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.
Map of the site
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Enough water for millions
The spring has one vent which emits incredible amounts of water.
Highest measured outflow took place on April 11, 1973, when every second was poured 54,226 l of lucid water. This is the biggest measured flow from a spring in the 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. The 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. The water of Wakulla Spring is very lucid and one can see up to 38 m depth and maybe – 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 many tannins from the 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 an 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 centers, 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 hammocks 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
The United States of America is one of the largest countries in the world and offers a wide array of diverse attractions: many are unsurpassed in the world. Highlights of the United States are cliffs, canyons, and rock formations, several impressive downtowns of cities with numerous skyscrapers as well as a rich array of geothermal features, and the giant forest of California.
Highlighting the finest cold springs in the state, Touring the Springs of Florida features full-color photos and in-depth descriptions for each of the springs and surrounding areas. Detailed maps, GPS coordinates, and thorough driving directions lead you every step of the way. Whether you’re tubing, swimming, snorkeling, paddling, hiking, diving, or simply sightseeing, there’s a spring for you.
The many springs that jewel the landscape of Florida are translucent openings into a dominion very rare: a crystalline world of fresh water at the edge of the sea. The deepest and largest known springs in the world are found in Florida. This book is a guided tour of these beautiful environments, with an emphasis on the many strange and wonderful natural inhabitants.