Also called High Springs Blue Springs, Gilchrist Blue is one of my new favorite springs. My visit, unfortunately, was timed badly as I did not think to check the Alachua County Schools schedule. The school children were on spring break, so when I arrived at the spring, there was already a high school-age party going on. I suspect that my data is not amazing because there were a lot of feet on the substrate while I was trying to sample. Even so, it was a lovely trip.
This is my “oh no, what do I do now?!?!?” face. The outermost folks at the party under the pavilion are visible in the background. The music was pumping. There was dancing.
The spring begins at a large and lovely vent, then travels through eelgrass beds to the Santa Fe River. The spring is shallow with great vegetation and nice tree cover. A boardwalk accompanies the run along its length down to the Santa Fe River.
The Gilchrist Blue Spring vent. Water clarity was a bit low due to all the feet around it.
People watching jumpers into the Gilchrist Blue Spring vent. Earlier there was a lot of throwing going on. People were definitely having a good time.
The Gilchrist Blue Spring run at a rare moment when I was alone.
Vegetation in the Gilchrist Blue Spring run. A lot of feet go down this run; the open sand may be partly a function of feet dislodging plants.
The Gilchrist Blue Spring run further down. The run gets rockier downstream, but there are still large beds of plants. I included this photo to show how water quality declines with foot traffic. There was someone walking just upstream of where I took this photo.
And finally, the plume of Gilchrist Blue Spring as it enters into the Santa Fe River.
Slightly less than halfway down its short run, the main spring run is joined by another spring run with two vents.
One of the boils on the second, smaller spring run. The other boil is depicted in the photo in the heading of this entry.
Although the water quality of the spring does not look great in these photos due to the suspended material, the algal load looked relatively low and the spring looked fairly healthy. I could not find current data, but the Springs of Florida (Scott et al. 2004) reported that the nitrate load was 1.7 mg/L, which is fairly high (about 2x Volusia Blue), but the phosphate was 0.034 mg/L, which is fairly low. Current data indicate that nitrate concentrations have increased to more like 2.2 mg/L (http://www.mysuwanneeriver.org/portal/springs.htm), but that phosphate has remained low. In 1998, the discharge was about 80 cfs, which places it high in the second magnitude category, and the most recent measurements from summer 2014 indicate that it still discharges about 80 cfs (http://www.mysuwanneeriver.org/portal/springs.htm). Like the other springs in the Suwannee and Santa Fe watersheds, Gilchrist Blue is surrounded by agriculture (and dairy) and a narrow band of green.
Probably not surprisingly due to the heavy foot traffic, the total number of fish that I observed in Gilchrist Blue Spring was pretty low. At this point in this project, I have only observed fewer fish at Poe Spring, for which the discharge was so low that I had to portage into it. However, I did get to add a new fish to my list of spring fish: lined topminnow (Fundulus lineolatus). These fish are actually quite dramatic in person with red snouts and “ears” and black eye smudges like raccoons. Given that I had never observed them in a spring before, it was interesting that they were in 80% of my videos for Gilchrist Blue. I wonder what else I might have seen if I had been there on a less popular day.
Female lined topminnow. The image is a little blurry because I took it off the video.
This male lined topminnow was chasing the female in the photo above, but he was a little slow, so they do not occur in the same frame. There is a difference in the color pattern between females and males; the females have longitudinal stripes, whereas the males have vertical stripes.