Saturday, October 10, 2009

Florida Springs and Rivers

Central Florida is home to some incredible rivers that emerge from crystal clear springs and my son and I recently returned from a week of exploring these special places. After a couple days on the Oklawaha River, we headed up to Gainesville for a day exploring the Santa Fe River.

Enjoying the Santa Fe River, a lazy float along a forested river corridor with several springs that contribute flow to the river.

Ginnie Springs is a popular destination known for its SCUBA diving. We had a wonderful time snorkeling, exploring the springs, and learning more about this habitat.

Watching the fish swim by at Ginnie Springs.

The springs are home to both aquatic and terrestrial life and we had a great time watching all the lizards.

Another lizard.

And a very cool spider

We also got over to Icheetucknee Springs which is the start of a great river trip.

Peering into the source of Icheetucknee Springs.

Aki and Jamie snorkeling the edge of the spring in search of fish and turtles.

Alexander Springs is in the Ocala National Forest and we were there to check out the river that emerges from the springs which is eligible for Wild and Scenic designation. The river also flows through the Billies Bay Wilderness and the Alexander Springs Roadless Area.

The Ocala National Forest was established in 1908 and is the oldest national forest east of the Mississippi. Alexander Springs is part of the St. John's Watershed.

On a beautiful section of Alexander Springs Creek passing through Billies Bay Wilderness I was reminded of the passage in A Sand County Almanac--"wilderness areas are... a means of perpetuating... the more virile and primitive skills in pioneering travel... one of these is canoe travel." It was a pretty cool way of exploring this incredible place with schools of fish, turtles that dove beneath our canoe, and alligators lurking in the vegetation along the banks.

An alligator sits quietly in the vegetation along the shore all but invisible.

Alexandar Springs Creek with clear water and a beautiful sandy bottom interspersed with aquatic vegetation provides spectacular viewing opportunities for aquatic fauna.

My son Aki at 4 years old, oblivious to the time, as he snorkeled and explored Alexander Springs all afternoon.

Our trip was a great opportunity to visit some different river landscapes with an impressive diversity of flora and fauna unlike anything we are used to seeing in the Pacific Northwest.