Artesian springs are just one of the many unique features of Florida's natural environment. Thousands of people visit parks created to protect and manage these springs each year where they can canoe, swim, snorkel and tube the runs and rivers created by the crystal clear outflow of fresh water. Wildlife viewing around springs include the Florida manatee, freshwater fish, alligators, otters and many other species of birds and animals.
Florida's landscape is dotted with more than 250 known artesian springs, where hydrostatic pressure forces underground water in the aquifer up through cracks and fissures in the nonporous bedrock. Some springs are little more than damp areas in the ground while others put forth millions of gallons of water per day. The largest springs are classified as first magnitude and of the 75 known springs of this size in the United States, 33 of them are located in Florida and five of those are in Central Florida:
- Blue Spring - Volusia County
- Alexander Spring - Lake County
- Silver - Marion County
- Silver Glen - Marion County
- Rainbow - Marion County
The manatee's survival has depended upon Florida's artesian springs for hundreds of years as a warm sanctuary when winter's air temperatures chill the rivers and streams. From around November through March the manatees can be viewed from land when they migrate into Blue Spring State Park in Orange City on brisk winter nights.
For many years, springs have attracted people who believed their waters held healing properties. Green Spring on Lake Monroe is considered to be the site of one of Florida's first health spas. In 1841, when Cornelius Taylor built a hotel near the area where the run emptied into the lake people came to soak in the spring water believing it had the ability to heal them.
Certainly, on a sweltering summer afternoon a dip in the cool spring water is a refreshing and revitalizing. Swimming, snorkel and tubing are favorite activities at parks where springs are found. However, entering the spring water isn't allowed at all springs due to water quality or concern for the environment.
Florida springs are a natural resource worth protecting. Interested in visiting a spring? For more information visit the Florida Department of Environmental Protection website.