Ask a hydrologist and he’ll tell you Ichetucknee’s story begins long before its emergence from its namesake spring in a namesake park. He’ll tell you about its springshed–the underground equivallent of those above-ground watersheds so nicely diagramed in our grade-school texts that show rain water running down hills and valleys into rivers. If he’s feeling brave, he might begin at the beginning, describing a time when Florida was under a shallow sea and animal remains settled on the bottom. This accumulated and compacted for millins of years to form a layer of limestone 1,000 – 2,000 feet thick in places. He’ll tell you about the vast network of hollow channels that formed in this rock and now carry underground streams and reservoirs of water called the Floridan Aquifer. It is water from this aquifer that makes up the bulk of water gushing from the springs of Ichetucknee.
Shhh! don’t tell this beaver we can see him behind that blade of grass.
River otters are commonly seen in all sections of the river. Equally common, though less commonly seen, are beavers. After being trapped out of Florida in the 19th and early 20th centuries, beavers have re-expanded their range. The southern extent of their range is now the Suwannee and Santa Fe River basins (of which Ichetucknee is a part). The fact that they were here before the trappers arrived is confirmed in the river’s name. ”Ichetucknee” is a Seminole name meaning, “place of the beavers.”