Gainesville is the gateway to the largest constellation of freshwater springs in the world.
Gainesville and Alachua County are located in the heart of the magnificently beautiful Florida Springs Region, home of the largest constellation of freshwater springs on the planet where approximately 1000 springs were identified at last count.
Immortalized by association with the legend of Ponce de Leon’s search for the Fountain of Youth, these freshwater marvels have cast their unique spell on people for hundreds of years. Florida’s springs were important gathering places for Native Americans long before the arrival of European settlers. Both the Native Americans and those later settlers believed the springs had healing powers, so it was natural that the springs—White Springs, Suwannee Springs, and Silver Springs among them—became Florida’s first tourist attractions. In the 1800s, people were inspired to take long journeys by train to bathe in the springs and to drink their crystalline waters.
Today, Florida’s springs are the economic engines of many of our rural areas and the favorite recreational and cooling-off spots for local residents. Our springs continue to attract visitors from all over the world, including cave divers who relish their time spent in the underwater chambers that are the sources of the springs.
Springs such as Florida’s exist in only a few places throughout the world, places that are characterized by what is called karst topography—porous limestone that is eroded by rainwater to form huge underground rivers and caverns from which water in the underground aquifer can escape to form a spring. Springs are vulnerable to damage by the activities of humans; they are harmed when too much water is pumped from underground and when too many nitrates from fertilizers and human and animal wastes enter the water from aboveground.
With some of the top springs and water scientists in the world working here in our area—and some of the country’s top environmental and water writers here as well—we are learning more and more every day about how to keep our springs healthy. We think Gainesville is the wellspring that will inspire Florida to become an international model of wise water use!
We’re cutting down on the amount of water we use, embracing a blue revolution—a new water ethic that says it’s okay to avoid watering your lawn. We’re replacing turf grass with native plants and other landscape features that use less water. We’re fertilizing less, or smarter, or not at all. We’re looking toward rainwater catchment systems for help with watering our vegetable gardens. We’re installing solar power systems in our homes to help cut down on the water that’s needed for public power supply.
And because we want our children and grandchildren to love the springs as we do, we’re standing up and being counted as proud citizen advocates for local, state and national water policies that preserve and protect our magnificent water wonders, Florida’s freshwater springs.
Diving draws international visitors.
People come from all over the world to dive in our freshwater springs and in the underwater caves beneath them. Many advances in underwater photography were made here, and many motion pictures and television programs have been filmed in our springs. Below are lists of some of our most popular springs for open water diving and cave diving.
Popular springs for open water diving: Devil’s Den and Blue Grotto, Williston; Troy Spring State Park; Ginnie Spring and Devil’s Eye/Devil’s Ear Springs; Manatee Springs State Park; Orange Grove Sink at Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park; Hart Springs.
Popular springs for cave diving: Ginnie Spring and Devil’s Eye/Devil’s Ear Springs; Manatee Springs State Park; Peacock I and Orange Grove Sink at Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park; Madison Blue Spring; Lafayette Blue Springs State Park; Little River Spring; Hart Springs.