Summary of Features
- Scale - 2nd magnitude (estimated)
- Scenery - outstanding
- How Pristine? - completely pristine and unspoiled
- Swimming - yes, with caution
- Protection - excellent
- Wildlife - excellent
- Crowds - none
- Access - strenuous by canoe or kayak
- Facilities - none
- Safety - fair
- Scuba - not recommended
- Cost - free
Canoe access: From Tallahassee, take Woodville Highway (State Road 363) south to U.S. Highway 98 and turn right (west). Continue a short distance and cross the bridge over the Wakulla River. Continue 1.3 miles to Wakulla Beach Road, on your left (south). Go down this white dirt road about 3.4 miles until it ends at Wakulla Beach. From Wakulla Beach, paddle west along the shore in Goose Creek Bay for about 0.25 mile. Turn right/north into the West Goose Creek estuary. A large T-junction in the estuary, stay to the right channel. Continue in this winding channel all the way to the spring run entrance (about 1.5 miles or so) when cypress trees begin to grow along the channel, which is now only about 15 feet wide. Continue another one mile+ to the spring. The total distance from Wakulla Beach to the spring is a little more than 3 miles.
Note: It is best to time enter the West Goose Creek Estuary in the last 90 minutes before high tide so that one can ride the tide in and then out on the way back.
The spring lies in deep jungle/woods of pine, palm, and hardwoods. The pool, which is partially canopied, is oval and about 70 by 110 feet across. A little over half of the pool--the portion nearest the beginning of the run--was clear on the surface. The back end of the pool was covered in duckweed, and additional water flowed into the back of the pool from the forest, perhaps from forest drainage or a backwater. This water was not clear and did not appear to be part of spring flow.
There was a strong boil visible toward the back of the clear pool area on May 28, 2011, with a 10-foot spread and emanating from a dark opening about 12 feet below the surface. As one enters the pool from the run, a much deeper clear portion of the pool is to the left, where water was a deep blue and appeared to be at least 20 feet deep. Several large fallen trees were visible under the water in this portion of the spring. It is guessed that there is also a flow point in this deep portion, but no boil was visible on date of visit.
Water exits the spring pool into a run that varies in depth and width but which averages about 2 feet deep and 15-30 feet wide. The bottom varies from muddy to vegetated to sandy. The run is mostly canopied hardwood forest in the upper portion, transitioning into estuary with wiregrass, cypress, and black-tip needle rush as the run exits the forest and enters the estuary. The lower part of the run and the main spring contain some algae, but most of the run did not. The spring run level is influenced by the tide.
A St. Marks Wildlife Refuge sign at the beginning of the forested portion of the run bars access from October-May 15 each year because of the presence of bald eagle nest sites.Note: Although the spring is only about 40 miles from Tallahassee, its remoteness requires about three hours to reach it from the state capital.
The spring and the land around it are part of the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge.
It is vital to time your trip with the tide. The water is shallow, and at low tide the route is not navigable. There are also huge oyster bars that could damage a canoe or cause injury. It is best to paddle in during the last hour or two of the incoming tide. Doing so will also allow you to head back out with the tide while the water is still up.
The spring run has multiple blockages from fallen trees, and porting the canoe or kayak is required. A motorboat cannot go up the run. Some alligators were seen in the estuarine portion of Gander Creek, and the forested portion of the run also contains luxuriant growths of poison ivy.
The author has not been able to find any written description or photograph of this spring. In an online Wakulla County publication (www.mywakulla.com/docs/EAR/April2010/MapSeries.pdf), the spring is called Gander Spring (p. 5).
Like a bookend to nearby and similar Sheppard Spring, Gander Spring is one of only a VERY small percentage of springs that remain in a pristine state. The lack of land access, season exclusions, remoteness, and location within the national wildlife refuge have protected it from the casual despoiler--those who are willing to go to such lengths to see it are unlikely to be despoilers.
Other Nearby Natural Features
- Apalachicola National Forest
- Leon County Sinks Park
- Wakulla Spring State Park
- St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge