My all-time favorite first magnitude spring in Florida is Salt Springs. Once privately owned, the state of Florida now claims ownership and it's a public recreation area and is part of the Ocala National Forest with access for everyone. Thanks goodness for our state and federal governments. If not for the Federal government, private concerns would either destroy or lock up all of the great places in our nation. If you love corporations and hate the government, fuck you on toast. You Tea Party, Republican Party, Libertarian Party, and Objectivist jerks can all kiss my happy white ass.
Although it's far from the ocean, the fresh water upwelling from deep in the earth passes through some highly mineralized strata and emerges in a relatively salty state. It's not as salty as sea water, but it's definitely not fresh water as we generally define it.
Because of the mineral content, plants and animals that one does not associate with fresh water are present in the spring and its run. Sea weeds fill the basin and are home to things like blue crab and ocean-going mullet. Just swimming around and looking at creatures like crabs, mullet, and pipefish is a wondrous thing in this place where one does not expect to see them.
The day we went the weather was pretty much picture-perfect. The air was warm, the water was beautiful, and the skies were bright and sunny. After a normal amount of time in the springs, Carole and Andy were ready to head out. But I couldn't be budged. I have never before, nor since, had so much fun swimming and snorkeling in a spring. I've floated in some amazing first magnitude springs, but this one was unique. I just couldn't get enough of it.
Finally, though, as the day was wearing on, I had to admit that we needed to head back to our campsite. Reluctantly I climbed out, dried off, and we pointed the truck back to the Juniper Springs Recreation Area where we were camped.
As spring runs go, this is a short one. It flows almost directly into the river and then down toward Lake George.
A school of mullet finds salty refuge in the spring. They were everywhere, swimming peacefully with the other fishes, and with me.
Good old Bob swimming directly over the main spring vent. Below me were all sorts of saltwater plants and animals. The blue crabs in here were absolutely enormous (no fishing or crabbing allowed).
Roughly about the time Carole was expecting me to get out of the spring and think about heading back to our travel trailer. Fuck that.
Well, we're headed down toward the western panhandle of Florida. We're planning to explore some new springs, rivers, and parks. I'll try to post as I can.