Devil’s Eye is well away from the river, and offers another cave, branching off from a cylindrical pit, shaped not unlike Blue Hole in my last post. A bit into the cave, there’s this friendly little sign, complete with the grim reaper, warning you not to go past. (don’t worry mom, I didn’t – nor did I even take the picture!)
When many North Floridians speak of “the springs”, they mean Ginnie Springs – a private park about 40 minutes northwest of Gainesville. On Memorial Day, Labor Day, and most of the summer in between, this park teems with ATVs, barbecues, cheap beer, and a flotilla of tubes on the Santa Fe River. There are also two second-magnitude springs – Ginnie Spring and the “Devil’s” group of three springs. There are several other smaller ones in the park as well, but the larger ones are more impressive.
The park is incredibly popular with scuba divers, attracted by multiple springs with navigable caves and the convenience of a full-service dive shop at the park. On the park website, they describe their springs as being “the world’s favorite freshwater dive”.
It was certainly a favorite for science’s most famous oceanographer. In 1974, Jacques Cousteau famously described Ginnie Spring as “visibility forever”. The water is still quite impressively clear, though perhaps not as much so as Monsieur Cousteau observed forty years ago. Unlike many springs, which have a large, protected state park buffer them, the Ginnie springs are surrounded by encroaching farmland. Nitrates from agricultural activities on these lands seep into the porous limestone bedrock
Onto my explorations! First up was Ginnie Spring itself. It features a cave not far beneath the surface in the middle of a wide pond, inhabited by a school of mullet, other small fish, and even a baby turtle (look carefully in the wildlife video!). The cave goes back a long way and gets very dark. I turned around at a ledge that seems to drop off to the abyss.
The three Devil’s springs (Devil’s Ear, Devil’s Eye, and Little Devil) are even more interesting. This group of springs form a line extending out from the Santa Fe river. The clear, blue-green springwater they collectively produce mixes with the opaque red-brown riverwater, creating some very interesting visual effects. See the video below to see what I mean. Those lights are from scuba divers in Devil’s Ear, which is actually located below the river. A layer of warmer riverwater flows over it – when seen from the clear water below, the river appears to billow red and yellow clouds.