Thursday, January 27, 2005
“A Dive to Remember”
By: Scott Fraser
Dive, camp, relax. Enjoy one of north Florida’s most pristine attractions. This 1st magnitude spring pumps 76 million gallons of water from the aquifer daily. By 1st magnitude I’m talking about the amount of water dispersed form the spring in a 24 hour period. A 3rd magnitude is 6.6 million gallons or less, a 2nd magnitude is 6.5 to 64.5 million gallons of water. A 1st magnitude is over 64 million gallons of water per day. Did I mention that Alexander springs pumps 76 million gallons of water per day………………I think I did.
The Alexander Springs Wilderness now contains a total of 7,941 acres and is managed by the U.S. Forest Service. All of the wilderness is in the state of Florida.Public land becomes wilderness through legislation passed by the United States Congress in the form of public laws. For the Alexander Springs Wilderness, this process began in 1984 when 7,700 acres were designated by Public Law 98-430.The Alexander Springs Wilderness is part of the 106 million acre National Wilderness Preservation System. This System of wild lands contributes significantly to the ecological, economic, and social health of our country. Wilderness provides clean air and water, a shelter for endangered species, sacred places for indigenous peoples, a living laboratory for research, and a classroom for exploring personal values while experiencing risk, reward, and self-reliance. In wilderness, you can enjoy challenging recreational activities like hiking, backpacking, climbing, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, horse packing, bird watching, stargazing, and extraordinary opportunities for solitude. In an age of "...increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization," you play an important role in helping to "secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness" as called for by the Congress of the United States through the Wilderness Act of 1964. Please follow the regulations listed below and use Leave No Trace techniques when visiting the Alexander Springs Wilderness to ensure protection of this unique area.
The landscape is that of a fairytale. You are literally surrounded by the Ocala national forest on all sides by many miles. Good luck trying to get cell phone reception, but you should leave the phone at home and enjoy nature. When you enter the park you have to pay to enter. The fee is $5.00 for divers. Camping costs are very cheap as well. The amenities have just been refurbished. A brand new shower facility, snack bar, and general store are available. But back to the scenery, at first glance it looks as though a giant blue pool is just sitting smack in the middle of the forest (because it is) the sight is breathtaking. If you have never seen a spring before you will be amazed.
Although the trek from your vehicle to the dive site can be tiresome (about 200 yards) picnic tables await, the perfect place to don your gear. When geared up progress to the stairs closest to the woods. The other stairs are for swimmers. Once you hit the water you may find it to be a little chilly, 72 degrees to be exact. Florida springs maintain a constant temperature of 72 degrees year round. It may not sound cold, but once completely immersed in it you will change your mind. Once in, put your fins on and swim toward the middle of the spring until waist deep. Set your computer (if available) place your regulator in your mouth, deflate your BC, and swim along the bottom (about 4 feet) until you hit the opening if the spring.
It will appear out of nowhere, it’s like looking down the side of a perfectly carved mountain. Descend down a limestone slope that resembles a sand dune you would see at the beach. On either side of the spring is a world of underwater exploration awaiting. A cave entrance intrigues the most curious of divers. Enter the passage way of the cave: To the right of the entrance 10 feet in is a limestone wall that stops you immediately, but with a light you can peer into the depth of the aquifer. To the left of the passageway a cave opens up allowing a 40 foot exploration. I’m not telling you it is safe to go inside, by all means please do not. At 40 feet the limestone closes together so you cannot go any further, but while inside you can sit in the small room and observe (with a flashlight) the small caves and openings leading to the dark Florida aquifer. Outside, to the left of the 1st cave entrance is a small cavern which allows only a body length entrance. If you shine your light into the opening you can see 2 cave passageways which are too small to enter but continue into the darkness as far as your light can reach.
On the other side of the dune the outflow of the spring is massive. You can swim through a tight passage at 20 feet and come out on the top of a limestone shelf at around 8 feet. If you swim into the outflow of the spring at 20 feet you can grip the limestone on either side and hold on while pulling yourself down. Let go and you are blasted like a rocket through the spring. Be sure to hold on to your mask, as it may very well be ripped from your face.
The shallow surroundings of the spring are great for snorkeling too. You can see: gators, and all sorts of small fresh water life, or just float along and relax. Alexander springs boasts a wonderful and fulfilling dive experience. I highly recommend a visit to the Ocala national forest to view the beauty of one of Florida’s best kept secretes, Alexander Springs.
contact info: 10863 E highway 40 silver springs Fl 34488 (352)-669-3522