Springs Fever: A Field & Recreation Guide to 500 Florida Springs.
2nd Edition by Joe Follman and Richard Buchanan

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Crystal Springs
Pasco County
Summary of Features
  • Scale--2nd magnitude
  • Scenery--fine
  • How Pristine?--retaining wall around pool, weir/dam at downstream end, some clearing abve spring
  • Swimming--no
  • Protection--privately owned natural preserve, restoration and study efforts, water extraction
  • Access--with reservation, reachable by canoe/kayak from Hillsborough River downstream
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Directions (address and phone: 1609 Crystal Springs Road, Crystal Springs, Fl 33524, 813-715-9707)
From I-75 North Take the FL-54 exit (#279) east go 7.0 miles Turn right on Morris Bridge Road go 0.7 miles Turn left on Chancey Road go 3.9 miles Just after HWY 301 turn right on Crystal Springs Road go 1.9 miles Our gate is just over the bridge on the right. From I-75 South Take the Fowler Ave. exit (#265) east - go approx. 1.1 miles Turn left on US 301 go 14.0 miles Turn right on Chancey Road go 0.2 miles Turn right on Crystal Springs Road go 1.9 miles Our gate is just over the bridge on the right. From I-275 South Take the Fowler Ave. exit (#51) east to US 301 go 7.4 miles Turn left on US 301 go 14.0 miles Turn right on Chancey Road go 0.2 miles Turn right on Crystal Springs Road go 1.9 miles Our gate is just over the bridge on the right. From I-4 West Take exit 21 for FL-39A N/Alexander St, head North (signs for Buchman Hwy/Zephyrhills) 10 miles Make a left on Central Ave go 1.6 miles Bear right onto Crystal Springs Rd - go 371ft Our gate is on the left just after the turn

Spring Description
The spring pool is roughly oval and about 275 by 125 feet in diameter. Water flows from a several vents, sand boils, and openings along the lower edges (outside) of the pool and in the run below the pool.  There is a large vent in the south end near a small island. This vent is about 5 feet deep, and the flow creates a slick on the surface. Springflow is about 30MGD. A pipe was visible amid the limestone opening, extracting water from the spring.  There is a small cavern system associated with the spring that has been measured to 85 feet.  The general pool depth is 3-5 feet, and there is a dam at the north end to raise the water level in the pool. There are concrete and riprock retaining walls along the edge of much of the pool. There is a concrete viewing/swimming platform with steps at the south end and a walkway around the pool and over the dam.

Water spills over the dam into the original spring run, where is it immediately joined by the flow from a creek and forms the headwaters ofthe Hillsborough River.  Water in the spring is clear and blue/green. Aquatic vegetation covers much of the bottom, and fish, wading birds, snakes, and some algae may be seen.  Hardwood, pine, and cypress trees are along the banks of the spring.  Native plants, including trees, ferns, pickeral, and lizard's tongue, have been planted along the edges of the pool to give it a more natural appearance and to help prevent erosion and runoff into the pool.

According to Champion & Starks, Crystal Spring provides a large portion of the flow of the Hillsborough River during the dry season; from 1980-1985, 50-80 of the Hillsborough River's flow was from Crystal Spring (May 2001, p. 7).  Nitrate levels in the spring are above naturally occurring background levels; citrus fertilization has been identified as the most likely source of nitrate in the basin (FDCA/DEP, 2002, p. 13).

< b>Use/Access

Local Springiana
The spring was formerly open to the public for swimming and picnicking. Public access was closed in 1996.  The owner proposed an increase in extraction from the spring from 300,000 to 1.8 million gallons per day (and up to 2.6 MGD over ten years).  Crystal Springs is a primary source of the Hillsborough River, Tampa's main water supply.  The proposal elicited strong protests from environmental groups, and the permit request (and subsequent appeal) was denied.  The company then scaled down its requested increase to 600,000 gallons a day.  In April 2002,the SW Florida Water Management District issued a permit allowing up to 300,000 gallons a day to be extracted.  In 2000, 106 million gallons were pumped from the spring for bottled water (Schneider, 2001). An organization called Save Our Springs (SOS) was a leading voice against the spring drawdowns, writing petitions and calling for a boycott of Perrier products. 

The spring pool was first created in the 1920s, when a basin was dynamited out of the limestone.  Water has been extracted from the pool forgenerations.

Personal Impressions
JF loved visiting Crystal Springs as a boy and young man, taking his bride-to-be and later his children there to enjoy the clear and cool water. He saw an otter in the run just below the dam on his last visit in the early 1990s.  At that time, water was being taken from the spring but it was still open to the public.  JF spoke with the preserve manager, who noted the owners are very interested in being good stewards of the site and allowing groups--especially students--to use the preserve as aplatform for learning and environmental study.

Nearby Springs

Other Nearby Natural Features
Green Swamp Wildlife Management Area
Withlacoochie State Forest
Hillsborough River State Park
Lettuce Lake County Park

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