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Manatee at Homosassa Springs

A Manatee at Homosassa Springs                       Photo Fiona Sunquist ©

Peninsula Florida is home to one of the world’s largest concentrations of freshwater springs. The Floridian Aquifer produces more than 300 named springs in the state, most of them located in the north and central region. Florida’s springs are artesian, with water pressure forcing the water back up through vertical holes in the limestone. Some of the holes open into caverns, through which flow underground rivers.

The crystal clear water bubbling up from the underground limestone remains all year at a constant temperature of about 68-73 degrees F. In summer with air temperatures at 90+ F the water feel cool, but during winter freezes, the 68-degree water is considerably warmer than the freezing air temperature. During these cold spells the comparative warmth of the water in the springs attracts large numbers of manatees.

The largest springs are known as first-magnitude springs, where flow rates meet or exceed 3 million gallons per hour. Florida has 27 first-magnitude springs, more than a third of the first-magnitude springs in the United States.

Many of the large springs are owned by the State of Florida and have become the focal point for State parks, Homosassa Springs, Ichneetucknee Springs, and Wakulla Springs are all State parks. Others are privately owned and have been developed into resorts; Silver Springs and Ginnie Springs are two of the best known privately operated springs.

There are also hundreds of small springs scattered throughout North Florida, some of them, like the unnamed spring in the photo below, are only a few feet across.

Unnamed Spring near the Suwannee River Photo Fiona Sunquist ©

Many of the larger springs are major tourist attractions, used extensively for fishing, snorkeling, tubing, swimming and cave diving.

Memorial Day Holiday on the Ichentucknee River

Memorial Day Holiday on the Ichentucknee River  Photo Fiona Sunquist ©

As most Floridians know, springs are a wonderful place to get some relief from the summer heat. After a few minutes immersed in their clear cool water you feel almost cold – even on a sweltering, 95° F day.

Their clear blue waters are alive with fish, turtles and plants. Manatees hang out in many springs, especially in winter. Snorklers can watch bluegill, long nose gar, shiners, sunfish, shrimp as well as musk turtles, softshell turtles and snapping turtles. You can also see saltwater species such as gray snapper, mullet, Crevalle Jack, and Sheepshead, especially in the large springs close to the sea like those around Crystal River.

So, whether it is swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, canoeing, tubing, cave diving, or just looking at fish, Florida’s springs offer something for everyone. They are unique. Once you have gazed through their cold crystal clear waters you will agree – there is nothing quite like them.

The links below will take you to some of our favorite springs.

Ichnetucknee Springs

Ginnie Springs

Silver Glen Springs

Juniper Springs

Alexander Springs

Wakulla Springs

Fanning Springs

Rainbow Springs


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Wildlife of Florida 2011
Wildlife of Florida 2011
Fiona Sunquist
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Lizards book cover
Wildlife of Florida: Lizards
Fiona Sunquist
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