Big Spring (and 2 nearby springs)
Summary of Features
- Scale - 2nd magnitude
- Scenery - outstanding
- How Pristine? - completely pristine
- Swimming - not recommended
- Protection - excellent
- Crowds - none
- Access - somewhat arduous, canoe/kayak only
- Facilities - none
- Safety - fair-good
- Scuba - very difficult
- Cost - free
From the junction of U.S. 27/19 and U.S. 98 in Perry, drive west on U.S. 98 for 4.3 miles. Turn left (south) onto Highway 356 and continue 7.5 miles to dirt/gravel entrance to the Spring Creek Unit of the Big Bend Wildlife Management Area. Stay on this road 0.5 miles to ranger/check station and another 3.6 miles to boat launch (also at end of road) at Spring Creek. Turn left immediately and look for mouth of spring run within a few hundred feet of the ramp on the left. Then paddle upstream 2/3 mile to the spring.
The spring forms an oval basin that is 100 by 140 feet wide. Water flows from one or more limestone openings at a depth of 33 feet (Hornsby & Ceryak, 2000). No boil is visible. On first date of visit (October 2001), the water was fairly clear and greenish, with visibility of about 20 feet. Green and brown algae grow profusely on submerged surfaces and plants. Land around the spring is lush floodplain forest. At least 20 Florida gar congregated and cavorted in the spring; their lengths varied from 1-2.5 feet. A heron and kingfisher were also observed from the basin. On the second date of visit (January 2004), the water much greener, and visibility was less than 3 feet. On this date, more than a dozen night herons were observed at the springhead, and bird droppings on the trees around the spring suggested it may be a rookery for the herons.
The spring forms Spring Creek, which flows about 2/3 mile to the boat ramp at the Spring Creek Unit of the Big Bend Wildlife Management Area and then another mile to the Gulf of Mexico. The run transits through several plant communities, from lush floodplain forest to a transition area with sabal palms, cypress, cedar, wax myrtle, and sawgrass; to sawgrass and sabal palm marsh; to black needle rush marsh, and ultimately to the Gulf. Fiddler crabs may be seen along the shore and in the trees and shrubs on the run.
In the upper communities (the first half-mile of the run), the run is clear, sandy, cool, 1-2 feet deep, and 10-30 feet in diameter. There are numerous obstructions in the form of submerged logs and overhanging branches. The run widens, darkens, and deepens as it approached the Gulf and is joined by other inlets.
JF found two other springs along/adjacent to the Big Creek run:
The second spring is about 1/4 mile south of the boat ramp, just off the main channel at the mouth of a smaller channel that enters the main channel from the east. It lies in the middle of the smaller channel mouth and had a prominent boil--raised 2" above the common surface and with sufficient flow to be audible from 15 feet away. The tide was somewhat down when the boil was observed.
The third spring is about 30 feet ESE of spring #2 and is set in a small alcove similar to that of additional spring #1. Because the vent is closer to the edge of the marshland, its flow is somewhat more pronounced to additional spring #1. Tidal conditions were the same as observed for the other two additional springs.
Both springs would be less visible under high-tide conditions. In all cases, their flow was clearly visible but did not appear to issue water that was any clearer than the brownish and brackish water around them.
- The spring and its run are located in a State of Florida wildlife management area and open to the public.
- The boat launch on the run also has two small picnic pavilions, grills, and a garbage can. There is a portable toilet at the ranger station 3.6 miles up the gravel road.
- Although access to the creek/spring run is easy, most people who use the launch are fishermen who go downstream. The upper run to the spring is difficult to navigate—shallow, laced with mosquitos, deerflies, and dangerous sawgrass, and frequently narrow and obstructed. It takes about 25 minutes to reach the spring, and it is hard work nearly the entire way.
Despite the effort required to reach the spring, Big is a must-see for any spring aficionado. The difficulty of navigating the run is, in fact, also the reason for the spring’s remaining in a perfectly pristine condition. It is perhaps the most pristine spring the authors have visited except for Ruth Spring in the Chassahowitzka, which is even more difficult to reach.
- Econfina River State Park
- Wacissa River/Slave Canal
- Steinhatchee Falls
- Wakulla Springs State Park
- St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge