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Springs

Springs Overview

Freshwater springs are among the most popular attractions along the byway. Four major natural springs of crystal clear water are unique area features, and they are located in the popular National Forest Recreation Areas named for each of them: Juniper Springs, Salt Springs, Alexander Springs and Silver Glen Springs. The recreation activities are as diverse as the environment, from canoeing in wilderness waterways, swimming in pristine spring water that is a constant 72 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, camping, picnicking, fishing, birding, and hiking.

Natural springs are Florida’s lifeblood, pouring fresh water out into the landscape drawn from deep within the aquifer. There are three first-magnitude springs (Silver Springs, Silver Glen, and Alexander) and four second-magnitude springs (Juniper, Salt, Fern Hammock, Sweetwater) along the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway corridor, including one of the world’s largest springs, Silver Springs.
The Meinzer Scale classifies springs on a scale of one to eight, based on the flow, or discharge, of water from a spring. Magnitude one springs, which are on the top of the scale, produce a discharge of more than 100 cubic feet of water per second. Magnitude two springs discharge at a rate between 10 and 100 cubic feet of water per second. Spring discharge for each of the springs listed is provided by the St. Johns River Water Management District.

An varied entry fee is charged at each spring, from five or ten dollars entrance to an amusement park fee at Silver Springs Nature Park (link to silver Springs http://www.silversprings.com/)  Each area is supervised and attended by National Forest service rangers.

These are the springs and their differences for recreational use – for more information, go to the page on each spring

Since these major springs are basically rocky underwater caves from which water flows, the access area and pools around each one was built based upon the natural features of the spring. There are some distinctions among the spring areas. Based upon you and your family’s needs, here are some basic differences.

Links: Canoeing & Kayaking Florida, Florida Kayak & Canoe Meetup Group

Alexander Springs      

Alexander Springs

Alexander Springs is the only one that has a sandy beach area and a gentle, shallow slope in the water area around the spring. This is the best spring for smaller children. It is also the most natural looking area with less river traffic from boaters. It’s more natural setting also means there occasionally is a gator or two around. Signs are posted as reminders. Read More…

Juniper Springs      

Juniper Springs

The springs and pool area is surrounded with a concrete walkway, stairs into the water and a platform for jumping into the deepest water for swimmers and snorkelers. Juniper has no sandy beach, but the pool area is surrounded by grass, trees, and picnic tables. You are least likely to spot a gator in the swimming area here. Since Juniper Springs is quite removed from Lake George, there is no boat or canoe access to the springs. However, canoes are for rent for those who wish to take the 7 mile run along Juniper Creek. Fern Hammock Springs, adjacent to here, does not allow swimming or canoeing on its shallow waters. Read More…

Silver Glen Springs      

Silver Glen Springs

This may be the prettiest blue water of the four springs. Silver Glen Springs is also natural in its setting, surrounded by grass areas, trees and picnic tables. This is a great spring for wading,  with mostly sandy bottom and a large open spring area for snorkeling. There is not a sandy beach here. This is a day use only area, so there is no camping. This spring, like Salt Springs, has close access to Lake George, so boaters can anchor on the river and have access to the springs. You see boaters, canoeists, and kayakers here,  particularly on busy weekends and holidays. Read More…

Salt Springs      

Salt Springs

Similar to Juniper Springs, Salt Springs has a cement walkway around the main spring swimming area. But unlike Juniper, this walkway also has a decorative iron fence around it to direct access into the water. Salt Springs has no sandy beach area but it has a large grassy and treed area with picnic tables. The springs here is very rock with underwater grass and foliage, which is where the blue crabs like to hide. This is a good area for snorkeling and getting a good look at the blue crab. Since Salt Springs is easily accessible from Lake George, this is area can get crowded with boaters who anchor is the large area beyond the springs swimming area. Read More…

Silver Springs      

Silver Springs

Silver Springs is the largest springs in the Ocala National Forest. It is primarily accessed through Silver Springs Nature Theme Park where guided tours in glass bottom boats take tourists over the springs within Silver Springs.There is no swimming at the park. Read More…

Sweetwater Springs      

Sweetwater Springs

Sweetwater Springs is the most secluded and remote spring within the Ocala National Forest.  The site is not open to the public, but the historic cabin at the location is available for weekly rentals from the Forest Service. Sweetwater Spring is accessed from a gated dirt road. Read More…



Notes:

  • There are no lodges, dive shops, or horse-back riding at the four Recreation Areas
  • Sweetwater Springs is not open to the public; it is a private site available for rentals
  • Silver Springs Nature Park is run by a private concession firm; however the springs are accessible to canoeists and kayakers from outside the park.