15 Incredible Natural Springs In Florida

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You might be surprised to learn that there are more than 600 natural springs in Florida, maybe even 700.

The reason they’re so prevalent has a lot to do with events that took place millions of years ago. When the sea levels around the Florida landmass fell, water became trapped in the porous limestone rock.

It formed what we refer to now as the Floridan Aquifer. This enormous reservoir lies underneath the entire state, and an estimated 10 million people rely on it for their water. 

But that trapped water doesn’t all stay underground. Springs form when the pressure of water is great enough to pump out water onto the surface of the rock. Some are so insignificant you’d hardly notice they’re there, while 33 of them, known as first magnitude springs, are responsible for providing millions of gallons of water every single day. 

The fossils and tools that have been recovered from these springs offer clues to how people might have used the springs in the past. In prehistoric times, our ancestors would have congregated near these reliable sources of water, and they’d have feasted on the animals that did the same – mastodons, sloths, mammoths, beavers and giant armadillos. 

Today, Florida residents rely on this water for a whole host of everyday purposes. Drinking water, showering, washing dishes and watering thirsty lawns are just some of the ways this water gets used.

They’re also an important resource for recreation and having fun, and locals and visitors alike cool off in these clear water pools whose temperatures are ideal for a refreshing dip. 

Visiting a natural spring is one of the best things to do in Florida, so here’s a roundup of some of the best and prettiest of Florida’s natural springs. 

Wakulla Springs State Park

This is not only the largest of Florida’s natural springs, but Wakulla Springs also claims to be where you’ll find the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world.

Manatees and alligators thrive in its crystal clear waters and the surrounding trees are a haven for birds. Tours in glass-bottomed boats give visitors a chance to take a closer look. 10,000 years ago or more, you’d have seen mastodons instead.

These elephant-like creatures were around three times as large as their present-day counterparts. A complete mastodon skeleton found here is displayed at the Museum of Florida History in nearby Tallahassee. 

Ponce de Leon Springs State Park

In 1513, Spaniard Juan Ponce de León led the first expedition to Florida in search of the fountain of youth. Whether he found it or not, no one knows, but the constant temperature of the water of this aquifer-fed spring is a very pleasant 68 degrees Fahrenheit even if it has no other special properties.

Here, two underground water sources converge and millions of gallons of water fill this popular local hangout. When the Florida humidity kicks in, it’s the ideal place to cool off. Most of the water is just a few feet deep, though you might also bring a snorkel if you plan to explore the rest.

Out of the water, hikers can follow Sandy Creek and Spring Run trails, while fishermen perch on the bank to try to land bluegill bass or catfish. 

Salt Springs State Park

You’ll find this second magnitude spring within Ocala National Forest, where live oaks and Spanish moss provide abundant shade.

Though it’s heavily developed in comparison to some of Florida’s other natural springs, it’s a good place to come if you’re hoping to spot wildlife. Bald eagles, ospreys, hawks, egrets and herons are just a few of the many types of birds found here.

Salt Springs is also a hangout for other species, including otters, turtles and fish. Alligators aren’t unknown, which doesn’t seem to faze those who swim in the mineral-rich water.

Those minerals, mostly sodium and magnesium, are what lend the place its name; some people claim it has health-enhancing properties, though such assertions are always hard to prove.

That said, it helps to explain the spring’s popularity and the need to reinforce the sides of the pool with concrete to prevent them being worn away. Ramps and metal handrails have also been put in place.

Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park

Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park is home to one of the longest submarine cave systems in the United States.

Since Vasco Murray first explored in 1956, follow-up surveys have mapped almost 33,000 feet of underwater passages, drawing cave divers from far and wide.

There are multiple natural springs here: Peacock Springs comprises five second-magnitude springs, referred to as Peacock Springs I, II and III, Bonnet Spring and Orange Grove Sink. 

These springs, supplying water to the Suwannee River, make this a popular spot for swimming too.

A nature trail winds through the park and opens up the possibility of glimpsing some of the park’s wildlife, which includes bobcats, deer, raccoons, squirrels, beavers and otters.

Devil’s Den

If you’re lucky enough to have travelled to Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, chances are you’ll have come across its cenotes. Devil’s Den has a lot in common with those atmospheric flooded underground caverns and is certainly one of Florida’s most unique natural springs.

The cave in which this fabulous pool sits dates back to prehistoric times and at its deepest, the water goes down an impressive 54 feet.

Because of this, you can’t just swim here, but the owners will rent snorkel gear as well as scuba equipment if you’re keen to dive in and explore. 7500 year-old human remains have been found here, as well as fossils of Florida spectacled bears, saber-toothed cats, peccaries, mastodons and even camels.

The water’s lovely, a pleasant 72 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, and on cooler days, you might see steam escaping from the vent in its roof.

That might explain its name: early settlers in the area could well have thought they were peering down a chimney into hell. Today, we know it as a landform called a karst window, formed where a subterranean river in a sinkhole can be seen from the surface.  It’s what makes Devil’s Den so special.

This extraordinary setting truly has the wow factor which, unsurprisingly, has turned it into an Instagram favorite. 

Ginnie Springs

Ginnie Springs In Florida

Ginnie Springs is a privately owned natural springs connected to the Santa Fe River. It’s a popular destination for recreation, with leisure time pursuits such as swimming, kayaking and stand up paddle boarding all possible.

They’ll rent you a rent a mask and fins if you want to snorkel here. People come to go tubing along the river; this fun activity takes about an hour to complete a full run from Beaver’s Landing to Twin Spring.

Scuba divers also flock here to explore Ginnie Springs’ caverns. There are three different dive sites: The Ginnie Ballroom, The Devil’s Spring System, and the Santa Fe River. 

The clear water, whose temperature reaches about 72 degrees Fahrenheit at the springs themselves, is ideal for viewing bass, mullet, catfish and turtles as well as underwater rock formations. It’s one of the best springs to visit from Orlando for a fun day trip.

Fanning Springs State Park

Though it’s hard to believe it now, in the 1940s there was a Ferris wheel and a water slide beside Fanning Springs.

Today, this second magnitude spring is still recognizable as a visitor attraction but the level of development is far more suitable for a natural feature of the landscape.

Alongside the main spring, there are a number of smaller ones that bubble up across the park. They contain that characteristic warm water – 72 degrees Fahrenheit to be precise – that’s so refreshing to those immersed in the heat and humidity of Florida.

In its clear water, you’ll see plenty going on under the water. You might spot fish such as mullet, freshwater flounder, bass and bowfin swimming alongside musk turtles. Manatees too have been known to show up in the colder months.

In the surrounding park, skittish white-tailed deer and busy grey squirrels are often about; birds such as hawks, woodpeckers and owls look down from above.

Rainbow Springs

Arguably the prettiest of all the first magnitude springs, the vivid blue water of Rainbow Springs has long lured visitors to this part of Florida.

Situated near Dunnellon, 80 miles or so north west of Orlando, they form the headwaters of the Rainbow River and have been a Registered Natural Landmark since 1972. It was officially developed as a tourist attraction in the 1930s.

Today, people come to this thousand acre state park to relax. You can canoe, kayak or float in a tube, laze around on a small beach as well as swim in a cordoned off section of the warm, clear water.

Three manmade waterfalls can be found here, surrounded by magnolia and oak trees. There are also well-tended ornamental gardens.

In spring, colorful azaleas and other flowers bloom on its banks, adding to its beauty. 

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

Weeki Wachee Springs State Park Florida

Until a deeper cave system was discovered in Texas in 2013, it was thought to be the deepest in the USA.

But if you want to know what sets this natural spring apart from the others, there’s a single, simple answer and it has nothing to do with scale. This tourist trap has long been famous for its mermaid shows, but it’s not without controversy.

The place was earmarked as a visitor attraction in 1947. Developer Newton Perry had already worked on Silver Springs and Wakulla Springs, but when his attention turned to Weeki Wachee the place was a tip, with rubbish everywhere.

Seeing its potential, he set about cleaning it up, removing everything from abandoned cars to broken refrigerators. Then he constructed a rudimentary underwater aquarium.

Visitors, he decided, would look through a glass wall that he’d installed to watch performers dance underwater, thanks to the help of air hoses. By the time he sold up to ABC in 1959, the place was doing a roaring trade and for a decade the place flourished. But as theme parks took over, Weeki Wachee’s mermaids struggled to maintain their audience.

After years of wrangling, the State of Florida finally got their hands on it and turned it into a state park. It is one of the best day trips from Sarasota Florida.

Silver Springs

The showstopper of the Silver Springs State Park is one of the largest natural springs in the state of Florida. This historic tourist destination is famed for its glass-bottomed boats, which were introduced in 1878.

By that time, the place had already been welcoming visitors for a couple of decades, though its popularity really started to take off after the Civil War. In 2013, it ceased being a private visitor attraction but those boats remain.

You can also explore a five mile stretch of the Silver River by kayak. As well as all those satisfied day trippers, each year, it plays host to Springsfest, a festival which promotes conservation and restoration of such environments. 

Madison Blue Spring State Park

Locals living near Madison Blue Spring State Park, like those who have a home near many other natural springs in Florida, claim that their pool is great for swimming. These particular residents have a better basis for such an assertion than most, however.

In 2015 USA Today reported that it had won the accolade of Best Swimming Hole in the country. What makes it so special? It’s a wonderfully transparent first magnitude spring, 82 feet across and 25 feet deep.

Hardwood and pine trees line the Withlacoochee River, creating shade and adding to the feeling of seclusion at this beauty spot. If you can’t bear the crowds at the beach, head here instead.

As well as swimming, you can kayak, canoe and scuba dive to your heart’s content. 

Ichetucknee Springs State Park

The spring-fed Ichetucknee River is the ideal place to cool off and relax on a hot summer’s day. No fewer than eight major springs combine, their clear waters replenishing the river.

Tubing’s popular here, while canoes and kayaks are also popular with those who are hoping to see some of this pristine landscape at a gentle pace.

This Florida waterway forms part of the Ichetucknee Springs State Park. Its 2669 acres are a haven for wildlife and you might see beavers, otters, softshell turtles and ducks as you float along.

You’re not as likely to see alligators here as in other similar locales, but it’s wise to keep a look out for snakes. Though the water snakes here are harmless, double check that what you’ve seen isn’t a similar-looking cottonmouth (also known as a water moccasin) as they’re venomous.  

Three Sisters Springs

Three Sisters Springs Florida

The Three Sisters Springs are a trio of springs located on the Crystal River, forming part of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.

Most people will tell you that the best time of year to visit Three Sisters Springs is between November and March. That’s when the manatees come, driven out of the Gulf of Mexico to find somewhere warmer to see out the winter.

The water of these natural springs stays at a steady 72 degrees Fahrenheit which is far more comfortable than the sea, so they’re regular visitors to this sanctuary.

Sometimes swimming is permitted. Visitors can also watch them drift and turn in the water from a handy boardwalk, which can be reached on a trolley tour. 

Homosassa Springs

In the early part of the 20th century, trains used to stop here, and passengers would seize the opportunity to take a dip while railway workers toiled in the sunshine to load cedar wood and fish.

More than a century later, this first magnitude spring is another vital wildlife habitat. In the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, the endangered Florida panther, black bear, red wolf and even a sexagenarian hippopotamus named Lu all have a home, though of course with all those people around they aren’t allowed to roam wild.

The water is full of fresh and saltwater fish, as well as an important habitat for alligators, manatees and other marine creatures. An underwater observatory, nicknamed “The Fish Bowl” gives visitors a unique view beneath the spring’s surface. 

Juniper Springs

The Springs, as they’re referred to by local residents, feed Juniper Creek. This oval pool is overlooked by a mill house complete with a waterwheel, which used to generate enough electricity to power the neighboring campsite.

It was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps and is now being restored. Springs of varying sizes bubble up under a subtropical forest of needle palms, sweetgums, maples and oaks which form a dense canopy.

Its abundant wildlife includes deer, raccoons, bobcats, albino grey squirrels, otters and alligators, as well as myriad birdlife. American eels migrate out to the Sargasso Sea to spawn but return here once they’re done.

As with most sizable Florida natural springs, recreation is really important here. Juniper Springs is popular with swimmers, of course, helped by a sloping site that is deep enough to jump in on one side.

It also offers an exceptional canoe run which takes three to five hours to complete, making it one of the best in the country.