Ginnie Springs, Gilchrist County, February 2017

Ginnie Springs is an amazing place and very different from the other springs of Florida.  Of course, they each have their own “personality”, so to speak, but Ginnie Springs is really, really different.


Ginnie Springs is due west of High Springs in an agricultural landscape.  The park, which is privately owned and run for divers to a large degree, consists of five springs on the Santa Fe River. There are more springs along the Santa Fe, but only the five in the park.


Each spring has a small headspring (or in the case of Devil’s Spring, two vents) with a really, really short run, on the order of tens of meters.  Like Green Spring in Volusia County, the headsprings are so small that they do not show up on Google Earth due to the tree cover.  They are on the southwest side of the river.



I was at Ginnie Springs in the winter and during the week.  There was literally almost no one there.  With the exception of underwater divers at Devil’s Spring, there was no one in the water with me and I saw few people in the park.  I gather that the picture is very different during warmer seasons and on the weekend.  However, for me, visiting Ginnie Springs was like a religious experience.  The woman at the office/store suggested that I work my way upstream, so I put into the Santa Fe off the bank, sliding over some cypress roots and paddled over to the first spring (Deer Spring).


My entry point.

My first thought as I entered the water was that the Santa Fe looks totally different than the St. Johns.  I did not expect them to be the same, but the difference still was dramatic.  I think that part of the difference might be the openness of the forest; the St. Johns has so much understory vegetation, like palmettos, that the forest looks much more dense and dark on its banks.

Santa Fe River

The bank of the Santa Fe.

The spring runs are so short that for each of the springs except Dogwood, you can see the headspring as soon as you reach its mouth.  Dogwood is not much longer, but the run makes an almost 90 degree curve.  Most of the day was overcast, so the colors are muted in many of the photos and, alas, do not do the place justice.


Looking up at Deer Spring from its mouth to the river.  The stairs to enter the headspring are visible on the left side of the water.

The transition between river to spring below water looks much more dramatic than above water.

The Santa Fe river water is tannic (brown), but it is displaced by the clear spring water pouring out, which looks blue.  I have not changed colors on the film, although the camera does adjust the colors a little.  However, it really looks like this.

This video shows a view of the Deer Spring vent.  A couple of sunfish come out of the vent.  Although overall there were relatively few fish in the any of the springs, the video of this spring picked up the most fish, a bunch of bluefin killifish (Lucania goodei), some mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki), various sunfish (Lepomis sp.), bass (Micropterus salmoides), and some mullet (Mugil cephalus).

After spending a lovely half an hour or so with Deer Spring, I drifted down its run, out into the Santa Fe again, and paddled upstream to Twin Spring.


Although I preferred the view from the water, this photo of Twin Spring nicely shows the vent in the center of the spring.

This vent for Twin Spring is like a crack in the earth.

It was so incredibly peaceful there.  Amazingly, I didn’t even see that many fish; it was just geological formations and me.

Dogwood Spring curved from its mouth to its boil, so getting to the boil was like a little surprise.  It was also the most pastoral, to me, of the five springs.

dogwood spring2

The “run” of Dogwood Spring.  The bottom is visible because it’s so shallow.

The boil of Dogwood Spring was like a crack in a swimming pool, the spring run was so flat and uniform.  Notice the sunfish in the vent; most of the vents had a couple of sunfish in them, it seemed.

Sadly leaving Dogwood (so peaceful!), I went back out in to the river and paddled a bit farther up to Ginnie Spring, the spring for which the system is named.

Ginnie spring boil2

The spring vent was much larger for Ginnie Spring; the whole light blue area in the photo is the vent.  Although it’s not obvious from this photo, this spring is the most developed for divers.  To the left, out of the field of view, there were bigger staircases than in the other springs and gear for recreating.

With the big expanse of white sand in Ginnie Spring boil, it kind of reminds me of flying over a snowy mountainous landscape–except for the sunfish and the ripples, of course.  Even if it was a bit more developed, it was really lovely, particularly when I was alone!

I drifted back out of Ginnie for my last paddle up the Santa Fe.  I had seen beautiful photos of Devil’s Eye, so I was looking forward to it.

devil's spring2

The light was starting to get low as I entered the Devil’s Spring system.  This photo is looking up at the main vent.

I took a slow pass around the main vent to get a good view.

Devil's eye

This photo is of the Devil’s Eye from above; it is right near the mouth of the spring run.

And a video of the vent..

Apparently, one of the divers passed by while the camera was on the tripod and I didn’t even see him.

I don’t know what the cave system looks like, but it must go laterally somewhat because bubbles were coming up a short distance from the vent.

devil's eye bubbles from divers

Bubbles rising from the cave below, presumably.  The vent is off the lower left corner out of the photo.

And then, sadly, I was done at Ginnie Spring.  I’m so glad that I was able to experience it on a day when there was almost no one there.

8 thoughts on “Ginnie Springs, Gilchrist County, February 2017

  1. Very interesting and beautiful. What I have learned about the US in the last 4 years!

    I should have to think of coming to Florida. after all it is just a question of crossing the Atlantic.


  2. My friend told me to read your blog on Ginnie Springs. I have never been there though I have canoed the entire length of the Suwanee River over several summers. I have also walked across the land bridge on the Santa Fe. Thanks for encouraging the exploration of Florida’s natural wonders.
    Suze Peace, Deland


  3. Nice pics; I love that place. But the last time I was there, it was a holiday weekend, and horribly crowded. The dives were still great, though. Sounds like you had a totally different, and enjoyable experience.


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