Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sprung

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If you're not from Florida, you may or may not know about the plethora of unique, cold-water springs we have scattered about the state, spewing crystal clear 72 degree water out of the earth. Hell, even if you live here you may not know about them. They are precious gems, tucked into the forest, providing a welcome respite from the brutal Florida heat. But not only do they offer scenic and recreational opportunities for us, they also provide integral habitat for a variety of species. If you go to certain springs (namely Blue Spring) in the winter, you can find West Indian Manatees stacked up like fat sardines, enjoying the stable temperature while surrounding water bodies chill. Simply put, Florida springs are amazing and important and beautiful.
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Now, that said, you don't always want to go to the springs.. If you go to one in the winter, its yours to enjoy. It may be colder out, but as I said, the water temperature is constant year-round. But if you go in the summer, the springs become redneck rivieras as everyone in the state without a swimming pool seeks to escape from the heat. You may as well be on the Lazy River at Wet 'n Wild with the number of people lounging on tubes and whatnot. You may as well be at a flooded Wal Mart with the represented demographics. Call me prejudiced or whatever you will, but I'm right, and for that reason I will never go to a spring on the weekend in the summer. Ever. And being that weekends are my days off, that doesn't leave me many options. Furthermore, any time I'm around springs, I have my dogs with me and we're kayaking the spring run. Since all spring heads are either state parks or private property, that means no dogs allowed. So, weekends + dogs = I basically avoid the springs altogether in the hot months, which is a bummer because I truly enjoy and appreciate them.
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Now, if you know anything about my job, you know I do field work in Marion County, which is home to the Ocala National Forest, which is home to a whole lot of springs. Once a year I have to inspect a facility right next to Salt Springs, where I've never been since it's kind of in the middle of nowhere. This time I decided to take my mask and snorkel and swim in the spring during my lunch break. It was great. It was Thursday at noon, and I shared the spring with only 2 other people who left shortly after I arrived. Salt Springs is unique from others in that the groundwater filters through natural salt deposits, which actually makes the water brackish. Therefore, saltwater fish like mullet abound, and apparently there are even crabs (though I didn't see any). Since the spring empties into freshwater, I was perplexed as to how the marine life got there, so I did some research:
Fish, including striped bass, mullet, and small fry are abundant. In addition, blue crab and needlefish may be seen. The crabs are most commonly observed in the deeper portions of the spring openings. The marine life was established at the site millennia ago when this portion of Florida was part of a shallow sea. When the land rose upward, the marine creatures remained at the site because of the salty flow from the spring. The bottom has exposed limestone, small rocks, and sand as well as aquatic
vegetation.
Pretty interesting, to say the least, though I'm still curious as to how a relatively small, isolated population hasn't killed itself off after a millenia of inbreeding. But anyway, enjoy the photos. The light kept changing, so the consistency kind of sucks..
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Lower portion of the pool.
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Mullet! They were everywhere. I also saw an otter destroy some of them, which was awesome.
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I call this: successful lunch break.
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Standing on limestone (underwater), looking down into one of the vents.
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Lower portion again.
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Caught this little cooter laying some eggs..
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Unretouched colors, one of the spring vents from above water. Unlike a lot of springs which are made up of one large vent, Salt Springs is comprised of numerous smaller ones.
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As much as I love distorting colors in Lightroom, I couldn't touch this. Look at those natural colors. The aquamarine water contrasted with the limestone rocks and plants, and the live oaks above.. astounding. I <3 Florida, and I'll definitely be using more lunch breaks to explore some of the other springs in Marion County.. Juniper, Fern Hammock, Silver Glen- I'm lookin at you.

4 comments:

The Florida Blogger said...

Very much agree with your comments about going to a spring on the weekend. I made that mistake once this year and won't do it again.

How do you like Lightroom? Just got it.

Octohawk said...

I like it. It's the only photo editing software I've ever used. I have a pirated version, so it runs slow and freezes a lot. And I don't really know how to use it very well, so I just play it by ear. I'm sure my photos would be way better if I actually knew how to use it. Plus, I have a crappy little point and shoot camera, so my photos aren't anything amazing to begin with.

owl and peacock : melina said...

...you're making me want to move to Florida.

Jenna said...

Yum! I think your job kicks my job's ass.