why we love this spring
Emerging from below, divers equipped like astronauts hover effortlessly as they make their way to the surface. Bubbles effervescing from the sandy bottom are the only evidence of more divers below, winding their way through the dark subterranean passages of the Floridan aquifer. Looking up from the bottom of the spring, the tops of trees seem within reach as the blue sky expands through gin-clear water to create a brilliant halo of color.
You are in the company of three Devils. Little Devil, the most upstream, is a 45-foot crack that was dug out of the sand. You can free-dive 40 feet down to the bottom and experience breathtaking views. The next, Devil’s Eye, is a circular chimney. The third, Devil’s Ear, is a longer slit like Little Devil but is located in the spot where the tannic Santa Fe River mixes with the clear water of the springs. Gar, mullet, and needlefish are not uncommon sights. As they swim closer, dark flickering shadows take shape, becoming wide-eyed fish darting through the light.
Even during the winter months, deco bottles are scattered around the entrances to the springs as cave divers organize gear or follow their lines below the river. But in the summer this cohort of divers, attracted to the 30,000 + feet of mapped passageways and crystal clear water of the Devil’s system, are not alone.
In the brutal heat of a Florida summer day, the river and 8 springs of Ginnie are barely visible. People float down the 2-mile stretch of river on everything imaginable, from tubes, air mattresses, and inflatable pirate ships to kiddie pools, canoes, and kayaks. Children and adults alike squeal as their toes touch the 72-degree spring water, which feels chilly in the 100+ degrees summer temperatures. There’s laughter, singing and country music from a nearby campsite or a pickup truck loaded with tubes and college students. It’s a happy, relaxed and fun-loving place.
Make sure you show up equipped with a snorkel and mask. With one breath you can slip under the tubes and rivergoers, and join the plentiful sunfish. If you’re lucky, you’ll see little hogchoker soles hiding in the sand just outside the Ginnie cavern – and if you’re scuba certified, make sure to check out the ballroom where you’ll often find eels, catfish, and crayfish.
This is real Florida at it’s best. Forget the long, hot lines at Disney and the paved-over sections of the state. Lose yourself in the pure joy of a splash in the springs, the wonder of an underwater cavern, or a peaceful nap under a Cypress tree whose ancient stories rustle in the wind.
Ginnie Springs is a privately-owned park and requires an entrance fee. They rent tubes and canoes, and offer a full-service dive operation – including rental gear and lessons. Divers and swimmers alike enjoy hot showers and bathrooms as well as a Deli and country store. Ginnie is about 6.5 miles northwest of High Springs off County Road 340. For directions and general park information, visit Ginnie Springs Outdoors.