By Cristi McKee | Photo: Visit Wakulla
Did you know that the largest and deepest freshwater spring is located just 15 miles south of Tallahassee? Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park is home to Wakulla Springs, which is home to the world’s record-breaking freshwater springs.
Many years ago, organic sources of limestone carbonates began forming in the area where the springs are formed at the bottom of a warm, shallow ocean. As the years progressed, this bedrock was exposed to freshwater erosion, thus forming sinkholes, caves, and the springs that are famous today. Today’s state park encapsulates these ancient and fascinating springs. The springs discharge an average of 260 million gallons of water per day, the spring pool is about 315 feet in diameter, with a vent estimated to be 82 feet wide, 50 feet tall, and approximately 185 feet deep.
With a rich and extensive history, which can be read in full here, these springs offer what many call a glimpse of “old Florida.” In 1528, it is said that Europeans explored the Wakulla Springs area. By 1819, the last of the Creek and Seminole Indians sought refuge alongside the Wakulla River. During the 1850’s, news of The Springs began to circulate. In 1863, The Springs were shown on a United States map for the very first time. By 1925, a developer by the name of George T. Christie purchased the land we know as Wakulla Springs. In 1931, mastodon bones (which are now displayed at the Museum of Florida History here in town), were extracted from the spring.
In 1934, Edward Ball bought acreage on the land for development, and by 1937, the Wakulla Springs Lodge opened. In 1943, Camp Gordon Johnston used The Springs as an area for amphibious training exercises for soldiers. From 1953 to 1976, a number of movies were filmed using the state park. In 1986, the State of Florida bought the land and officially named it “Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park.”
By 1993, Wakulla Springs was deemed a National Historic and Archaeological District. In 2000, an additional 3,000 feet of acreage was added to the park. In 2007, a link between the Wakulla Spring cave system and the Leon Sinks was found. Within the last couple of years years, numerous efforts to educate people on springs and their preservation have been made.
Also a National Natural Landmark, the park itself is on the National Register of Historic Places. Boat tours on a glass-bottom boat are offered throughout the week at the park, and swimming, snorkeling, and diving (in designated areas only) are among some of the fun activities one can partake in while visiting the springs. The springs are most acclaimed for the cool 70-degree water they hold, and for the manatee sightings they offer, but a diverse set of wildlife can also be observed on the trails at the state park too.
With a full restaurant and snack bar available for dining, lodging accommodations are offered on site as well so that trips from out-of-town can be made at the park.
The next time you’re looking to embark on a waterside adventure, Wakulla Springs is the place to go! From fun water sports to play, to tasty food to eat, to amazing animals to see, this state park is a Florida paradise just down the road from home.