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

Hart Springs
Gilchrist County
Summary of Features
 
  • Scale -2nd magnitude
  • Scenery -good-very good
  • How Pristine? -developed and cleared park area, retaining walls aroundsprings and run, walkway over run
  • Swimming -fine, excellent snorkeling
  • Protection -fine
  • Crowds -heavy on warm weekends
  • Access -excellent
  • Facilities -excellent
  • Safety -very good
  • Scuba -not at present
  • Cost -$1 per person
Directions
From Fanning Springs, drive north on SR 26 1-2 miles. At fork in Wilcox,go north on SR 232. Drive about 3.5 miles and turn left (west) onto SR344 and drive about 2 miles to park entrance.

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

Spring Description
Hart Springs has four main vents in two spring pools that form a commonrun to the Suwannee River. The back (south) pool is circular, 40-50 feetacross, and deep blue and clear on sunny days. The two vents are amid exposedlimestone, 25-30 feet deep, about 15 feet apart, and appear to lead tocaverns. The force of the upwelling water throws up sand that has washedinto the spring below the concrete retaining walls due to human activity.There are boils over the vents. The flow creates a run that flows about150 feet before being joined by the flow from the other springs pool. Thewater in the run is clear and 3-6 feet deep. There are some plants in therun as well as mullet and other fish. The upper portion of the spring runhas a concrete retaining wall on both sides, and there are a couple ofcypress trees along the banks.

The lower pool is perhaps 50 feet across and 2-5 feet deep except overthe two vents. The larger vent is in the back of the pool and is a coffin-shapedlimestone opening. The depth of the opening cannot be fully determineddue to the placement of a concrete picnic-table bench seat that has beenshoved into the fissure by vandals. With the bench in the vent, one maydive to about 12 feet. The second vent is about 30 feet away (southeast)and is a smaller opening that is partially obscured by water plants. Waterin the pool is very clear and blue. The second spring pool also has a retainingwall around it and exits to the SW to join the main spring run. The combinedspring runs flow another 250 feet to the Suwannee River. The run narrowsas it nears the river from 75 feet wide to about 35 feet wide and is 2-5feet deep in general. The run is in a more natural state and herons andschooling mullet may be seen. There is a boardwalk along the run to theriver.

Note:  The erosion noted below was magnified when the retainingwall near the south vents collapsed.  So much debris fell into thisarea that the sout h springflows were completely blocked from 1998-2004. On May 1-2, 2004, a coalition of people including spring divers, the Fla.Speleological Society, Hart Springs County P ar k sta ff, staff from the FloridaDepartment of Environmental Protection, local organizations, and othersremoved several tons of debris from the springheads and restored theirflow.  Pumps, dredging, containers, and lift bags were used in therestoration.  This effort required substantial efforts to obtain necessaryapprovals, permits, and to get key players to support the restoration. For more details on this impressive restoration, as well as photographsgo tohttp://www.overheadtimes.com/article_disp.asp?Article_ID=138

Use/Access

  • The springs are part of a county park with camping facilities, a dock forboats, a concession/camp store, bathrooms, picnic facilities/pavilions,and flotation devices for rent.
  • Skin-diving the deeper springs is a good and fun challenge—the limestoneopenings are very dark, and the water is flowing out forcefully.
  • Local Springiana
  • The concession stand rents a long flotation device called a "torpedo" thatholds up to 2 people and is very entertaining for children (see essay below).
  • Personal Impressions
  • Despite all the concrete, the springs are attractive and very good forswimming. The park is an excellent place for children.
  • On dates of visits in 1996-1998, erosion was an increasing problem in thesprings. Children digging under the retaining wall and at the water’s edgesend sand down into the springs, changing their appearance and partiallyblocking their natural flow.
  • Nearby Springs
  • Turtle Spring, Fletcher Spring, Pothole Spring, Lumbercamp Spring, GuarantoSpring, Rock Bluff Spring, Hart Springs, McCrabb Spring, Copper Spring,Little Copper Spring, Fanning Springs, Manatee Springs, Iron Springs, DIX95971,Rock Sink Spring
  • Other Nearby Natural Features
  • Ichetucknee Springs State Park
  • O’Leno State Park
  • San Felasco Hammock State Preserve
  • Fanning Springs State Recreation Area
  • River Rise State Preserve
  • Manatee Springs State Park
  • An Essay on Hart Springs

    Hart Springs is a Gilchrist County Park ten minutes northof Fanning off CR 341. Virtually unknown to outsiders, Hart Springs isFanning on a geographically larger scale, although it does not quite matchFanning’s beauty or flow. It has two spring areas, offers camping in additionto picnicking, and has a longer run to the Suwannee that is also accompaniedby a boardwalk among the cypress. A camp store rents floats as well aspicnic supplies, including a torpedo-shaped contraption that can hold threechildren and take them off your hands for hours.

    The springs and the run are ideal for water play. Mulletcongregate and bass lurk in the run, manatee can be seen in the winter,and big and little blue, yellow crowned, and tri-color herons are regulars.Boats can dock in the camp area. Bring a mask and snorkel--most peoplenever stick their face in and miss the transcendent beauty of water emergingfrom the earth. Two of the vents are easy to reach--only 8 and 12 feetdeep, respectively. Diving into the 12-footer, I discovered some jerkshad somehow lodged a 200-pound concrete bench seat into it. I could notget it out, alas.

    The two deeper vents require a bit more lung power, butare worth the effort. Down 25 feet or so, they issue from caves and throwsand up in non-stop cascades. The black world is cold and alien, but alluringat the same time. Peering into the void, lungs about to burst, and alternatelydrawn in and fearful of drowning, the words of Robert Frost came to mymind: "The woods are lovely, dark, and deep. But I have promises to keep.And miles to go before I sleep." You find a rock, push up from it, andrise to the surface and life.

    But even after you leave, Hart stay s with you. An hourlater as you are driving home, you scratch an itch in your eyebrow. Waterhas been retained there and is released in a cool trickle onto your fingersand down your temple. It is a final souvenir.

    Contact Information

    • Hart Springs Park
    • Fanning Springs, Fla.
    • 352-463-3444