Florida is home to over 700 natural springs which combine to produce more than 8 billion gallons of freshwater every day. That means Florida produces a gallon of water for every person on Earth every single day. That’s impressive. There are more natural springs in Florida than almost anywhere else on the planet. 33 of these springs are considered First Magnitude Springs, meaning they produce at least 64 million gallons of water a day. That is simply awesome.
Visiting some of the bigger springs in Florida has been one of the absolute highlights of my visit to the state. The water is often clear and beautiful and the springs are usually surrounded by lush vegetation and an abundance of wildlife. In particular, several of these springs provide a winter home for the amazing West Indian Manatee who would otherwise freeze to death in the cold ocean waters. The constant temperatures of the springs allow the manatee to stay warm enough to make it through the winter and then head back out to sea for the summertime.
During my six weeks in Florida, I only scratched the surface of all of the wonderful springs which the state has to offer, but I thought I would share some of my favorites with you here.
Alexander Springs Recreation Area in Ocala National Forest was the first spring I visited in Florida. With access to the Florida Trail and some wonderful boardwalks within the park itself, this was a great park to do some hiking in. The springs themselves were beautiful, and I loved going for a kayak ride down the river. It was much quieter than several of the other springs I visited, but certainly still a beautiful place.
Blue Springs was where I first saw the manatee, and it was one of the best places I have seen them yet. The water was so clear, and with a polarized lens I could really take some good photos of these beautiful mammals. Blue Springs also offers canoe and kayak rentals, a nice hike to the source of the spring, some historic buildings to tour and a boat ride. I didn’t do any of these though, I just enjoyed hanging out with the manatee all day.
Weeki Wachee Springs
Weeki Wachee Springs was an amazing place to visit. Kayaking down the river on a clear day was truly a magical experience. The water was unbelievably clear and on a sunny day I could see thousands of fish swimming underneath my kayak. The mullet were jumping two to three feet out of the water (to clean their gills), and I even spotted a few manatee near the take-out point. I would definitely recommend this spring as it was one of my favorites in the state.
The sheer size of the headwaters at Rainbow Springs was something to see. I loved going for a swim there and the water was unbelievably clear and beautiful. This area used to be an amusement park back in the day, so the grounds showed traces of this history, with man-made waterfalls and beautiful flowers throughout. I really enjoyed my time at Rainbow Springs and wish I could have stayed there longer.
Because I visited Ichetucknee Springs on an overcast day, it is hard to compare it to the other springs I saw in their full splendor. That doesn’t mean I enjoyed it any less though. I had a great kayak trip down the river, spotting beautiful birds, fish and even a few manatee along the way.
I also visited Wakulla Springs on a mostly cloudy day, but it was yet another amazing Florida spring. There are two highlights to a visit to Wakulla Springs: the historic lodge and the boat tour. The lodge is really cool, with some wonderful history behind it, while the boat tour, at only $8, may be the best bargain in the state. The boat tour took us down river where we saw hundreds of birds and dozens of alligators, including quite a few babies. We even saw some manatee on the trip, Our guide and captain was one of the park rangers, and he was absolutely wonderful at pointing out what we were seeing and explaining each’s role in the ecosystem of the park. Wakulla Springs is just south of Tallahassee and well worth the detour if you are in the area.
As you can see, I’ve really enjoyed visiting some of the natural springs of Florida. They are a far cry from Disney or Miami Beach and much more my style. This is what I was looking for when I came to Florida, and I’m so glad I was able to find it. Whatever you come to Florida to do, there is probably a state park or natural area not far away. Be sure you make some time to visit one, you won’t be sorry you did!