24, 2009

no, these aren't any fun to visit. not worth it. tourists don't bother, stay away. go to disney world...
posted by billybobtoo at 8:20 AM on December 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Great links! Florida springs do feel like a well-kept secret, along with bioluminescence blooms in July and that sickly sweet orange smell that comes from the Tropicana plants. But I've smelled kinds of freshness you dream about canoeing in the springs. That is a shame about bottlers.

I'm really curious about visiting Weeki Wachee for the mermaid show. Is it tacky? Is it kitsch? Historical? It drives me batty not knowing. I'll have to schedule a trip.
posted by inkytea at 8:37 AM on December 24, 2009

Actually, if you want Claus- [perfect for Christmas!] trophobia, there was an interview on the radio a while back with a commercial diver who had been inspecting the inside of a sewer line that runs under a river (St. Catherine's?) in Ontario. I think he said it was 500 metres long. Somewhere in the middle, one of his airlines got caught on a piece of rebar hanging down from the ceiling. Because of the current and the complete lack of visibility, he couldn't get himself unhooked, so he decided to take a deep breath, cut the airline and swim to the closest opening. But he couldn't hold his breath that long, so he tried to find a space at the top of the water. Fortunately there was an inch or so of breathable air at the top of the sewer, which allowed him to make his way to safety. It was quite a riveting interview.

Or you could think about those folks who were in a regular not underwater caves, and got stuck in some little passage and died there. (I've been lost in a cave before, and I forgot to think about this! Maybe next time.)

Happy cave diving!
posted by sneebler at 8:58 AM on December 24, 2009

I'm really curious about visiting Weeki Wachee for the mermaid show. Is it tacky? Is it kitsch? Historical? It drives me batty not knowing. I'll have to schedule a trip.

yes, yes, and yes. fortunately, the park was saved last year by the state of florida. other landmark florida attractions weren't so lucky.
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:54 AM on December 24, 2009

My impression of Weeki Wachee about 15 years ago was that the park was totally kitschy but the mermaid show was unexpectedly impressive. The performers were lithe and graceful, going through routines that required a lot of skill and training, and making them look effortless.

In a way it reminded me of a lot of the "local color" performances in Third World countries, where talented dancers, musicians, acrobats etc give it their all for a bunch of clueless tourists. There was that same sense of perfecting their art in obscurity, working harder for less recognition than a B-list Hollywood actress. A little sad, but worth seeing both for the loveliness of the underwater dance and to give the "mermaids" an appreciative audience for their efforts.

Anybody with a SCUBA rating should dive in Crystal Springs - the water is so clear you have to see it to believe it. (No wonder the Spaniards thought they'd discovered the Fountain of Youth - there's something distinctly otherwordly about this water.) There's no silt or muck, it's like floating in a glass of drinking water except there's rocks and plants and fish around. And the shallow cave has bubbles of air at the top, from divers' tanks, and the bubbles are like little globs of mercury floating up there all shiny and wobbly. Seen from underwater, air bubbles are highly reflective - who knew?

So yeah, well worth a trip and if you're a diver, plan on getting wet.
posted by Quietgal at 10:41 AM on December 24, 2009

I free-dove down to about 40 feet in Wakulla Spring. It was so cool and clean down there; really amazing. I've played around in some of the other local swimming holes, too. I sure miss those things.

The best part about the best holes is that they are completely unmarked and impossible to 'happen upon', so they are not crowded with tourists. While I love me some Wakulla Springs, it does get a bit crowded there.
posted by Pecinpah at 11:22 AM on December 24, 2009

Some of my fondest childhood memories are from diving for fossilized shark's teeth (which were abundant on the gravelly bottom) in Silver Springs, FL.
(The springs came out of a hole blocked with iron bars, and someone once told me that they were installed after a couple of divers went in and never came out.)
posted by bashos_frog at 1:42 PM on December 24, 2009 has decent maps of many of the dive sites for cavern and cave divers in Florida. I've only been in five or six systems down there, but it's completely unlike anything else on this planet.
posted by SemiSophos at 8:58 AM on December 25, 2009

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