August 21, 2022-Freshwater spring visits are a must during the Florida summer, and with over 700 springs in the state there are plenty to choose from. Florida has more freshwater springs than any other place the world of comparable size. Underneath these springs is a massive reservoir of groundwater, known as the Floridan aquifer system, that lies as deep as 2,000-3,000 feet below the surface. As this water flows, sometimes it becomes trapped in limestone or clay, where it builds in pressure and boils forth to the surface as a spring.

On a recent eco-educational outing, we explored and jumped in the crystal-clear spring water at Merritts Mill Pond. Merritts Mill Pond was dammed in the 1800s to operate a grist mill. Today it serves as a recreational space for cave diving, fishing, boating and paddling.  There are multiple springs that feed Mill Pond, with first-magnitude Jackson Blue Spring as the main source. Per day, Merritts Mill Pond discharges 116 million gallons of spring water. The last time the spring water was last exposed to the surface can range from years to decades.

Springs are some are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world that provide homes to a multitude of wildlife such as turtles, manatees, birds, and fish. During our paddle we were able to clearly see schools of fish swimming below and next to us. One can expect to see enornous bream and bass and even the world’s smallest livebearer fish, the Least Killifish. Merritts Mill Pond still holds the state record for the largest redear (shellcracker) at 4.86 pounds.

Our springs are a good indicator of the quality of the Florida aquifer system. To learn more about springs and some of the challenges, visit WFSU’s blog posts.

Special thanks to outings volunteers Doug Alderson and Scott Wilder for being facilitators of fun and safety on the water. 

Cameron Baxley is Director of Outreach and Advocacy at Apalachicola Riverkeeper. She especially enjoys fishing from her kayak. Cameron is paddling the entirety of the Apalachicola River in October

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