Wes Skiles Peacock Springs, Suwannee County, April 2017

Peacock Springs was renamed in honor of the famous explorer and cave diver, Wes Skiles.  I understood the reason for the name change intellectually before visiting the spring, but it became much clearer why they chose that particular spring to rename after I visited it.  Some of the springs at the park are connected above ground (Peacock I, II, and III), and periodically these three springs are connected through the Peacock Slough to the Suwannee River.  On the day that I visited the park, that connection had dwindled to a trickle (it is a seasonal connection).  However, there are other sinks (holes that represent breaks in the limestone) that lead down to the massive cave system that underlies the park that is extremely popular with cave divers.  In fact, the park does not allow surface divers or swimmers.  I took all of my video from the bank.  To give the park visitors perspective, the trail that starts (or ends?) at Peacock I indicates, with signs, what part of the cave system is under your feet where you stand as you walk the trail.  Very cool.

park map closeup

Close up of the park map from the park’s unit management plan (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/lands/ARC/Meetings/2013/DEC/ITEM5_Peacock_Springs.pdf).  The pink lines represent the underground cave system with the above ground trail overlaid (the yellow dotted line).

peacock-down-the-length-color.jpg

The Peacock spring run.  The photo was taken from just above Peacock I; the run narrows after this first spring, widens again at Peacock II and III, and narrows again after these springs.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0675.

Peacock I (with stairs) looking down toward Peacock II and III.

Peacock III

The Peacock II vent.

drying run color

The mostly dry run below Peacock III.

cave sign

This sign shows the cave system and a photo of one of the caves under the trail.

pothole2

“The Pothole” described in the sign above.  This tiny watery hole is one of the sinks that are linked to the cave system below.

pothole

A close up of “The Pothole”.

There are many sinks on the property; The Pothole was just one of the closest to the spring.  At the entrance of the park, a much larger sink, Orange Grove, provides divers with another access point to the cave system (The Pothole is too small!).

limestone wall

The limestone wall of the Orange Grove sink.  Looking at the wall gives a better picture of the porous stone that breaks to form a sink.

diver hole in the duckweed

The Orange Grove sink was covered in duckweed; the surface only cleared when divers were coming up and their bubbles pushed the duckweed to the side.

The park sits in a pocket of managed pine forest, which makes the drive into the park especially lovely.  However, the larger landscape matrix incorporates a lot of agriculture and the system is not without nutrient enrichment.  I have not yet found concrete numbers, but the unit management plan for the park indicated that nutrient enrichment was a problem http://www.dep.state.fl.us/parks/planning/parkplans/PeacockSpringsStatePark.pdf).  I suspect the extensive duckweed coverage is a result of nutrient enrichment.

peacock aerial

Google Earth image of the landscape around Peacock Springs.

Despite the periodic connections to the Suwannee River, I measured only slightly lower species richness (total number of species) and densities of fish and comparable diversity (a measure of how evenly fish are distributed among the species) than for some of the springs that are more persistently connected to the river.  Most of these fish were small, like mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki) and bluefin killifish (Lucania parva), but there also were a lot of sunfish (Lepomis sp.) and some quite nice largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides).  Not surprisingly, some of the most mobile species, like mullet (Mugil cephalus), were absent from the spring.

largemouth

Largemouth bass on the edge of Peacock II.

bluefin and shiners

A bluefin killifish (with the orange tail) in the foreground with large golden shiners (Notemigonus crysoleucas), bass, and sunfish in the background.

Interestingly, I also observed fish in three of the sinks on the property.  There is literally no overland connection between these sinks and the spring, so it would appear that these fish would have to travel through the cave system to get to them?

first sink

Mosquitofish in the small sink closest to Peacock I.  I was not surprised that the fish in this sink were all mosquitofish–the most vagile and tolerant fish in Florida.

pothole underwater

A largemouth bass in “The Pothole” sink.  I was surprised when I saw this fish and other fairly large species (sunfish, Lepomis sp., and a chubsucker, Erimyzon sucetta) in this conduit to the cave system.

sunfish and divers in orange grove

A view of sunfish and divers, peeking over the stair, in Orange Grove sink.  The sunfish got a lot more active when the bubbles started coming up from the divers.  I liked the contrast of the blue where the divers’ bubbles removed the duckweed and the green where the duckweed coverage was intact.  The divers are visible in the background.

I used the color photos above because the color gives a better sense of place.  However, I liked the way some of the black and white photos turned out.  In the spots where the water was covered in duckweed, I think that the duckweed was reminiscent of snow.

peacock BW

Peacock Spring run looking down from Peacock I.

cypress stump bw

Peacock Spring run looking back up towards Peacock I.  The stairs are just barely visible in the background.

peacock run bw

Peacock Spring run.

cypress roots and duckweed

Cypress knees in duckweed, just below Peacock III.

duckweed and riparian forest

Riparian forest and duckweed on the pool just below Peacock III.

 

2 thoughts on “Wes Skiles Peacock Springs, Suwannee County, April 2017

  1. I remember diving in Orange Grove sink, probably ~20 yrs ago, and coming up covered in duckweed. So, not a new phenomenon there.

    Like

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