Homosassa Springs Group

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Homosassa Springs
Homosassa Springs. / Eric Huang, / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
The beautiful Homosassa Springs draw a wealth of visitors – and there is a lot to see here! But the story of these springs is even more complex and one of the aspects here is constant efforts to find an equilibrium between the wish of humans to visit and live in this part of Florida and the wish to preserve the pristine nature.

History

People have lived near these springs for at least 12,000 years. The name of the springs “Homosassa” is a Creek Indian term. Similar to Chassahowitzka Springs further south, this name is linked to botany and means “place of many pepper plants”.

The first landowner of European descent here was David Levy Yulee in 1846. He established here a plantation and sugar mill, owned more than 150 slaves. Ruins of this mill still can be seen in Homosassa. Yulee supplied sugar to Confederates until the sugar mill was attacked and burned by Union troops in 1864.

Remains of Yulee Sugar Mill in Homosassa
Remains of Yulee Sugar Mill in Homosassa. /
Ebyabe, / CC BY-SA 3.0

In 1885 – 1887 here was built a railroad which existed until 1941. With the trains arrived visitors who bathed in the unbelievably clear water, while the trains were loaded.

Step by step tourist facilities developed. As the water in the headspring is full of fish, in the 1940ies there was installed the first Underwater Observatory. Around the springs was made a nice park with a collection of local animals – and, initially, also quite a lot of foreign ones as well. Now only one “foreigner” – a hippopotamus Lu – lives in his basin but it would be wrong to call him a foreigner. He is here longer than most of the others – in January 2019 he became 59 years old and most of his life Lu has lived here.

Modern mass tourism started to develop around Homosassa Springs in 1960ies, more and more houses were built around it. Soon after started the implementation of nature conservation activities which continue up to this day.

Currently, the area is managed by the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. The name of the park honors Ellie Schiller – a local philanthropist and biologist who generously supported nature conservation and cultural activities in this part of Florida.

Description of Homosassa Springs

Springs serve as a start of Homosassa River. As it is usual in the case of the giant Florida springs, Homosassa River is fairly short – after some 12.5 kilometers, it reaches Bay of Mexico. Soon after Homosassa Springs, the river receives a tributary from the north – Halls River, which also is fed by springs.

Homosassa Springs Group is rather dense, within a distance of some 600 meters. It consists of the following springs (from the north to the south):

  • Bear Spring
  • Banana Spring
  • Alligator Spring
  • Homosassa Spring 1, 2, 3 – the headspring with its three vents
  • Blue Hole Spring
  • unnamed spring
  • unnamed spring
  • Abdoney Spring
  • Belcher Spring
  • Pumphouse Springs
  • Trotter Main Spring
  • Trotter 1 Spring
  • McClain Spring
Homosassa Springs
Homosassa Springs. /
Paul Clark, / CC BY 2.0

By far the most impressive is the headspring: Homosassa Spring 1, 2, 3. The headspring is formed by three powerful vents. Water content – salinity and other chemical compounds – are different in each of these vents. Depth of the headspring reaches the impressive 20 meters, here is exposed limestone. The spring pool is 58 by 87 meters large. A large boil is seen on the surface.

Fish and manatees

Visitors can admire the aquatic life from the Underwater Observatory – and there are lots to see! In the springs have been observed at least 47 species of fish – both marine and freshwater fishes. The biggest draw here though is manatees.

Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris) need water which is warmer than 17 °C. Homosassa Springs has a temperature of 23.4 °C – thus during the colder winter months animals can live here.

The number of manatees in the headwaters of the Homosassa River is increasing. In February 2016 there were counted 217 manatees. Some decades ago only a handful of these animals came here. Even on Google Earth image can be counted some 40 manatees.

Encounter with a manatee in Homosassa River
Encounter with a manatee in Homosassa River. /
SNORKELINGDIVES.COM, / CC BY 2.0

In Homosassa Park are treated and rehabilitated the injured and ill manatees. Three captive manatees live in the springs and their passage is closed by a metal fence under a pedestrian bridge. In winter the fencing is opened to allow for other manatees to come.

Environmental protection

The geology in this area is very demanding from the point of environmental protection. The carbonate rocks of the Upper Floridan aquifer are very permeable: if pollutants are released here, pollution goes far and is not much filtered by the rocks. Thus the state institutions here are serious about the potential danger to the beautiful nature.

Fish in Homosassa Springs
Fish in Homosassa Springs. /
Kolin Toney, / CC BY-SA 2.0

The human presence is felt all around the springs – there are houses, channels, bridges, visitor facilities, and, of course, numerous visitors with cars, on feet and in boats. Homosassa River can get very crowded on holidays. Swimming and boating though is not allowed within the headwaters of the spring.

Step by step the pollution comes here and nature is changing, especially the aquatic ecosystem. Nevertheless, Homosassa Springs, especially the headspring, is crystal clear up to this day.

References

  1. Homosassa River Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Plan, Southwest Florida Water Management District, August 2017. Last accessed on 14th June 2019.

Homosassa Springs Group on the map

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Homosassa Springs Group 28.799306, -82.588293 Homosassa Springs Group
Location, GPS coordinates:28.7993 N 82.5883 W
Categories:Springs
Values:Geology, Visual
Rating:3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)
Where is located?North America, United States, Florida, Citrus County, at the mouth of Homosassa River, Homosassa town
Alternate names:“Nature’s Fishbowl” – early name of springs as tourist attraction
Type:artesian springs
Average discharge:3,000 l/s (headspring)

Video of Homosassa Springs Group


Nature Coast Drones, December 2018

Landmarks of Florida

Cinderella Castle in Walt Disney World Resort, Florida
Cinderella Castle in Walt Disney World Resort / Benjamin Esham, / CC BY-SA 3.0 US

Florida is the tropical paradise of mainland United States. Over the last century, it has experienced fabulous changes, turning from forgotten, swampy badland into densely populated and rich land. Highlights of Florida include the architecture of the late 19th and 20th century as well as its giant springs and caves.

Springs

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Fontaine de Vaucluse, very high water level / / CC BY-SA 2.0

This category includes natural sites where water, other liquids and/or gases reach the surface of the Earth, including locations under water.

Powerful natural freshwater springs belong to the most fascinating monuments of nature. Even more exciting is the diversity of unusual springs – mineral springs, hot springs, submarine springs as well as the unusual black smokers. Especially beautiful are such natural rarities as travertine, silica or salt terraces created by warm and hot springs and, especially, geysers.

Recommended books

Florida’s Waters (Florida’s Natural Ecosystems and Native Species)


Taken from the earlier book Priceless Florida (and modified for a stand-alone book), this volume discusses the fresh- and saltwater systems of Florida, including lakes and ponds; rivers and streams; springs; aquatic caves; estuarine waters and seafloors; submarine meadows, sponge, rock, and reef communities; and the Gulf and Atlantic Ocean. Introduces readers to the trees and plants, insects, mammals, reptiles, and other species that live in Florida’s unique water ecosystems, including chicken turtle, barking treefrogs, osprey, herons, bass, crayfish, conchs, cordgrass, and railroad vine.

FLORIDA SPRINGS FROM TOP TO BOTTOM: Your Guide to the Best of Florida’s Springs, Parks and Recreations


The author started gathering information for this unique guidebook of Florida Springs over 40 years ago. In 1973 Robert F. Burgess began diving and photographing the underwater caves associated with Florida’s labyrinthine freshwater springs long before scuba divers had such things as depth gauges, personal flotation devices, or cave diver training programs. He attributes his survival in what has been called “the world’s most dangerous sport” to the fact that he always stayed within sight of the way out of these underwater sites.

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