14 million gallons. Think about that number for a second: 14 million. That is massive, and yet 14 million gallons of water are produced each and every day by the springs at Ponce de Leon Springs State Park!
Named for the Spanish explorer who led the first Florida expedition in the 16th century, the park is a popular gathering spot for locals and visitors alike. When I arrived on a Sunday afternoon, groups of happy families and friends were cooking and eating under the park’s multiple pavilions and picnic tables (they do need to be reserved, especially in the summer). A pick-up volleyball game was well underway at the sand court, and kids and adults of old ages were enjoying the cooling waters of the spring.
The spring is nearly circular, shallower around the edges with deep spots in the center. The sides have been reinforced with stone and concrete to prevent erosion and a diving platform has been constructed for visitors to take the plunge. If you haven’t experienced swimming in the 68 degree spring during a 90+ F degree day in Florida, then you’ll have to take my word for it: there’s no sensation quite like it. From the sweaty, humid air, I plunged into the spring, letting the water lap over my head. It was a shock at first, and I came up sputtering. However, after letting my body adjust, I floated on my back, a comfortable temperature for the first time all day.
While swimming in the springs feels great, getting out feels even better. My body felt tingly, awake, energetic. In my opinion, this feeling of rejuvenation is why the springs were thought of as fountains of youth!
The park includes a short nature trail, tracing a circle around both the spring outflow and nearby Sandy Creek. Water from the spring was so clear I could easily make out fish forms beneath the surface, both minnows and larger bass.
My favorite spot in Ponce de Leon is at the very interface between these two waterways. The clear water from the spring looks blue, while the tannins in Sandy Creek take on a brownish tinge. Where they intersect, a veritable line between the two colors forms, so distinct that you could trace it with your finger. How cool is that?
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About Erika: Erika Z. is a writer, birder and photographer living and working along the Emerald Coast of Florida. Her love of the outdoors and sense of adventure leads her to explore Florida’s state parks, state trails and historic sites in her free time.