Sunday, August 21, 2011

The State of Springs

I headed out early this Saturday to visit some of the springs closest to my home. I don't usually do much in-state adventuring during the summer months because: 1.) it's too damn hot and 2.) the light is usually crappy. But I was itching to take some pictures and I was really tired of hearing politicians talking about abandoning "cumbersome" environmental regulations and I wanted to see people enjoying the environment they are so willing to forsake.

Wekiva Springs
The closest spring to my house is Wekiva Springs State Park and I hit I-4 early enough to get there in just about 30 minutes. Wekiva Springs has been a favorite recreational spot for Central Floridians for a very long time: it was originally know as Clay Springs and the Orange County Regional History Center has great images of Victorian Floridians trying to beat the heat there. Home to one of my favorite canoe runs, I hadn't visited the springs themselves in several years.

I got to the park 15 minutes after opening and found a small group of tri-atheletes swimming in the clear blue waters. Otherwise I beat the crowds that usually cover the lawn surrounding the bowl-like swimming area with blankets, coolers and lawn chairs. It was very peaceful briefly, but the folks were streaming in rapidly to make the most of the last Saturday of summer before the public schools started.

Orange County Regional History Center

Rock Springs
Next up was Rock Springs, which I am embarrassed to say, I had never visited before. The entrance to this spring was through Orange County's Kelly Park, and I didn't beat the crowd here. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb and say it was the most crowded county park I've ever visited. But the facilities seemed to handle it well, and it was refreshing to see all sorts of folks enjoying the natural side of Florida.

Rock Springs was originally owned by planter from Georgia named Joseph Delk who moved there with a few slaves in the 1850s. After he passed away the land was sold to a lumber company and the property eventually made its way to the hands of Dr. Howard Kelly who donated the site to Orange County in 1926. On Saturday, the 248 acre park was a lively place as kids of all ages, (adults too), grabbed inner tubes and walked down to the rocky cliff where the water emerges from the aquifer. From there it's a 25 minute float to "lagoon" areas with sandy beaches. It's kind of like lazy river attraction at a water park, except mother nature provides the current. I can't wait to go back another time and try it out.

Green Springs
Soon I was soon back on the road cutting through Mt. Plymouth to get back to I-4 and cross the St. Johns River to get to Volusia County and my next two springs. Next up was the appropriately named Green Springs, a Volusia County Park, where 19th century visitors "took the waters" in hopes of healing their ailments in the sulphurous spring. Coming by steamboat to the area that was to be known as Enterprise on the north side of the River, guest stayed at the 100 room Brock Hotel, one of Florida's premier destination in the post Civil War era.

Today the hotel is long gone and the park surrounding the spring is only 3 years old. The emerald green waters of the spring don't have a boil like most typical Florida Springs, and I had little desire to "take the waters", yet it is a fascinating historical site and has beautiful, peaceful quality. The shady road along the river leading to the park is gorgeous.

Brock Hotel from the State Archives of Florida

Gemini Springs
My final stop was Gemini Springs, which is a 210 acre Volusia County Park. The spring itself is much smaller compared to the massive boil at Wekiva, but I was pleased to find it magnificently illuminated by serendipitous light rays. I also found evidence of the algae growth that I had seen in abundance further north at DeLeon and Silver Springs, and was not surprised. Both Wekiva and Rock Springs had signs created by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection with the following copy: "The clean, clear waters of Florida's springs provide a variety of recreational uses, including tubing, swimming, canoeing, and nature study. However, the health of our springs is threatened by human activities: Pollution from fertilizers, pesticides, animal wastes, septic tanks, gasoline, industrial wastes, and other contaminates pollute the water in our aquifer – our drinking water – and ultimately pollute the springs. Withdrawal of water from the aquifer for irrigation, drinking and industrial uses can reduce the flow of the spring."

Florida's first human inhabitants found sacredness in these waters. On the Saturday I visited these four Central Florida springs, they were all being enjoyed; I saw people having picnics, swimming, tubing, and exploring. I think these sacred waters are places that connect Floridians to the environment, and that the people of our state would support their preservation for future generations to enjoy.


  1. What a beautiful landscape. It's so different from the landscape here in Oregon that it seems very exotic to me.

  2. Christine- even in Florida it seems exotic and otherworldly!

  3. Fabulous fabulous post, Rick. THANK YOU. I am going to share this with everyone I know.

  4. Two more small sulfur springs worth checking out are Clifton Springs in Oviedo and Ginger Ale Springs in Longwood.

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