Your Guide to Florida's Natural Springs
From tiny trickles known to deep backwoods explorers to mammoth gushers like Wakulla, Manatee and Silver Springs, Florida's 700 natural fountains rank among the world's greatest wonders.
To dive or snorkel in Florida's springs is to experience an otherworldly sensation, a weightless flight through an underwater garden shaped by water clear as a lens, gnome-like rock formations, darting fish and billowing aquatic plants.
Many Florida springs offer swimming, snorkeling, diving, photography, camping, canoeing, tubing or kayaking in water with a constant average temperature of 72 degrees. Silver Springs and Wakulla Springs offer glass-bottom boat tours. Rainbow Springs near Dunnellon often is considered the most beautiful of the state's 33 first-magnitude springs, more than any other state and more than any nation can boast.
A few hours' visit to any of Florida's bubbling wonders can reveal a living composition of wildlife and plants. Frequently seen creatures include manatees, otters, the secretive, eel-like greater siren, loggerhead musk turtles, Florida gar and maybe an alligator – which should be given wide berth. Eel grass, the delicate, pale spider lily and stately bald cypress trees help paint the biological variety that is such a part of Florida's character.
Florida State Parks
While some springs are privately owned, Florida has 15 state parks that preserve and protect the public access to the aquifer. In Northwest Florida, Ponce de Leon State Park has a main spring that produces 14 million gallons of invigorating 68-degree water every day. A dip in this “fountain of youth” is guaranteed to at least make you feel a few years younger. Near the towns of Suwannee and Fanning, Fanning Springs State Park, a hub of the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail, is often visited by manatees which swim in all the way from the coast to take advantage of the year-round 72-degree water. Fanning Springs is also a favorite swimming hole for locals enchanted by the allure of the deep blue water. Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park, located about 16 miles from Live Oak, the cave diving capital of the world, has two main springs, a spring run, and six sinkholes, all maintained in their natural condition. With more than 28,000 feet of underwater passes, one of the longest cave systems in the continental United States, this state park is a gathering place for underwater explorers.
One of Florida’s largest, deepest and most famous springs (thanks to a National Geographic expedition a few years ago) is Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, south of Tallahassee. With swimming platforms and a dive tower, the park is a popular swimming spot. Visitors can also board at the park for a boat tour of the Wakulla River.
When you go...
Check out Florida Springs for a map of over 1,000 Florida springs; views of some springs from the air; FAQ; information about 30 Outstanding Florida Springs with special status and protections; the Florida Aquifer; and everything else you need to know about visiting these natural wonders.