|Coordinates:||30.2354 N 84.3028 W|
|No:||237 (list of all attractions)|
|Category:||Springs, Fossil finds|
|Values:||Geology, Archaeology, Visual|
|Address:||North America, United States, Florida, Wakulla County, 12 km drive north-east from Crawfordwille|
|Type:||artesian spring, single vent|
|Average discharge:||11,000 l/s|
Wakulla Spring is one of the largest springs worldwide and it is also a part of one of the largest underwater cave systems in the world.
Enough water for millions
The spring has one vent which emits incredible amounts of water.
Highest measured outflow took place in April 11 1973, when every second were poured 54,226 l of lucid water. This is the biggest measured flow from a spring in United States, but not in the world, as often claimed. Vaucluse Springs in France are discharging more than 200,000 l/s after heavy rains.
Lowest known discharge from Wakulla Springs was 708 l/s in June 1931. Average flow of Wakulla Spring, as calculated over 67 years long period, is 11,000 l/s.
Such amount of water would be sufficient for 8 million people (if we take average consumption on Earth).
One of the entrances in a giant cave
Total depth of spring is 56 m. Water of Wakulla Spring is very lucid and one can see up to 38 m depth and may be – even deeper, but the further view is concealed behind a limestone ledge.
Not always the water is that lucid. After heavy rains the water becomes darker – there is brought much tannine from soil into the spring. Water quality in the spring unfortunately is declining due to increasing human impact in the aquifer.
Water of the spring is coming from extensive network of underwater tunnels.
First official diving exploration started here in November 1955, when 355 m long passages were explored. During intense and very complex research at the end of 2007 there was reached the current known length of the passages of this cave system – Wakulla – Leon Sinks cave system. This length is 51,483 m, thus making it the longest underwater cave in United States. Cave has multiple entrances.
Although Wakulla Spring is not far from Tallahassee and other urban centres, the rapid development of Florida thus far has spared the forest around the spring. Now this area is protected by Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park – 26 km² large sanctuary. This park is named after Edward Ball – DuPont manager, former owner of these lands who managed to keep away the tourist flow from springs and preserve it in its pristine condition (in spite of "greens" willing public access to it).
Around the spring grow pristine pine forests, bald cypress wetlands and hardwood hammock with multiple indigenous species of plants and animals. Rather often in the springs are seen manatees.
Invaluable are several kilometres of pristine nature around the spring run – Wakulla River. This 60 – 70 m wide, crystal clear river starts with these springs (Sally Ward Spring is a bit upwards and there is smaller stream from there to Wakulla Spring). After 14 km Wakulla River joins with St. Mark’s River and then after 8 km discharges in the Gulf of Mexico.
The subtropical wilderness has been excellent setting for movies, where action takes place in jungle. Several early Tarzan movies, starring Johny Weissmuller, have been cast here.
Paleontological and archaeological discoveries
In 1850 scientist Sarah Smith was the first to discover fossils of extinct animal in the spring – these were bones of mastodon. Since then here have been discovered fossils of 9 extinct mammals, mostly found deeper in the cave, up to 360 m from the entrance. Here have been found bones of:
- American mastodon (Mammut americanum)
- ancient bison (Bison antiquus)
- Columbian mammoth (Mammutus columbi)
- dugong Metaxytherium crataegense
- giant ground sloth (Eremotherium laurillardi)
- saber-toothed tiger (Smilodon populator)
- Scott’s horse (Equus scotti)
- short-faced bear (Arctodus simus)
- western camel (Camelops hesternus)
Spring contains also prehistoric man made artefacts – ivory pins, projectile points, flint scrapers. Already 12,000 years ago here camped Paleoindians.
See Wakulla Spring on the map of Florida!
- Kincaid T.R. Hydrogeology of Wakulla Cave, Floridan Aquifer, north Florida. From Morphologic and Fractal Characterization of Saturated Karstic Caves, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Wyoming. Acessed on July 18, 2011
- Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park Unit Management Plan, December 14, 2007.