Summary of Features
- Scale - unknown
- Scenery - excellent
- How Pristine? - completely pristine
- Swimming - no
- Protection - unknown
- Wildlife - very good
- Crowds - some use on warm weekends
- Access - very good, boat only
- Facilities - none
- Safety - fair
- Scuba - yes, lights needed
- Cost - free
From U.S. 90 in Marianna, turn north on 71 at the shopping center (Tractor Supply and Goody's) and go to Blue Springs Road. Go north until the road forks, then take the right fork on Blue Springs Rd. and go 1.6 miles to Hunter Fish Camp Road. Turn right and go 2/3 mile down this house-lined road to the boat ramp on the left, downhill from the road. Put in at boat ramp and paddle through cypress trees directly into and then across the MillPond to the SE bank, about 150 yards.
For maps, latitude/longitude data, driving directions, satellite imagery,and topographic representations as well as weather conditions at this spring,go to Greg Johnson's informative "Florida Springs Database" web site atthe following address: http://www.ThisWaytothe.Net/springs/floridasprings.htm#Florida
This spring is an exposed limestone outcrop at the base of the 30+-foot bank set into the bluff. The opening is an upside-down v-shaped cleft that is about 4 feet wide at the bottom and narrows to a point at the top. The opening extends beneath the surface to the bottom, which is about fivefeet deep. Ferns grow on of the rock around the cave. The surface nearthe cave was almost completely covered in duckweed, and some eel grass was also present. No water was visible flowing out of the cave, but the duckweed does not extend into the cave, suggesting it is pushed out byt he flow. A diver told JF that one can travel--swimming with side-mounted tanks and lights--about 250 feet into the cave. There is a smaller cleft a few feet to the left of the main opening, and the bottom was 5-6feet deep on dates of visit in 2001.
- The spring is easy to reach from the boat ramp, and this portion of Merritt’s Mill Pond has little development and is very scenic. It is possible to reach the cave from the headwaters at Marianna Blue Spring three miles upriver.
- Having no lights, and after reflecting on the name of the spring, the authors decided not to snorkel into it.
- The cave is popular with scuba divers.
- On dates of visit in 2001, the bottom of the pond was free of exotic elodea and hydrilla. On previous visits, the entire pond has been choked with exotics. A boater said that the state had invested $1 million in attempting to eradicate the exotic plants with herbicide.
The authors have not seen anything like Gator Spring in Florida. Nearby Shangri-La Spring, just below the headwater of Merritt’s Mill Pond, is about the same size and shape and is also against the limestone bank. However,the opening to Shangri-La is completely under the water, as is the case for nearly all springs. Gator Spring is halfway out of the water. Conceivably,a swimmer or snorkeler could swim directly into it, although lights are strongly recommended. The spring is a small package, but is very visually appealing and well worth a visit.
- Blue Hole Spring
- Other Merritt's Mill Pond Springs (Shangri-La, Twin Caves, Blue, Hole-in-the-Rock,Indian Washbasin)
- Baltzell (or Bosel or Bozell) Springs group
- Spring Lake Springs (Black, Double, Gadsen (or Gadsden), Millpond, Springboard)
- Sandbag Spring
Other Nearby Natural Features
- Three Rivers State Park
- Falling Water State Park
- Torreya State Park
- Florida Caverns State Park
- Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve