Otter Springs, Gilchrist County, March 2017

Like Hart Springs, Otter Springs is upstream from Fanning and Manatee Springs (it’s actually between Hart and Fanning) on the Suwannee River.  It has a narrow, shallow, sandy run that is really quite lovely with a canopy of trees meeting overhead for most of its length.

tree hallway3

The tree hallway of Otter Springs run.

There are two areas that look like they might contain spring vents, but if so, only one was flowing.


The Otter Spring boil with a lot of algae.

Near the headspring, there also were some areas that looked like seeps.


A small seep right near the boil; the campground is in the background.

Although both Hart and Otter Springs are narrow and sandy, Otter Springs has a much lower discharge (10 cfs); it is actually the lowest discharge of any spring that I have visited to date.  It was exceptionally shallow and supported a lot of algae, so my camera kept getting fouled or knocked sideways.  In terms of water chemistry, Otter Springs is quite similar to Hart (1.1 mg/L of nitrate and 0.07 mg/L of phosphate); both springs have fairly high nutrient concentrations, although not as high as Fanning or Manatee.

Due to the abundant algae, Otter Spring wasn’t super photogenic below water.  It’s beauty was above water.


The run just downstream from the headspring.

tree hallway2

tree hallway4

tree hallway to the river


Views of Otter Spring run.  The last two photos show the confluence of the run with the Suwannee River.

Otter Spring also was good for birds; I saw at least ten species of birds, including many, many egrets (Ardea alba) and ibises (Eudocimus albus).  The egrets and ibises provided great contrast to the brown and green of the vegetation.


An egret fishing in the shallow water of Otter Spring.


A limpkin (Aramus guarauna) with a snail in its mouth.

I thought that this tree looked interesting; it had so many epiphytes that it looked fuzzy.

fuzzy tree

Tree with epiphytes.

Otter Spring had a lot of small fish (shiners, mosquitofish, etc.), but relatively few sunfish and even fewer large fish.  It really was quite shallow.  I did, however, see a golden topminnow (Fundulus chrysotus), which is one of my favorite of Florida’s small fish.


Golden topminnows.  They don’t look like much in the light of this video, but when the light hits them right, there are gold flecks that flash down their sides.  And when they’re breeding, the flecks turn red, as does the tail.  I guess that you have to be able to appreciate the small things in life to appreciate them.


More golden topminnows.  Photos by Missy Gibbs and

I also got some nice footage of golden shiners (Notemigonus crysoleucas).  I guess that it was gold day.


Golden shiners in a landscape of algae.

Otter Spring also boasted the biggest pregnant mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki) that I’ve seen in a long time.

fat mosquitofish

A million mosquitofish swimming through the field of view; the fish in the top center is a very pregnant female.  The bubbles all over the algae represent supersaturation; the algae is photosynthesizing faster than the water can absorb the oxygen.  This situation happens when algae is really abundant (often under conditions of high nutrients).





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