The Florida peninsula has an interesting geology. At its core it is porous limestone, a mineral that dissolves fairly easily in water. Given that the Florida peninsula is surrounded by sea water you might think that any water found in underground streams would be at least brackish, but that is not the case. Florida’s limestone core is riddled with fresh water streams that bubble up to the surface and form many of the fresh water rivers that web the state. There are over 1000 of these springs and they are typically created by rain water that percolate down through layers of sand and limestone to pool in underground aquifers. Florida and the surrounding states receive some of the highest amounts of rainfall in North America, well over 60 inches (1500 mm) on average per year. All of that water helps to create one of the most productive system of springs in the world discharging more than 10 billion gallons (38 billion liters) of fresh water every day!
One of the most productive springs is Central Florida’s Silver Springs, which discharges more that 65 million gallons (246 million liters) of water daily at a constant temperature of 72F (22c). The waters of the spring and the river it forms is clear for miles making it a perfect place to view wildlife both around and underwater. In fact, back in the 1950s, Silver Springs was the number one tourist attraction in Florida, visited by hundreds of thousands people from all over the world. Camping, hiking, diving, and swimming were the main activities. Glass-bottomed boats allowed visitors to marvel at alligators, river otters, manatees and an endless variety of fish.
Today, Silver Springs still enjoys a steady stream of visitors who come to enjoy the clear green-tinted waters that gush forth from the springs. In 2013 Silver Springs was taken over by the state of Florida and the springs was merged with the adjacent Silver River State Park to form Silver Springs State Park, a 4000 acre area of natural Florida beauty. The park provides camping, boating and hiking trails, and at the spring head visitors can rent kayaks and paddle boards or take a tour of the spring and river on one of the famous glass bottomed boats.
I had a chance to visit Silver Springs recently and produced a short video of the experience. If you visit Florida I encourage you to stop at Silver Springs. It’s absolutely gorgeous.